Ruth Fein was born in New York City in 1927 and then moved with her family to Connecticut and then to Washington, DC. Ruth attended Goucher College and did graduate work at Johns Hopkins University. In 1949, she married economist Rashi Fein, and the couple moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Rashi accepted a position in John F. Kennedy’s administration (and later in Johnson’s), and they moved with their four children to Washington, D.C., and later moved to Boston in 1968. There, Ruth became actively involved in several regional and national organizations. She was the first woman to chair Combined Jewish Philanthropies and the first woman president of the American Jewish Historical Society, which named an annual prize in her honor. Ruth is also a past president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston and the United Way of Massachusetts. She was the founding president of the New England Holocaust Memorial Committee, founding chair of the Jewish Coalition for Literacy, and a founding board member of the Jewish Women’s Archive. Ruth Fein served on the Board of Overseers of the Beth Israel/Deaconess Medical Center and received honorary doctorates from Hebrew College and Goucher College. She died on February 18, 2024.
Ruth talks about her family history, childhood in Washington, DC, and experiences living in Chapel Hill, Washington, DC, and Boston. She shares the story of her family’s immigration to the United States from a shtetl in Lithuania. Ruth explains that living in Washington gave her an early awareness of politics. She attended school with the children of diplomats and engaged in political discussions with her classmates. She also shares her experiences with anti-Semitism as one of only a few Jewish students in her class. Ruth recalls her experiences at Goucher College and her graduate work at Johns Hopkins University. She tells the story of meeting and marrying Rashi Fein and their married life, living in Washington, North Carolina, and then the Boston area. Fein compares her experiences living in each community. She notes the difference in political engagement in Boston and Washington, emphasizing the importance of political involvement. Fein also discusses her various volunteer activities in Boston and Washington. She is active in improving Washington schools, volunteering in multiple libraries, and led a Hadassah study group.