Journalist, Photographer, War Hero
Ruth Gruber (b. 1911) was born in Brooklyn to Russian-Jewish immigrants. By 15 she was already studying at New York University, and at 20 received a doctorate from the University of Cologne, which many believe made her the youngest person in the world to hold a Ph.D. While studying in Germany, she experienced Nazism first hand, and brought back some of the earliest accounts of these horrors to the US. Having always dreamed of being a writer, Gruber finally began her writing career in 1932. A few years later, she was among the first foreign correspondents in the Soviet Union. During World War II, Gruber served as the Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior. The seminal moment of her life came in 1944, when she was sent on a special mission to save 1000 Jewish refugees and American soldiers trapped in Italy. Their convoy of 29 ships sailed through treacherous waters and managed to arrive safely in the US. To protect her in case she was captured, she was awarded the rank of “General” (and therefore could not be killed by enemy soldiers according to the Geneva Conventions). This was America’s one and only mission to save Jews during the entire war. Gruber later helped these Jews gain the necessary documentation to stay in the US and not be deported. After the war, Gruber returned to journalism and was stationed in Israel for a time. She witnessed, photographed, and covered the famous voyage of the Exodus that carried 4500 Jewish refugees. She later assisted in the plight of Ethiopian Jewry. Gruber went on to write 19 books and many popular articles. She has won numerous awards for her work, and in 2010 a documentary about her life was released. Gruber will soon celebrate her 103rd birthday. She has been described as a “scholar, writer, journalist and humanitarian, a world class photojournalist.”
UPDATE: Sadly, Ruth Gruber passed away in November of 2016.
Words of the Week
Figure out what you’re willing to die for. Then live for it.
– Rabbi Noach Weinberg