Ruth Levy

b. 1922

Ruth Surosky Levy was passionate about her family and her Judaism. She was born in 1922, just 1 year after her Russian immigrant parents settled in West Baltimore. During her childhood, Ruth's mother convened meetings of the Zionist group, Pioneer Women, in the family's store, Surosky's Butcher Shop. Having absorbed her family's dedication to Zionism, Ruth was involved in Zionist schools, camps, and organizations throughout her life. The U.S. had entered the war by the time she graduated from the University of Maryland in 1942. Ruth didn't hesitate to leave short-lived jobs in high school teaching and at the Department of Public Works to enlist in the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) where she worked as a communications officer. In 1943, Ruth married Stanley Levy while both were serving in the military. The couple had four children: Stevan, Michael, Edward, and Laura. In the early years of their marriage, Ruth assisted Stanley in his dental practice. An active volunteer in many civic, Zionist, and Jewish communal organizations, she returned to teaching and interior design work after her children were grown. Following their retirement in 1980, Ruth and her husband continued to explore their mutual interests in family, theater and travel. Ruth passed away in Baltimore on September 24, 2012.

Scope and Content Note

Ruth describes the Baltimore neighborhood where she grew up, her family background, and how her parents met and married.  She tells the story of when her father moved to Baltimore from Philadelphia and became a citizen by marrying Ruth's mother.  Ruth's father opened a kosher butcher shop on Whitelock Street in Baltimore, which her family lived above during the Depression.  A typical day in Ruth's youth involved helping out around the house, spending time with her sister, and her mother's kosher-style cooking.  Ruth remembers Shabbat family meals, Hebrew school, High Holidays, and becoming involved in Zionist activities.  Ruth talks a lot about her mother, describing her as avant-garde, educated, and a great cook.  Ruth's father had an excellent reputation in the community, and the butcher shop served as a Jewish social hub.  Ruth's parents encouraged her to pursue higher education and hoped she would attend Goucher College.  Instead, Ruth decided to go to the University of Maryland, College Park.  The summer after graduation, Ruth worked as a counselor at Camp Louie, where he met her husband, Stanley Levy.  In the fall, Ruth began teaching, but that only lasted a few weeks because she felt unprepared and hadn’t had the training to teach special education.  Feeling restless and wanting to serve her country, Ruth chose instead to enlist in the Navy's WAVES program [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service].  Following her service as a communications officer, Ruth married Stanley, and they started their family.  She reflects on Stanley's family background and the early years of their marriage.  Ruth explains that her gynecologist refused to fit her for a diaphragm until her husband returned from his service during World War II.  While Stanley was overseas, Ruth lived with her mother and raised their first child, Steven.  She discusses the joys and challenges of having and raising children – childbirth, miscarriages, staying home with her kids, and creating a Jewish life in the home through compromise with her husband.  Ruth felt it was important to be a stay-at-home while her kids were young, but she was eager to return to work when they were grown and had a career in teaching and interior design.  Finally, Ruth reflects the importance of Judaism in her life, being a grandmother, and tips for a successful marriage. 

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How to cite this page

Oral History of Ruth Levy. Interviewed by Marcie Cohen Ferris. 8 September 2001. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 22, 2024) <http://jwa.org/oralhistories/levy-ruth>.

Oral History of Ruth Levy by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.