Ruth Blau (Ben-David)

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Madeleine Lucette Ferraille

Also Known As: "Ruth Ben-David"
Birthplace: Calais, Hauts-de-France, France
Death: 2000 (79-80)
Immediate Family:

Wife of R' Amram Blau
Ex-wife of Henri Baud
Mother of Private and Private

Managed by: Malka Mysels
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Ruth Blau (Ben-David)

Rabbi Amram Blau's second wife (he married her in 1965), the French convert Ruth Ben - David. Ruth passed away at the age of 80 in 2000.

Ruth, Madeleine Ferraille, had a son called Claude whose name was changed into Uriel after the conversion to Judaism.

Even before Ruth Ben - David became famous due to the marriage with Rabbi Blau, she already had a reputation. For the State of Israel, not really the best, as she took the famous child Yossele Schuchmacher to the US. Yossele was "kidnapped" by his grandparents (Breslover Chassidim from Mea Shearim) because his parents wanted to live secular.

The "Yossele case" was extremely famous in Israel in the 50's.

There is a book written in Hebrew about the case. However, it was written by a former Mossad head, Isser Harel.

French resistance:

In the boxes comprising Blau's private archive, Kaplan discovered documents, pashkevilim (wall posters ), private correspondence relating to the wedding, and Ben-David's ketubah (official religious marriage contract ).

Born to Catholic parents in France as Madeleine Feraille, Ben-David (1920-2000 ) played an active role in the French resistance during World War II, attended Sorbonne university, married and gave birth to a son. It was only at that point in her life that she began to show a deep interest in Judaism. In 1952, she converted and divorced her husband.

In her frequent visits to Israel, Ben-David and her son, who also converted, lived on Kibbutz Yavneh. Nonetheless, she also maintained contact with ultra-Orthodox rabbis who were members of anti-Zionist factions in the Mea She'arim neighborhood. Because of these ties, in 1962, she assisted in smuggling out of Israel an Israeli child, Yossele Schumacher, who was kidnapped and taken abroad by his grandparents, with Neturei Karta's help. The grandparents abducted the child in defiance of a court order: They wanted to continue raising him as an ultra-Orthodox Jew in light of the fact that his parents were no longer religious. Interrogated by Israeli security officials, Ben-David broke down and the Mossad found the child, who was returned to Israel and his parents' care.

Sought-after match:

In Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, Ben-David became a heroine and was thus much sought after as a prospective match. In an interview she gave to Yedioth Ahronoth many years later, she said she had been introduced to Blau in 1963 after the death of his first wife, Hinda, by a matchmaker.

Apparently, they became engaged clandestinely, and only after a certain time did they hold an official engagement ceremony of a binding nature (known in ultra-Orthodox circles by the Yiddish term "Vort ") before witnesses. According to Ben-David, they became engaged secretly because Blau wanted time to tell his 10 children about the impending marriage. This was especially important because he and Ben-David became engaged less than 12 months after his wife's death.

Since they were adamantly opposed to the match, it is possible that Blau's sons applied to the Eda Haredit's high court with the request that it disallow the marriage. However, according to a number of sources, the crisis erupted even earlier, almost accidentally, when an ultra-Orthodox matchmaker sought Blau's counsel.

The matchmaker asked Blau whether it would be permissible for a rabbinical judge serving on the bench of the Eda Haredit's high court to marry the famous convert. Blau was forced to admit that he had already made a commitment to marry Ben-David and had already "set the [prenuptial] conditions."

The matchmaker immediately applied to the Badatz, requesting the court nullify Blau's commitment of marriage to Ben-David. The court complied, but Blau refused to accept the verdict. The Boston archive includes a copy of an angry letter that he wrote in response to the court's ruling.

The rabbinical court judges, Blau writes, think that the marriage "will be a desecration of God's name. In other words, people do not hold this convert in high esteem; thus, if I, whom the rabbinical court judges consider to be a distinguished Torah scholar, marry her, people will gossip about me and that will be a desecration of God's name."

Rejecting this argument, Blau declares in the letter that Ben-David is a "righteous convert and a God-fearing woman of valor, according to the clear testimony of the righteous individuals and great scholars in whose houses she dwelt for several years and who are very familiar with her character and conduct."

In the letter, Blau refers to the fame she had earned "throughout the world for her actions with regard to the Yossele incident, where she has shown supreme self-sacrifice in seeking to save him and enable him to become a Torah scholar and a faithful Jew." Although he tries to ask the high court to display compassion, to "give me the benefit of the doubt and forgive me," he lashes out at his critics: "The masses who do not hold the convert in high regard and who thus allow themselves to gossip about her not only violate a number of mitzvot that are specifically mentioned in the Torah; their behavior is diametrically opposed to the view of our holy Torah and to God's will."

Responding to the claim that the age gap between them - Ben-David was 44 and Blau was 70 at the time - was far too great, he cites a midrash according to which the biblical Boaz was twice as old as Ruth the Moabite, and writes that "Boaz, who considered this point irrelevant and who ignored the gossip, married Ruth."

Blau also adds a very strong hint aimed at the judges, noting that the gossip did not lead the nation's leaders in Boaz's time "to be influenced in any way by the gossipers' stupid views, which amounted to a violation of the Torah's instructions."

Finally, Blau points out that a commitment exists between himself and Ben-David with regard to their determination to be married and that this commitment is binding in terms of Jewish law. Perhaps in an attempt to appease the rabbinical judges, he reminds them that he does not intend, or that he is not able, to have more children with Ruth. The court, however, was unwilling to change its verdict.

During this same period, in the summer of 1965, Blau's fiancee adopts a different tone when she writes, in Yiddish, directly to the leader of the Satmar Hasidic movement. In her letter which, according to Kaplan, was written a short while before the wedding, she notes that peace "is not bestowed upon the wicked" and she accuses the rabbinical court judges of a display of envy.

In another letter, which she sends to the leader's wife, Ben-David describes how she was harassed by members of the Eda Haredit community, noting the humiliation to which she was subjected and the insidious epithet with which she had been labeled: "hutzpedicke, schmutzedicke giyoret" - that is, a "brazen, dirty convert." (Kaplan uses the label as the title of his article. )

The Satmar leader intervened, offering Ben-David 25,000 Israel pounds if she would only waive Blau's commitment to marry her. The leader also attempted to get the wedding date postponed while, at the same time, he urged the rabbinical court judges to cancel, or at least soften, their verdict.

In the end, the only compromise that was reached was that the wedding would take place outside Jerusalem and that the couple would live in another community, "until the storm blows over."

On the night of September 2, 1965, the wedding was held in a Bnei Brak yeshiva, in the presence of 30 guests.

"Rabbi Amram marries the convert in a midnight wedding ceremony," reported Yedioth Ahronoth in its banner headline. The entire country, including the readers of Haaretz and Maariv, already knew who "Rabbi Amram" was and the identity of the "convert." The journalists, who did not conceal the fact that they liked Blau personally despite his anti-Zionist stance, considered the wedding ceremony to be the happy ending of a story they had feverishly covered for many weeks.

After living in Bnei Brak for about a year, Ben-David and Blau returned to Jerusalem, moving into the Batei Ungarin neighborhood. Blau's sons, who lived nearby, totally ignored him. One of them, Uri, was appointed to succeed his father as Neturei Karta leader, and, after this appointment, Neturei Karta subsequently severed its ties with the Eda Haredit, after which it became plagued by inner squabbling and factionalism.

Price to pay:

One of Blau's great-grandchildren, who demanded anonymity, told Haaretz that he remembered Ben-David, his step great-grandmother, and also that he was forbidden to even talk to her: "We knew who she was, but we never went to visit her. She was denied the status of a grandmother. We all knew she had no status in our family. Period."

Shmuel Chaim Pappenheim, who also grew up in Mea She'arim, remembers Ben-David as well as Blau. In his opinion, "the ones who started this war were Rabbi Amram Blau's own sons. They were the ones who went to the Eda Haredit's high court, asking the court to stop him. Afterward, when the whole thing began to snowball, some of the sons regretted their having gone to the court and even admitted that the move was uncalled for. But it was too late. Rabbi Amram Blau was deposed as leader and became a persecuted individual. People even spat on him in the street, and his most loyal students betrayed him. I remember how the front doors [of his homes] in Jerusalem and in Bnei Brak were just torn off their hinges.

"There are many theories," continues Pappenheim, "as to why this story took the direction it did. Some people will tell you it was a war that broke out because two men wanted the same Frenchwoman. I believe that the blame should be pinned on inciters, who were driven by the envy they felt when they saw how much power [Blau] had. He did not deserve such treatment, and she most certainly did not. She was a very good person and the community respected her."

In Pappenheim's eyes, the whole affair "destroyed our sense of solidarity, our single backbone. He feels that many religious fanatics falsely claim to be Blau's disciples, especially when they hurl rocks in Jerusalem or Jaffa during demonstrations over construction on ancient graves or other matters.

"Amram Blau was a God-fearing Jew," says Pappenheim. "He would never shout out any pejorative word at the Jewish people. He would never say anything in order to hurt someone else's feelings. He was a person who loved life and he was also a great Torah scholar. You can't find people like that around here anymore."

"The Secret Life of Ruth Blau" by Rachel Ginsberg

About Ruth Blau (Ben-David) (עברית)

הפרשה של נישאי עמרם בלוי ורות בן דוד

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Ruth Blau (Ben-David)'s Timeline

Calais, Hauts-de-France, France
Age 80