Past Honorees

At Central Synagogue

Ruth Gruber
2001 Journalist and humanitarian

“Have dreams, have visions, and let no obstacle stop you.”

Ruth Gruber, now over 100 years old, has had a long and extraordinary career in which she played many different roles – writer, government official, photographer, and humanitarian. A 2010 documentary film based on her autobiography Ahead of Time: My Early Years as a Foreign Correspondent (1991) chronicles Gruber’s early career, which defied the limits and expectations placed on women at that time, and shows her important role in key moments in history.

Gruber was born to Russian Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn in 1911. She attended New York University at the young age of 15, and eventually won postgraduate fellowships from both the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Institute of International Education in Cologne, Germany, where she became the youngest person in the world to receive a Ph.D.

She began writing about such hot button issues as Fascism and Communism for The New York Herald Tribune in 1935. Her success as a journalist and a foreign correspondent led to her appointment as Special Assistant to the United States Secretary of the Interior during World War II. It was in this role that she conducted a secret mission to Europe in 1944 to bring 1000 Jewish refugees and wounded American soldiers from Italy to the safety of the U.S. She later published a book based on her interviews of the refugees, Haven: The Dramatic Story of 1000 World War II Refugees and How They Came to America, which was adapted into a film in 2001.

After the war Gruber returned to journalism, writing for publications such as The New York Post and Hadassah Magazine. She continued to play a role in international affairs – the only journalist to interview the Exodus 1947 refugees, the first to enter the newly created Hashemite kingdom of Jordan. Her book Raquela: A Woman of Israel, about an Israeli nurse who worked in a British detention camp and in a hospital in Beersheba, won the National Jewish Book Award in 1979. She went on to publish Rescue: The Exodus of the Ethiopian Jews (1985) and what is considered to be the second volume of her autobiography, Inside of Time: My Journey from Alaska to Israel (2002).

Gruber has received many honors for her work, including the Na’amat Golda Meir Human Rights Award. She was also recently honored by National Coalition Against Censorship for her promotion of free expression. Gruber has two children and four grandchildren, and lives in New York City, where she originally began her incredible life.