Ruth Fluss describes herself as conservative.
She has lived with her
husband, Barry, in the same comfortable apartment on the Carmel for more than 45
years and stayed in the same job as a social worker for 30.
hearing the story of Ruth’s childhood, an odyssey of 10 years of moving and life
changes that would be enough for most people for a lifetime, it is not
surprising that she has found contentment in a permanent home with her family
Fluss was born in Cologne, Germany, in 1937. The
day her mother discovered she was pregnant, she and her husband were arrested –
not for being Jews but for their Communist Party activity. Her brother had
persuaded her to join a cell where they organized minor subversive activities.
They were betrayed to the Nazis and were imprisoned.
A sympathetic prison
guard managed to postpone her trial until after she gave birth. After her
release, she and Ruth went to the grandparents’ home in Orsoy; but after
Kristallnacht the family pressured them to leave. Her mother got a position in
domestic service in England.
Ruth’s father had been sentenced to eight
years’ imprisonment, but letters continued to arrive from him until 1942. After
the war was it discovered that he had been sent to Auschwitz and perished
Her mother also discovered that she had lost her parents and three
Her mother got a job as secretary with Colibri Lighters in
London. The owner, Julius Lowenthal, had left Germany in 1933 and was able to
rebuild his factory in England. In 1947 he and Ruth’s mother got married. “I had
a new family, a stepfather and two new stepbrothers.”
Julius was a key
worker in the Jewish National Fund, so they became part of the social scene of
the northwest London Jewish community. Ruth thrived in her new environment and
enjoyed her Hebrew and Jewish studies. She did well in school and was accepted
to the prestigious North London Collegiate School for Girls.
“In spite of
all the tragedy and hardship in her life, my mother was always optimistic.” says
Fluss, who persuaded her to make aliya at 97 so she could look after her. “She
almost got to her 100th birthday” but died just over a year
INTRODUCTION TO ISRAEL
When Fluss was 17, she made her first visit
to Israel with Habonim. “That changed my life,” she says. “They were just my
kind of people.”
When she returned to London she joined Habonim, and her
desire to make aliya increased.
She graduated in modern languages at
Edinburgh University, but she realized that she wanted to study social
“I knew nobody in Edinburgh, but I soon made friends with five
other religious students who were also planning aliya.” She went to lodge with a
Jewish family, whose son Barry would later become her husband.
During her term as president of the Jewish Society at Edinburgh, she met
an Israeli social worker who told her that the Hebrew University was starting a
master’s program in social work. So at 22, she made aliya alone.
settled in the Jewish Agency hostel in Jerusalem and studied at ulpan for two
months before starting university.
Meanwhile, she had been corresponding
When he came to visit, they went touring together. On a
moonlit night in the Negev, he proposed. They were married in 1961.
Barry worked in the Hadera Paper Mills. They moved to Haifa when he started
studying accounting and was apprenticed to a Haifa company. Ruth did fieldwork
at Beit Loewenstein in Ra’anana for a year and in her third year was given
fieldwork at Youth Aliya in Haifa, traveling by train to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
to finish her studies.
Her first son was born while she was studying for
her final exam.
“I took 10 years out while the children were small and
then got into a field of social work that interested me until I
Fluss explains that at that time, autistic children were
institutionalized. A psychologist interested in helping autistic and other
children with developmental problems set up a network of area kindergartens for
children who could not fit into the regular educational framework.
was a complete rethink on education in this field,” she says. “The centers were
regional so that they were local for the families; the therapists did the
traveling. I loved the close-knit communities outside the city and counseling
She stayed in that job for 30 years, completing her MA
when she was in her 50s.
Apart from the large extended family in
England and other countries, Ruth and Barry’s family has expanded.
have four sons and 12 grandchildren. Their four sons live and work in
Although their Hebrew is perfect and they have Sabra
friends, Ruth and Barry have a close circle of modern Orthodox English-speakers.
They also maintain contact with their university and Habonim friends, many of
whom now live here.
She volunteers for Women at Risk, a project of
Hadassah Israel in Haifa, and takes art and bridge classes.
“No regrets,” she says. “Israel is the best place I know to bring up children.
All our family have grown up with good values from the school system and from
The two-year-old refugee who made the lonely journey with
her mother from Germany is now fully occupied planning celebrations and holidays
for her children and grandchildren.
Like her mother, who was her mentor
and her role model, Fluss is always optimistic and positive and ready to lend a