Ruth Lynn Fraenkel (b. 1943) was born in London to Jewish-Polish refugees who fled the Nazis. She studied law at Oxford University’s prestigious St. Anne’s College, and there met her future husband John Deech. After getting her MA, she briefly taught law at Windsor University in Canada, then returned to St. Anne’s and taught there for two decades before being elected its principal in 1991. As a specialist in family law and bioethics, she also headed Oxford’s Health Authority, and eventually became the governor of the UK Department of Health’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). The HFEA regulates fertility treatments, in-vitro fertilization, and embryological research across the UK. As its governor, Deech made some difficult and controversial decisions, including one case where a woman was forbidden from having a baby with her dead husband’s frozen sperm. She also fought against the decision to allow birth certificates not to name a father, stating “I regret the downgrading of the father as a person of importance – the legislative dismissal of the contribution of half the population to the upbringing of the next generation” and that “Tolerance of both types of parenting has to be ensured.” In 2002, Deech was knighted as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. That same year she was appointed governor of the BBC. Following this role, she was made a life peer of the House of Lords, and given the title Baroness Deech of Cumnor. At the same time, she served as the chairman of the Bar Standards Board, which regulates lawyers across England and Wales, and sat on the Jewish Leadership Council. Deech remains one of the world’s most renowned academics and ethicists. Oxford University recently named one of its buildings after her, and she was once ranked on “The God List” of the fifty most influential “people of faith” in Britain. She also regularly stands up for the Jewish community, and for Israel – at Oxford, in the House of Lords, and on the international stage.
Someday, when history will be written, it will be said there was a Jewish woman who got the money to make the State possible.
– David Ben-Gurionon Golda Meir’s successful 1948 trip to the US to raise money for the nascent State of Israel. She raised $55 million, vital to Israel’s Independence War effort.
Chaim Gedaliah Rickover (1900-1986) was born in Poland. When he was six years old his family fled to the United States to escape the Russian pogroms that had killed over 3000 Jews in Eastern Europe. The family settled in Chicago, where Rickover started working at just nine years of age for three cents an hour. He excelled academically, and after graduating from high school with honours, was nominated by a Jewish congressman to the US Naval Academy. Rickover distinguished himself while serving on a destroyer ship and was among the youngest people to ever be promoted to an officer. He went back to school and earned a Master’s in electrical engineering before doing further studies at Columbia. At 29, he decided to serve on a submarine, and was soon in command of one. His translation of the German Das Unterseeboot became the textbook of the US Submarine Service. Throughout World War II, Rickover repaired electrical systems on US Navy ships, for which he earned the Legion of Merit. Following the war, he applied to join the Manhattan Project’s new program to develop nuclear power plants. He was soon the deputy manager of the division developing nuclear-powered navy ships. Rickover saw that the greatest potential was for nuclear submarines, and ultimately succeeded in persuading the Secretary of the Navy to endorse building one. Rickover led its development, and played a central role in designing a nuclear reactor fit for submarines. His vision came to life in 1954 with the launch of the famous USS Nautilus. It put him on the cover of TIME Magazine that year. By 1958, Rickover was vice admiral of the Navy, and awarded a Congressional Gold Medal. His program would go on to produce over 200 nuclear-powered submarines, and 23 aircraft carriers and cruisers. Incredibly, none of these has ever had a meltdown – a feat credited to Rickover’s insistence on safety and obsessive attention to detail. (The Soviet Navy suffered at least 14 meltdowns in the same time period!) Rickover became known as the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”. He was the longest serving officer in US naval history, with 63 years of service under 13 presidents. A four-star admiral, his 61 civilian awards included a Presidential Medal of Freedom and two Congressional Gold Medals (an extremely rare feat). He was also awarded 15 honourary degrees, and made an honourary Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Rickover stated that he was not proud of his work, and saw it as a “necessary evil” to protect his country. He once said he wished “nuclear power had never been discovered” and hoped that the nuclear fleet would be dismantled.
Words of the Week
Cherish criticism, for it will place you on the true heights. – Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber of Lubavitch
Yehuda ‘Edwin’ Mirvish (1914-2007) was born in Virginia to Jewish immigrants from Austria and Lithuania. After going bankrupt, his family moved to Toronto, where Ed’s father initially worked as a door-to-door salesman before opening a small grocery store. The family lived in a space above the store, shared with a Hebrew school. When Mirvish was 15 his father died, forcing Ed to drop out of school in order to manage the store. The business wasn’t doing well, so Mirvish went on to try other store ideas including a dry cleaner and a dress shop. Finally, in 1948 Mirvish opened the famous “Honest Ed’s”, stocked with inexpensive items purchased at bankruptcy sales. The store became an instant hit, and over the years grew to fill an entire block. Mirvish purchased more buildings around the area, but was denied permission to demolish them. So he turned them into low-cost housing for artists, and this community, now known as “Mirvish Village” became Toronto’s art hub. A patron of the arts, Mirvish was also a noted philanthropist, donating 10,000 pounds of Turkey every year, among other things. Mirvish is famous for being a theatre tycoon. He bought the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1962, saving it from demolition, built the Princess of Wales Theatre, and managed the Canon Theatre (now renamed the Ed Mirvish Theatre). His company, Mirvish Productions, brought many Broadway hits to Toronto, including The Lion King, Mamma Mia! and Hairspray. Beloved by the city, he held a free carnival every year on his birthday, which has been designated ‘Ed Mirvish Day’. He was awarded the Order of Canada, and Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Words of the Week
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity. – Albert Einstein