Sunday, November 27, 2016

Vera Weizmann (November 27, 1881)

The living room of the home of Vera and Chaim Weizmann on the campus of the Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, Israel.
In 2006, I toured this home, designed by architect Eric Mendelsohn with a large input from Vera Weizmann.

Vera Weizmann ( November 27, 1881 – September 24, 1966), neè Chatzman, was born in Rostov northeast of Moscow. She was raised in a surprisingly secular way, as she went to elite non-Jewish schools and was not taught either Hebrew or Yiddish. Her father had been a military officer, and was allowed to live in an area not normally open to Jews and allowed to educate his daughters in this unusual way.

Vera Weizmann studied medicine in Geneva, Switzerland, when women were rarely allowed to do so. During this time, she became a member of Jewish student organizations, where she met Chaim Weizmann.  (Chaim Weizmann's entry in this blog is here.) They married in 1906, and soon moved to Manchester, England, where she began her medical career:
"In 1913 she successfully passed the British medical certification examination, after having studied medicine for two years in Manchester in addition to her studies in Geneva. Vera Weizmann received a temporary posting as a physician in the Manchester slums, where she was in charge of seven clinics for pregnant women and infants to the age of one year. She was later awarded a permanent appointment as a physician in a public clinic for pregnant women. As one of the first women to be employed as a physician in Manchester during this period, her work consisted primarily of developing advanced methods for monitoring infant nutrition and weight." (source)
Both Chaim Weizmann and Vera Weizmann were leaders of Zionism throughout their lives. His role in Zionism is very well-known; she participated in the founding of the Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO) and served as its president over many years.Though they lived in England most of the time until after World War II, they played an important role in founding the Hebrew University and the Seiff Institute in Rehovot which became the Weizmann Institute. During the Israeli war of Independence, Vera treated injured soldiers, later founded medical centers for wounded veterans' rehabilitation, and was active in many volunteer organizations.
"After her husband’s death in 1952, Vera Weizmann devoted even more of her time and energy to social work on behalf of Youth Aliyah, the rehabilitation of those disabled in the war and the Magen David Adom organization, serving as its president. In 1954 she conducted a fund-raising campaign in South America for Israel Bonds and the Weizmann Institute. After visiting Argentina, Chile and Brazil, she went with her secretary to Russia, which she had left forty years earlier. She was also very active in arranging the Weizmann archives." (source)

The tomb of Vera and Chaim Weizmann, near their house in Rehovot.

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