Recha Freier Establishes Foundations of Youth Aliyah

January 30, 1933

The same day that Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Paul Von Hindenburg, Recha Freier establishes the Committee for the Assistance of Jewish Youth.  The program, which would be renamed Youth Aliyah would rescue over 11,000 Jewish children during world War II and would become one of Hadassah’s signature programs in rescuing Jewish children from various parts of the world and bringing them to Israel.

The idea for the program originated In 1932, when Freier, a German Zionist sent Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold, then serving as director of the Social Service Bureau of the Va’ad Leumi (National Council),  a letter outlining a  plan to bring Jewish youth from Germany to Palestine to escape  growing  anti-Semitism.  Szold, preoccupied with the gnawing  number of social and financial problems in the Yishuv, was reluctant to take on any new projects, rejected the proposal.  Szold was especially worried about the inability of the Yishuv to provide for the many impoverished youth already in Palestine at the time.

Undeterred, Freier appealed to other Zionist leaders as well as the Histadrut Labor Union and was able to find support for placements for a small number of German boys.  She set about to raise funds and began sending the first groups of youth in October 1932.  With Szold still refusing to provide immigration certificates, Freier set up her organization on January 30, 1933 so that she could directly lobby the Mandatory government for the certificates.

The worsening of conditions in Germany and Europe forced Szold to commit Hadassah’s resources to the project, although the relationship between the two women was damaged.  When Freier arrived in the Land of Israel in March 1941, Szold informed her that there was no position in the organization for her.

Only toward the end of her life did Freier receive recognition as the founder of Youth Aliyah and in 1981, she was honored with the Israel Prize (the photo shows her receiving the Prize from Prime Minister Menachem Begin). She died on April 2, 1984, in Jerusalem.