Neemah Serota


Her life in Palestine and her subsequent work in the wartime Women’s Royal Land Army, brought Neemah Serota, who has died aged 103, rapt audiences when she described her experiences to Jewish social clubs. Her eloquent and anecdotal delivery was much admired.

A keen Zionist and fluent Hebrew speaker, she went to Palestine in 1936, where she worked and studied at the women’s agricultural training college in Nahalal, founded by Wizo.  There she lodged with Israel’s charismatic former defence minister Moshe Dayan. 

At her parents’ request, she returned to England as the Second World War loomed. On its outbreak, she joined the Women’s Royal Land Army, together with her school-friend Phyllis Hillel, née Nirenstein. For the first two years she worked on a farm in Lincolnshire, where she found the local Grimsby Jewish community very hospitable. 

Her unusual experience in Palestine of working with horses and milking cows stood her in good stead. She remained proud of this all her life and her idea of a good day out in the country was a visit to a cattle market or a sheep-dog trial. 

In the Land Army, she delivered milk by horse-and-cart in Oxford and then in Hampstead, where her customers included many celebrities, such as General De Gaulle, who provided some lively anecdotes for the talks she gave many years later. 

Neemah née Yanishevsky was born in Hackney during the First World War, the daughter of Fanny and Itzhak who changed their name to Young, and sister of Ami and Gideon. Itzhak was a teacher at Redmans Road Talmud Torah and later worked on the Yiddish language newspaper, Yiddish Voice. Like her parents, Neemah was a keen Zionist and a fluent Hebrew speaker. 

She attended Coburn school, where she excelled at elocution and was presented with an elocution prize by the poet W B Yeats on Speech Day. In 1936, she went to Palestine to work and study at the women’s agricultural training college in Nahalal,which was when she lodged with the Dayan  family. 

She married Louis Serota in 1944 and moved to Stanmore, where she was a member of Stanmore Synagogue for some 70 years, and was very active in Wizo. They had three sons, Daniel, Gabriel and Simon. Neemah was a full-time mother and housewife who loved entertaining and whose large family teas were renowned. 

After Louis died in 1989, Neemah began giving talks to Jewish social clubs about her time in Palestine and in the Land Army. 

Her talent for elocution and her vivid delivery made her talks very popular and she continued give talks until  she was well into her 80s, travelling all over London by bus and tube. At 91, she moved into Sydmar Lodge care home in Edgware where she lived very happily and well-cared for until her peaceful death at 103.

She is survived by her children Daniel, Gabriel and Simon, four grandchildren, Naomi, Debbie, Clare and Amy, and seven great grandchildren.
Gabriel Serota

Neemah Serota: born January 17, 1916. Died November 17, 2019 

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