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Ruth Mandel

Ruth Mandel (1938–2020), leading advocate for women in politics

by Kirk Fox

Ruth Mandel was a leading advocate for women in politics and Holocaust survivor who was the former Vice Chair of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.   

  • Died: Saturday, April 11, 2020 (Who else died on April 11?) 
  • Details of Death: Died at the age of 81 from ovarian cancer.   
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Her family escaped Nazi Germany  

Mandel was an infant when her family boarded the German ship the St. Louis in May 1939, attempting to escape Nazi Germany and land in Cuba. Denied entry in Cuba and not allowed to dock in the United States or Canada, the ship had to go back to Europe. Mandel’s family was able to escape to England and later immigrated to Brooklyn in 1947. 

Mandel has said that experience shaped her commitment to advocating for women in politics. 


“My interest in politics didn’t come out of a political party. It came much more out of a family background of escaping from the Holocaust and thinking that unless we had good government and good democracy and the world got to be a better place, none of us would make it through,” she told the Newark Star-Ledger. 

Mandel was appointed Vice Chair of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council in 1993, serving in the position until 2006.  

Advocate for Women in Politics 

Mandel became the Director of the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University, dedicated to advocating for the voice of women in politics. 

“I don’t think we’re going back to a day when little girls grow up being told that if they want to be true females they’ll plan a life with four options—the kitchen, the church, kindergarten teaching or nursing.” But politics remained “brutal and grindingly difficult for women.” —1989 interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

What they said about her

Full Obituary: Connecticut Post

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