Messinger, Ruth Wyler

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MESSINGER, RUTH WYLER (1940– ), U.S. political leader, activist, and organizational philanthropist. The daughter of Wilfred and Majorie Goldwasser Wyler, Messinger was a third-generation New Yorker who received university degrees from Radcliffe College and the University of Oklahoma. In her early career she worked as a teacher, social worker, and administrator. She was married to Eli C. Messinger (from whom she was later divorced), and had three children.

Messinger served 20 years in New York City government, beginning in 1977, including 12 years on the City Council advocating for children, public education, campaign financing reform, gay rights, and small businesses. In 1990 she began eight years of service as Manhattan Borough president. Messinger became the first woman to be selected as the Democratic Party's candidate for mayor in 1997 and ran a campaign focused on improving public education. Throughout her 20 years in public service she worked extensively on issues of foster care, domestic and other violence against women, campaign finance, waterfront development, and tax policy. Messinger also founded the first non-profit facility in New York serving women with aids and their children.

In 1998, Messinger assumed the role of president and executive director of the American Jewish World Service, a humanitarian organization providing non-sectarian grassroots development and emergency relief to people in developing nations. Under Messinger's leadership, ajws expanded its scope and visibility, creating new programs in the areas of education, outreach, and service. In 2000, Messinger also launched the Women's Empowerment Fund (wef) through the ajws, supporting projects in 18 countries that provide funds to grass-roots women's groups in the developing world. Messinger is an active member of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism and has worked in an advisory capacity with the Jewish Fund for Justice. She served as national chair of the advisory council of the National League of Cities and president of Women in Municipal Government. Messinger has also been a board member of the Jewish Foundation for Education for Women, a board member of Project Enterprise, and a member and president of the board of Surprise Lake Camp, a Federation of Jewish Philanthropies camp for New York City area children.


E.I. Perry and R. Holub, "Messinger, Ruth." in: P.E. Hyman and D.D. Moore (eds.), Jewish Women in America, vol. 2 (1997), 917–18.

[Marla Brettschneider (2nd ed.)]