Pioneering Jewish feminist Alice Shalvi dies aged 96

Shalvi was born in Germany and fled to England before making aliyah in 1949


Alice Shalvi, Israeli professor and educator poses for a picture at her home in Jerusalem on March 14, 2016. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** àìéñ ùìåé ôøåôñåø àùú çéðåê ôòéìä çáøúéú ôîéðéæí ëìú ôøñ éùøàì

The pioneering Israeli feminist Alice Shalvi has died aged  96. The educator and activist was honoured with the Israel Prize and many other awards.She was born in Germany in  in 1926, and came to England as a child as the Nazis came to power. She made aliyah to Israel in 1949.

“If I’d stayed in England I don’t know whether the Jewish community would have given me the opportunity of contributing the way I have here, clearly not, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it in the non-Jewish community either, because I was an outsider,” she told the JC in 2017 in an interview given to mark the award of the Bonei Zion Prize for Anglo immigrants who have made a significant contribution to the State of Israel.

In Israel she headed a school where she pioneered a e new direction in religious girls’ education. She directed the Israel Women’s Network which she established and campaigned on behalf of Agunot -  women denied a divorce. She also lectured in English literature at Hebrew University, where she was associate professor.

“I was never terribly fond of Anglo-Jewry — it was sort of parve,” she told the JC, but she added that the values which powered her life in Israel came from the UK.

“I think my liberalism and my tolerance and the way in which I value tolerance comes from Britain,” she said.

In Britain she always felt like an outsider, but in Israel:  “The moment I arrived here it was psychologically incredible. In relation to the average British person I’m short — I was never more than five-foot-one and today I’m less. But suddenly, I felt tall.”

She married Moshe Shalvi in 1950, and they had six children together, sharing childcare dutires. He died in 2013 and she described him as “perfect.”

She was also an active campaigner for peace with the Palestinians and in 1989 took part in a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian women in Brussels, including the Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi, where they came up with a rough peace plan.

As a head teacher she placed emphasis on students studying all the sacred texts that boys study, and feeling empowered in religious practice. Family planning was taught and there were dialogues with students from other educational institutions, including secular-Jewish schools and Palestinian schools.

She had always been Modern Orthodox, but in the 1990s moved to a Conservative synagogue, looking for increased women’s prayer rights.

She told the JC she had one regret. “I wasn’t with the children as much as I should have been. I see now by from how much time my children spend with my grandchildren and I’m sorry, I feel I missed out. If I could go back in time I wouldn’t take on quite the same amount of communal work.”

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