Born Berlin, September 15, 1933. Died November 23, 2006, aged 73.
A MUCH LOVED departmental head at Rosh Pinah Jewish Primary School, Ruth Sommerfeld arrived in Britain on a Kindertransport three days before the outbreak of the Second World War.
The daughter of Polish citizens in Germany, she lost her father when just a year old. The only Jewish child at a school where some of the teachers wore Nazi uniform, she was deported with her mother in October, 1938.
In a refugee camp in Sponczyn, she was invited with other children to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Otwock and always treasured the signed siddur she received from him. Her mother, who later perished, secured her a place on a children’s transport.
Ruth was taken in by the Jacobs family of Birmingham, with whom she stayed lifelong friends. She went to Birmingham Hebrew School but was evacuated to Colville, a Leicestershire mining village. Leaving at 15 to return to Birmingham, she stayed in a refugee hostel while taking secretarial training and office work.
Through correspondence courses and evening classes, she gained matriculation and higher school certificate, which allowed her to graduate as a teacher at Birmingham University.
She then came to London and joined Rosh Pinah School, founded as a nursery in Edgware by the late Rev Saul Amias in 1948, with just 27 pupils. Here she found her true metier, specialising in the teaching of infants and eventually becoming head of the infant section of a school which had by then expanded to 400 pupils.
She was renowned for the way she inspired generations of pupils with her great love of Judaism, Zionism and Hebrew language.
Her relationship with her pupils was enduring and she was often a guest at weddings and family occasions. She enjoyed meeting her former pupils and their parents, whether in London or Jerusalem.
On her retirement in 1993, a library at the school was named after her. Unfortunately she was then plagued by ill-health, which she combatted with great fortitude.
But she continued to maintain her infectious joie-de-vivre, enthusiasm for the arts, especially photography, and her inspiring sense of humour.
Ruth Sommerfeld: born teacher