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January 30: Youth Aliyah

Lawrence Bush
January 30, 2010
Freier-RechaYouth Aliyah opened its office in Berlin on this day in 1933 — the same day that Adolf Hitler took power as chancellor of Germany. “The utter senselessness of Jewish life in the Diaspora stood palpably before my eyes,” wrote Recha Freier, a poet and musician who founded the organization and ran it in Germany while Henrietta Szold ran it in Jerusalem. Before the war broke out in 1939, Freier was responsible for saving at least 7,000 Jewish and Austrian children by arranging their transport, both legally and illegally, to unoccupied European countries or to youth villages in Palestine. She did not leave Germany until 1940; en route to Palestine, she arranged transit for eighty young people in Yugoslavia. Youth Aliyah received the Israel Prize in 1958, and Freier received it in 1981, three years before her death. The organization has been involved in bringing some 300,000 young people to Israel from North Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, the USSR and Ethiopia. The city garden/The gold shimmering gate/closed/a big white cardboard sign/a frame of black paper/Admission prohibited/for dogs and Jews!”—Recha Freier

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.