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Esther Leah Medalie Ritz

Esther Leah Medalie Ritz defended human rights throughout the myriad conflicts of the twentieth century, from fighting fascism in the 1930s to participating in Israeli-Palestinian dialogue in the 1980s. Ritz was the first female member of the editorial board of the Minnesota Daily, the largest student newspaper in the US, and wrote editorials on international relations and race issues. She also joined the Communist party to help fight fascism. After graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1940 she began an international relations program at Duke which was discontinued after Pearl Harbor. She married in 1945 and stayed home to raise a family, but returned to volunteer work and became the first woman president of the Milwaukee JCC and the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. She also served as vice president of the Council of Jewish Federations, president of the JCC Association and vice chair of Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, among other responsibilities. She also served on the boards of many organizations, including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Americans for Peace Now, and the Shalom Hartman Institute. She joined the first dialogue between Jewish and Palestinian women leaders and was deeply involved in peace efforts.

Esther Ritz
Full image
A civic leader par excellence, Esther Leah Ritz directed and supported numerous local, national and international organizations and causes, ranging from the Milwaukee Jewish Federation to the Democratic Party to Middle East peace efforts, and including hundreds of programs to protect the rights of the disenfranchised.
Photographer: Tom Bamberger, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Institution: Peggy Brill
Date of Birth
May 16, 1918
Place of Birth
Buhl, Minnesota
Date of Death
December 26, 2003

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Esther Leah Medalie Ritz." (Viewed on December 16, 2018) <>.


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