South African animal rights activist dies at 92
Vegetarian since age 9, Friedstein was one of first in Israel to encourage spaying and neutering.
Hilda Friedstein Photo: Courtesy SPCA
After devoting much of her 92 years to saving the lives of helpless animals,
South African immigrant and longtime Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals chairwoman Hilda Friedstein died on Wednesday.
served as the head of Tel Aviv’s Israel SPCA flagship site for 35 years,
beginning in 1970. During her tenure there as well as both before and after as a
volunteer, Friedstein worked tirelessly to raise public awareness about animal
suffering and was a pioneer in defending the rights of Israel’s animals,
according to the SPCA.
“Mainly her life became animals, but she was much
more than that,” Hilma Shmoshkovitz, the current chairwoman of the association,
told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday evening.
Shmoshkovitz, who knew
Friedstein very well on a personal and professional level, said that she was
also a dedicated piano player, painter, gardener and tennis
Friedstein was born in South Africa in 1920 to a family that
had emigrated from Lithuania at the beginning of the 19th century.
young girl, she quickly developed social awareness and sensitivity for the
downtrodden, and became a vegetarian at the age of 9. In 1942, she came to
Israel with her husband Kalman, where they were among the founders of Kibbutz
“She and her husband were the last ones who got a house because
their tent was always nice and neat with flowers – it was a home,” Shmoshkovitz
said. “That was Hilda.”
Friedstein quickly became active in the SPCA, and
was one of the first in Israel to encourage and subsidize surgical spaying and
neutering of pets, according to SPCA. She also led public campaigns and legal
action against harsh living conditions for animals and against experimentation
Friedstein was so dedicated to saving animals that Shmoshkovitz
recalled one day before the age of cell phones, when the two of them were on
their way home from work together and ended up distracted for hours by some dead
cats and dogs along the road.
“Hours later both husbands were furious
with us,” Shmoshkovitz said.
Over the years, Friedstein raised dozens of
dogs, all of whom were vegetarians like she was and reached old age.
dogs, old dogs, are now with her son and daughter-in-law,” Shmoshkovitz told the
Post. “She said, ‘I take dogs that nobody wants.’”
When some of her dogs
died a couple of years ago, Friedstein took on yet two more from the SPCA who
were already at an advanced age. “It was not easy for her,” Shmoshkovitz
Shmoshkovitz credits Friedstein with creating the “solid
foundation” that the SPCA thrives off of today, stressing how the older woman
had acted as a mentor to her for many years.
“She was always trying to
learn something about the animals,” Shmoshkovitz said.