The WIZO movement, together with the World Jewish Congress and many other Zionist Organisations worldwide, bow their heads to honour the blessed memory of Raya Jaglom z”l Honorary Life President of World WIZO, who passed away on Wednesday 2nd August 2017.
Other than Rebecca Sieff, who was the founding president of WIZO and remained in office for 43 years, Jaglom was the longest-serving president of World WIZO. As Sieff’s protégé she became just as passionate about WIZO, and held a number of executive positions prior to her election in 1970. She remained in office until 1996.
She served on the Boards of Governors of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Tel Aviv and was a member of the International Boards of the Israel Museum and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Raya was the first representative of a women’s organization to be invited to sit as a member of the WJC Executive Committee, under then President Nahum Goldmann, and she remained a member for years to come.
Raya Jaglom was born in Bessarabia and in 1939 immigrated to Eretẓ Israel, where she studied at The Hebrew University. After her marriage in the following year to Joseph Jaglom, an industrialist, she was joined by her parents and grandmother. She first became active in WIZO in 1941, and apart from a period of 18 months in 1947–48 when she served in the Haganah, she devoted the whole of her activity to WIZO, visiting almost every country in the world on its behalf, including the U.S.S.R. at the invitation of the Soviet Women’s Committee in Moscow.
At the invitation of the Soviet government, she led a women’s delegation to the Soviet Union in 1964, and in clandestine meetings with Jews learned of the dire situations in which they found themselves. She later became an ardent activist in the Struggle for Soviet Jewry, serving in a high-ranking capacity in several organizations dedicated to liberating Soviet Jews and allowing them to migrate to Israel and other parts of the free world.
In February 1971 she headed the WIZO delegation to the World Conference on Soviet Jewry held in Brussels. She was elected chairman of the World WIZO Executive in 1963 and president in 1970, and represented WIZO on the Executive of the Jewish Agency from 1964. She served as WIZO president for 26 years, and subsequently as Honorary Life President. Such was her stature that if you mention the name Raya Jaglom to Israelis or non-Israeli leaders of Diaspora Zionist organizations who are middle-aged and older, the immediate association will be WIZO.
There are so many stories about the good that Raya Jaglom z’l did and many not known. One such story is that in
June 2001, when Hamas mounted a terrorist attack on the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium, a popular meeting place for young men and women, 21 people were killed, 16 of them teenagers, most of them sons and daughters of recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Jaglom, who spoke several languages including Russian, stuffed envelopes with bank notes, secured the addresses of the shocked and grieving families, called her taxi driver friend and had him take her to the homes of each of the families where she spoke to them in Russian, offered her condolences and any help they might need, and left one of the envelopes on a table.
Whilst Raya z’l had many achievements, some of which are outstanding because of her involvement in WIZO are.
- Her endless work and immense contribution to the State of Israel, to its society and to the Jewish diaspora;
- The establishment of a network of dozens of educational and welfare facilities (for infants, toddlers, youth at-risk, women, the elderly and more);
- For serving as one of the greatest role models of powerful and dedicated leadership for women in Israel and in the Jewish world.
The title Raya z’l chose for her autobiography reads in Hebrew: “I had the honor of serving my country.” And Indeed she served Israel – and with great success!
Raya z”l was a WIZO pioneer, a social activist for women’s rights and a fundraising genius. Her commitment to WIZO was total and unconditional. She was always immaculately dressed and groomed even after a gruelling working day.
Raya z”l maintained a keen interest in WIZO and as Honorary Life President continued to attend the annual conferences and other important WIZO events even after being confined to a wheel chair. Raya z”l attended the 2017 MOR that took place in January earlier this year.
She is survived by a son, a daughter and grandchildren.
May her memory be blessed. May G-d comfort her family among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
“Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.” (Proverbs 31, 29)
I was fortunate enough to have met Raya z’l in 1979 when I attended my first WIZO Aviv Conference in Israel. She was a most remarkable imposing, confident woman who was quite intimidating at times but always got the job done with little or no fuss. Raya visited Melbourne once and I recall our iconic leaders Zosia Mercer, Nellie Weiss and Ann Zablud being highly motivated by this wonderful woman who will be sorely missed at future MORs and EGMs in Israel and by the hundreds and thousands of WIZO members throughout the world.