Ruth Kramer was born in 1931 in Germiston, South Africa. She attended primary and high school in Germiston and studied at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg. In 1952 she married Henry Shakenovsky after which she worked as a social worker in the Germiston “Black” Township until the birth of their first child.
Not long after their move in 1956 to a newly established suburb of Johannesburg, she formed the Sydenham East branch of the Johannesburg Women’s Zionist League. She recruited a committee of enthusiastic members which she chaired for several years. The branch functioned very successfully for many years (and might still do!), mainly raising funds for inter alia WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization), Keren Kayemeth l’Israel (Jewish National Fund).
After the birth of their fourth child, Ruth returned to study at “Wits” University and obtained an LLB degree and then qualified as an attorney. She worked at the Legal Aid Bureau, a charitable organization offering free legal assistance to indigent clients and later at a legal firm.
The Shakenovskys made their first aliyah to Israel in 1970 (Aliyah Aleph). After a short period they returned to South Africa and then in 1988 they made their second aliyah (Aliyah Bet).
During the time in South Africa, Ruth continued with her Zionist work and at the request of the first headmaster of the Jewish Day School in Johannesburg – King David (Linksfield) – she embarked with him on a research project embracing a follow-up of all the matriculants of the school since 1956 (the first matric class). It proved to be an interesting, exciting and very worthwhile project, however Ruth was not able to complete it owing to their departure to Israel and all the valuable material and analysis was given over to the archives of the Jewish Board of Education.
In Israel in 1993 Ruth invited the celebrated South African actor the late Patrick Mynhardt to come to Israel to perform his one-man show. He agreed enthusiastically and at no charge other than a free air ticket! She then, in collaboration with the South African Embassy and a committee of helpers, organized a 10-day tour in which Mynardt enthralled mostly ex South African audiences in many parts of Israel with his legendary performances such as “Om Schalk Lourens”, (which made Patrick Mynhard and in the process immortalized author Herman Charles Bosman and his stories about Groot Marico (a small country town in the then Western Transvaal).
Ruth is outstanding at sports. Whilst at High School she participated in athletics, tennis and hockey, representing the school and in later years she played at provincial level. Fit and enjoying the outdoors, she completed many of the hiking trails in South Africa. The first was the Otter Trail in the Cape Province and which remains, says Ruth, “one of the highlights of my life in South Africa”.
In Israel, as a tennis player, Ruth represented Israel in the Maccabi Games. She has hiked the Israel Hiking Trail, which too, remains a highlight of her life here.
From 1994 Ruth spent ten years commuting between Israel and South Africa as her husband, not ready for retirement, returned to work in South Africa to resume his legal career.
Ruth was disturbed by oft-heard comments in Israel denigrating those who pursued a religious life-style with widely differing political views, which she considered were a result of prejudice, intolerance, and ignorance. This made her aware of the need to promote fruitful dialogue and interaction between all sections of Israelis. She hoped in this way that tolerance, respect and understanding would be achieved. To this end she was instrumental in forming an organization named “Unity in Diversity”. To pursue these objectives, tours to Mitze Jericho, Gush Etzion, Ariel and Maaleh Adumin were organized which were enlightening and constructive experiences.
Ruth volunteers for ESRA, in the delivery of ESRA Magazines, both bundles and individual magazines. She is also a tutor in the ESRA English Tutoring Program. Ruth has an open house, is an excellent cook and baker and is renowned for her wonderful meals and warm hospitality.