Rachel Kagan

One of two women to sign the Israeli Declaration of Independence (the other being Golda Meir), Rachel Kagan shaped women’s rights in the new state. Raised in a Zionist family, Kagan earned a degree in mathematics from the Odessa University of Women before marrying Noah Cohen in 1913. He made Aliyah the following year, with Kagan and their son following in 1919. In 1921 Kagan began working for the Histadrut Nashim Ivriot (HNI), a women’s labor organization, and co-founded Tipat Halav, a chain of child welfare centers. In 1933, Kagan won a general election to become head of the Haifa office for the Agency for Jewish Social Welfare, and in 1946 became the National Council’s head of Social Welfare. She served in the Provisional Government and was elected to the first Knesset, where she deliberated a bill on the Law of Family and the Equality of Women, which became the basis for Law of Equality for Women and the Law of Common Property. She served as chair of WIZO Israel from 1951 until her reelection to the Knesset in 1961. Over the years, she lobbied to establish mandatory minimum sentences for abusive spouses, women’s rights to divorce their husbands, women’s rights to serve in combat units, and protections for disadvantaged children. She continued to be active with WIZO into her nineties.

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Rachel (Cohen) Kagan, chairperson of WIZO Israel, signed Israel's Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948. (L to R) David Ben-Gurion; in background, Rabbi Yehuda Leib ha-Cohen Fishman [Maimon], Kagan, Moshe Shertok [Sharett].
Courtesy of WIZO Archives, Tel Aviv.
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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rachel Kagan (Cohen)." (Viewed on October 26, 2020) <https://jwa.org/people/kagan-rachel>.


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