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Rebekah Bettelheim Kohut (1864–1951)

Author of My Portion: An Autobiography

Includes the names: Rebekah Kohut

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Short biography
Rebekah Kohut, née Bettelheim, was born to a Jewish family in Kaschau, Hungary, the daughter of rabbi and descendant of a long line of rabbis. In 1867, the family emigrated to the USA, eventually settling in San Francisco, California. She graduated from high school and normal school and attended classes at the University of California. On a visit to New York in 1886, she met Alexander Kohut, another Hungarian rabbi, whom she married the following year, becaming stepmother to his eight children. She participated in the New York Women’s Health Protective Association’s campaign for better public sanitation and worked with Jewish women's groups to relieve the poverty and hardships of newly-arrived Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side. After her husband’s death in 1894, she entered into a wide range of social service and public activities. To support her family, she gave lectures on English literature, worked on the mayoral campaigns of Columbia University president Seth Low, and opened the Kohut College Preparatory School for Girls in 1899. During World War I, she worked with the New York’s Women’s Committee for National Defense to place women in jobs created by the war economy. After the war, she was sent by the National Council of Jewish Women to Europe to survey what needed to be done for reconstruction of communities devastated by war, and to teach English and useful skills to those hoping to emigrate to the USA. In 1924, she published a memoir, My Portion. In 1931, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her to the state’s Advisory Council on Employment and then to the advisory commission of the New York State Employment Service. From 1932 to 1933, she served as the only female member of the Joint Legislative Committee on Unemployment and the only member to call for the immediate establishment of state unemployment insurance. Later in life, she wrote another memoir, More Yesterdays, published in 1950. Other books were As I Know Them: Some Jews and a Few Gentiles (1929), and His Father’s House: The Story of George Alexander Kohut (1938).
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