Gaster, Irene

אירנה רוחמה גסטר
Irene Gaster was born on 13.6.1897 in London and died in 1977 in Israel. She was raised in a Sephardic family of 15 children. Her father was Moshe Gaster, a Zionist Rabi and well-known scholar of Roman and Slavic literature. Her mother, Lea-Lucy, was from a Jewish-German family. Irene did not graduate from high school and did not study a full-time course in her field of practice, but rather participated in several short-term courses and started working from a very early age with disabled children. During World War I, she attended a paramedic course and volunteered for the Red Cross nursing injured soldiers in a hospital near Bournemouth, England. When she was 19 years old, she started working in a boarding school as an educator of children with behavioural problems in Hampstead, London. In 1919, she moved to Ixworth and in 1920 to Bucharest, where she worked again with the Red Cross. Falling ill, she moved to Hamburg and later to Berlin, where she was treated at the Jewish hospital. After recovering, she returned to England at the age of 23 and completed a 3-month course run by the Mental Deficiency Committee. She worked for four years in a work centre for cognitively disabled people in Grangewood, Croydon. In 1928, she returned to Berlin and was asked to look after some children with cognitive disabilities. Soon, she established a small care centre in Werder, and later was invited to head the department for retarded women by the ‘Deutsch-Israelitischer Gemeindebund’ (German-Israeli community union) in Berlin-Weissensee (‘permanent residence for Jewish imbeciles’). Soon after the National Socialists came into power, she decided to immigrate to Palestine, first with a tourist visa. After consulting with Henrietta Szold, she moved to Jerusalem, volunteered at the KIAH School (Alliance) and later established the first home for cognitively disabled children. In 1938 she expanded the institution and moved to Ramat Gan. In the 1940s, she established the Ruchama home in Kfar Saba, which still exists today. Irene established the Magen NGO for cognitively disabled people and was also involved in the establishment of the AKIM NGO.
Lea-Lucy Gaster
Moshe Gaster, a Zionist Rabiof the jewish spheradic community in London
Irene had 14 siblings
Archival Materials
Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem (J1\7761/2)