Hilda Friedstein, the South-African born animal rights advocate for who led Israel's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA ) in Tel Aviv for 35 years, died November 7 in Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba. She was 92.
Ms. Friedstein had been diagnosed two days before her death with an advanced stage of leukemia.
"She gave her entire life to this cause," said Hilma Shmoshkovitz, SPCA's current chairperson, who knew Friedstein for more than three decades and credits her with elevating public awareness about animal suffering.
Shmoshkovitz, a native of Holland, said Friedstein painted and played piano. "She was an incredibly talented and intelligent individual," she said.
According to a profile of Friedstein that appeared in Haaretz in 2002, Hilda's compassion for animals was traced to her childhood in South Africa.
"She had a pets' corner at home, and there were always cats and dogs around," wrote Haaretz's Avner Avrahami. "On the kibbutz she refused to work in the chicken coop or the barn, because she knew the fate of the animals there. In the 1950s she collected abandoned puppies in Tel Aviv and brought them to - the SPCA. She has been part of the organization ever since."
Friedstein became a vegetarian at age nine, "even though at home they ate meat three times a day," she told Haaretz.
She was born in Johannesburg in 1920 to an affluent Lithuanian family that settled in South Africa at the beginning of the last century. Her father, according to the Haaretz report, owned a factory that manufactured tents for the South African army. When Hilda was 16, she joined Hashomer Hatzair, a left-wing Zionist movement, and immigrated to Palestine in 1941.
On arrival, she registered on the immigration documents issued by the British Mandate authorities as the wife of Kolly Friedstein, the man she would eventually marry. "Everyone did it, at the movement's request, so there would be more certificates," Hilda told Haaretz. Together they helped establish Kibbutz Shoval in the northern Negev.
According to an SPCA statement, Friedstein is credited with leading a public call to subsidize the spaying and neutering of pets and the prevention of animal experimentation. During the last decade of her life, Friedstein had asked the SPCA to provide her with several elderly dogs that were handed over by their owners. She kept her dogs on vegetarian diets.
"I am very proud of my mother's life and values," said Friedstein's son, Gil. "She was a true Zionist and a great humanist who cared a lot for people too, but felt that she herself could better serve the cause by being the voice for those who cannot be heard."
In addition to her son, Friedstein is survived by three grandchildren. She was buried in Savyon, next to her husband, a prominent Israeli businessman who died in 2007.