Rebecca Dora Sieff
English: Rebecca Dora Sieff; 1890–1966) was a co-founder of the WIZO organization and its first worldwide president from 1924 until her passing. She was the wife of Lord Israel Sieff and the mother of Lord Marcus Sieff, belonging to the prominent Marks and Spencer family.
Rebecca Sieff, born as Rebecca Marks in Manchester, was the daughter of Michael Marks, the founder of Marks and Spencer. Around 1910, according to her recollections, she attended a speech by Chaim Weizmann and became involved in the Zionist movement, just like most of her family members. She joined the "Daughters of Zion" organization, a women's Zionist group. By 1916, she had already organized conferences to promote Zionist women, raised funds for Jewish people in Poland, and even wrote to the British Prime Minister regarding the national home for the Jewish people in Israel.
She married Israel Moses Sieff, and her sister, Miriam, married Harry Sacher. Both Sieff and Sacher were close friends of her brother, Lord Simon Marks. Rebecca also became close friends with Chaim Weizmann's wife, Vera Weizmann, becoming a central figure in the "Manchester Zionists" circle.
In 1920, following the visit of a group of men from the "Manchester Zionists" to Israel, along with Chaim Weizmann and the Zionist Executive, including her husband Israel, Rebecca Sieff, and Edith Edgar, they established WIZO, the Women's International Zionist Organization. Inspired by the suffragette movement's success in gaining women's voting rights that same year in Britain, their goal was to elevate the status of women within Zionist institutions by creating a global women's organization affiliated with the Zionist Federation. Another aim was to prepare and empower women in Israel to contribute in areas where it was agreed that women could be particularly effective, such as education, household economics, healthcare, and welfare.
Due to Rebecca Sieff's strong involvement in Israel, which contrasted with the views of some in the organization's leadership, Israel became the focal point of the worldwide movement. Following this decision, the World WIZO Conventions began convening in Israel.
In the late 1920s, the Sieff family acquired 800 dunams of land in Tel Mond from the "Jewish National Fund." In 1935, Israel and Rebecca Sieff moved to Villa Sieff, a spacious estate they built in the heart of Pardes Hanna, near the villa of Alfred Mond, Lord Melchett. The house was designed in the International style by architect Richard Kauffmann, surrounded by gardens, a swimming pool, and a tennis court.
As a society hostess, Rebecca Sieff hosted parties and charity events at her home, attended by the cream of Israeli society. The house became the official reception venue in the settlement, hosting formal events attended by high-ranking British officials. Tragically, their son, Daniel, passed away in 1933. In his memory, the family established the "Daniel Sieff Institute for Scientific Research" in Rehovot, later becoming the Weizmann Institute of Science, with Chaim Weizmann serving as its first president. Their second son, Lord Marcus Sieff, moved to England in 1951. In contrast, Rebecca Sieff, unlike her husband, who spent extended periods in England, made Tel Mond her permanent home until her passing in 1966.
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