Zemer, Hannah

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ZEMER, HANNAH (1925–2003), Israeli journalist. Born in Bratislava, Slovakia, Zemer was imprisoned in the Ravensbrueck and Malchow concentration camps. She began her journalistic career in Europe, and after immigrating to Israel in 1950 she joined the Omer newspaper and subsequently Davar, the Histadrut trade union federation newspaper, serving as its Knesset correspondent, political correspondent, news editor, foreign correspondent in the U.S., chief editorial writer, and deputy editor. In 1970 she was appointed the newspaper's editor, thereby becoming the first woman to hold such a position in Israel. Post-Holocaust European Jewry and social welfare in Israel respectively were frequent subjects of her reporting and editing. Although not a feminist, she ensured that women journalists rose in the newspaper's ranks. Reporters enjoyed relatively wide freedom in their writing. Despite the paper's institutional ties to both the Histadrut and the Labor Party, and her own membership in the Labor Party executive, she withstood external pressures on the paper and its editorial staff, producing at times tensions between the Histadrut and the newspaper. Yet despite her stature as an editor, the 20 years she was at the helm was a period of decline for Davar, as for the party press as a whole. Circulation declined from 40,000 in 1970 to an estimated 16,000 in 1990, with much of its readership limited to Histadrut members from the secular Ashkenazi sector of the population. There was inadequate financial management, including a decline in advertising, and massive debts which reached nis 20 million by 1990.

A popular lecturer, Zemer won a number of awards, including Woman of the Year (1978) for her work in communications, the Sokolow prize for journalism, the Herzl Prize, the Nordau Prize, and the Ted Lurie Prize. She sat on the boards of a number of national and Tel Aviv cultural and artistic institutions. She wrote God Does Not Live There (Heb.), a personal travelogue paying tribute to lost Jewish communities in Europe.

[Yoel Cohen (2nd ed.)]