University Communications
Emory University
Atlanta, GA 30322

Release date: Nov. 2, 1999
Contact: Elaine Justice, Assistant Director, 404-727-0643, or


A new exhibit on life and work of Jewish activist Rebecca Affachiner, known affectionately as "the Betsy Ross of Israel," at Emory University's Schatten Gallery will open with a special public program and reception at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15 in the Joseph W. Jones Room of Woodruff Library, 540 Asbury Circle. The exhibit is being held in conjunction with the General Assembly of United Jewish Communities meeting in Atlanta Nov. 16-19. For information call 404-727-7620.

The program will feature remarks by renowned Jewish historian Eli Evans, author of "The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South" (1993, 1997) and "The Lonely Days Were Sundays: Reflections of a Jewish Southerner." Also speaking at the event will be Affachiner's niece Marcella Brenner of Chevy Chase, Md., a retired faculty member of George Washington University and pioneer in museum education.

Born in Nezvizh, Poland (now in Belarus), in 1884, Affachiner grew up in America on New York's East Side. After becoming the first woman to graduate from a school of the Jewish Theological Center in 1907, she pursued a decade-long career in education. During World War I, Affachiner volunteered in the war effort, serving in France under the auspices of the Jewish Welfare Board. Settling in Hartford, Conn., after the war and later in Norfolk, Va., she continued her social service leadership, working with the National Council of Jewish Women and Hadassah.

In 1934 at the age of 50, Affachiner sailed for Palestine and devoted the rest of her life to the welfare of Jews everywhere, and to the birth of the State of Israel. On May 14, 1948, after David Ben Gurion proclaimed Israel a state, Affachiner raised a flag bearing the Magen David, a flag she had sewn herself while her home was under enemy fire. She used what was at hand, cutting up a simple bed sheet, sewing it into a flag with the six-pointed star and stripes, and coloring it with a blue crayon.

Preserved by friends, the flag is still displayed in Jerusalem every few years as a tribute to Affachiner's extraordinary patriotism. In addition to the flag, the exhibit will include photographs, original manuscripts, mementos and a portrait of Affachiner. The exhibit is sponsored by the Friends of the Emory University Libraries and The Institute for Jewish Studies and will be up through Dec. 31.

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