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July 9: Mathilde Krim

Lawrence Bush
July 9, 2010

Scientist and AIDS activist Mathilde Krim was born in Como, Italy on this date in 1926. She converted to Judaism in the late 1940s, motivated by her passion about the Holocaust and her encounters at the University of Geneva with Palestinian Jewish gun-runners, mostly members of the Irgun, one of whom she married. Krim moved to Israel in 1952 (she had to undergo a second conversion to be accepted there as a Jew) and took up a post at the Weizmann Institute, where she coauthored a groundbreaking paper that established the foundation for amniocentesis and medical genetics. In 1957, she met and married her second husband, Arthur Krim, president of United Artists and the founder of Orion Pictures; they moved to New York, where she joined the Sloan-Kettering Institute. In 1983, Krim became involved in early AIDS research and in the politics of AIDS advocacy, which inspired her to create the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmfAR). AmfAR has been instrumental in education and lobbying efforts on behalf of people with AIDS and led the way on controversies such as condom distribution in schools and permitting HIV-infected immigrants into the U.S. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton in 2000.
“Thousands of candles, carried by people with AIDS, are flickering in the night, asking the question of us: When?’ The answer to that question depends on the national will.” —Mathilde Krim, 1987

​​​​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.