Aliyah icon Alice Shalvi gifts lifetime archive to national library
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Aliyah icon Alice Shalvi gifts lifetime archive to national library

Award-winning activist and professor donates personal catalogue of papers, diary notes, letters and correspondence with her family before they left Germany

Alice Shalvi donates archive. Credit Hanan Cohen National Library of Israel
Alice Shalvi donates archive. Credit Hanan Cohen National Library of Israel

An award-winning activist and educator who fled Nazi Germany for Britain before making aliyah has donated her personal archive to the National Library of Israel.

Professor Alice Shalvi, who recently topped a Jewish News Aliyah 100 list charting the contribution of Brits who have made aliyah, was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize in 2017 for her work in pioneering Israel’s feminist movement.

Her personal papers include diary notes, letters and correspondence from her mother to her father in 1933, when he had already fled for England. The rest of the family left Essen in Germany several months later.

Arriving in 1934, the eight-year-old Shalvi finished schooling before studying at Cambridge and the London School of Economics.

She left for Israel in 1949, shortly after the formation of the state, where she became an educator, feminist activist, social advocate and professor emerita of English literature.

She taught English at Hebrew University, then from 1975-90 served as principal of Pelech, a unique progressive high school for religious girls. During this time she founded the Israel Women’s Network, which soon became the country’s major advocacy group on women’s issues.

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky greets Alice Shalvi at the Aliyah 100 reception in Ramat Gan
Photo by Yossi Zeligar/Nikoart

An observant Jew, she later headed the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, a graduate school initially affiliated with an American Jewish seminary, and led several social movements promoting peace, interfaith dialogue and women’s rights.

Of her donation, she said: “As a woman who has lived in Israel almost since its founding and has for much of the past 70 years participated actively in several of the country’s major social movements and developments, it seems important to make the material that has accumulated over that period available to researchers as well as to those of the general public who are interested in social history.”

Alice Shalvi donates archive. Credit Hanan Cohen National Library of Israel

In later years Shalvi has been showered with awards from Brown University, the Weizmann Institute and Ben-Gurion University, among others, and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin capped a remarkable career with the Israel Prize in 2017.

Dr Aviad Stollman, the library’s head of collections, said Shalvi had “impacted Israeli society to an extent that few others have”.

He added: “As a true trailblazer in terms of the struggle for gender equality, Jewish education for women and many other areas of social activism, her influence over the course of many decades continues to be felt from the political sphere to education and religion.”

Stollman said the library, as the institution of national memory for the state of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide, was “humbled” to be entrusted with the archive, which would “provide fruitful materials for researchers and the general public in the near and distant future”.

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