This Day in Jewish History / September 2

A Catholic-born convert and a 70-year-old ultra-Orthodox, anti-Zionist rabbi, wed after scandalizing the Haredi community with their engagement.

On this day in 1965, Ruth Ben-David married Amram Blau, the leader of the anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox Neturei Karta sect. Ben-David, 45, had been born Madeleine Fereille into a Catholic family in France. She was active in the resistance during World War II, after which she attended university, married and had a son. Only after divorcing her husband did she become interested in Judaism and decide to convert.

That was in 1952.

From that point on she became a regular visitor to Israel, and in 1962 became something of a hero in the Haredi community for the role she played in smuggling Yossele Schumacher out of the country. Schumacher was a young Russian-born child whose parents had left the ultra-Orthodox fold, to the chagrin of his maternal grandparents. At their request, Ben-David personally spirited Yossele out of Israel, and eventually deposited him with a Satmar family in Brooklyn. The case became a cause célèbre, Israel’s security services became involved in the hunt for Yossele, and Ben-David finally cracked, revealing the child’s location in Williamsburg.

The engagement three years later of Blau, then 70 and a widower, to the convert Ben-David, scandalized his insulated Jerusalem community. The Badatz (supreme religious court) of the Eda Haredit deposed him as leader of Neturei Karta, and his family and community ostracized him. For that reason, the couple married in Bnei Brak, where they lived initially, before returning to Jerusalem. Blau, estranged to the end from community and family, died in 1974, and Ben-David in 2000.