On This Day in Jewish History: February 5th, 2021

Born in Haifa on March 6, 1917, to Russian parents, Ruth spent much of her childhood in London, England after her parents – both of whom were socialist activists – wanted to study at university. When she was 9 years old, the family returned to Haifa, where her father worked as a lecturer and her mother taught kindergarten. Ruth dropped out of high school in order to learn farming and agriculture at a school in Nahalal.

At Nahalal, she met Moshe Dayan, with whom she fell in love and married. The young couple lived a life of farming, fueled by socialist ideals. In 1948, Ruth joined an Israeli women’s organization that taught farm skills to new Jewish immigrants. Here, she met a group of Bulgarians who were struggling to grow vegetables.

In the Bulgarians’ hut, Ruth noticed lacework and cloth that the women had brought with them. This inspired Ruth to start working in textiles as it provided a better source of income than farming. The Bulgarian women would make bags and Ruth sold them on their behalf. By the 1950s, Ruth’s craft program turned into a fashion brand, Maskit (meaning jewel in Hebrew).

Maskit soon opened stores in Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, selling clothing, jewelry, and textiles. The company soon gained worldwide acclamation, having collaborations with the top designers, including Givenchy and Christian Dior. Fashion icon and actress, Audrey Hepburn was also seen wearing Maskit clothing.

By the late 1960s, Maskit was a household name. The brand meshed together modern clothing with tradition in a way like no other. Described as an activist brand, Ruth provided over 2000 jobs to new Israeli immigrant women. While building her brand, Ruth was also active in Bedouin welfare and rights as well as women’s causes. Ruth later co-founded the children’s charity organization, Variety Israel, as well as the Jewish-Arab social group, Brit Bnei Shem.

At 98, Ruth was on the board of directors for The Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development (CJAED). On February 5, 2021, Ruth suffered from cardiac arrest and passed away in her Tel Aviv home. May her memory always be a blessing.

New York Times Obituary | WIZO Tribute

Ruth Dayan Images