Past Presidents

Rebecca Sieff | Rosa Ginossar| Raya Jaglom | Michal Modai
Rebecca D. Sieff O.B.E.  

Rebecca D. Sieff O.B.E. 1949-1966

Rebecca D. Sieff O.B.E. was the founder and Life President of World WIZO, Life President of the Federation of Women Zionists, Vice President of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, and Vice President of the British Section of the World Jewish Congress.

She was born in Leeds, England in 1890 into a home dominated by Jewish tradition.  Her father, Michael Marks, left Russia arriving in England as a poor immigrant.  He set up a ‘Penny Bazaar’ in Leeds which later became the famous Marks and Spencer.  Married to Hannah Cohen, they had five children, several of whom are distinguished figures.

After spending most of her youth in Manchester, and whilst studying Mathematics and Literature at Manchester University, Rebecca married Israel Sieff, who later became Lord Sieff of Brimpton.  Both were joined into the Zionist ideology and formed a lasting friendship with Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who was teaching at Manchester University at the time.

After moving to London at the end of World War I, she founded the Federation of Women Zionists of Great Britain.  Her husband was appointed Political Secretary to the First Zionist Commission to Palestine and he was joined by his wife, Rebecca, Dr. Vera Weizmann and Edith Eder on  a fact finding mission.  The three women spent six months investigating social and economic conditions and the poverty and squalor convinced Rebecca that an organization of women was needed to help eradicate this state of affairs.

She returned to England and with Dr. Vera Weizmann, Edith Eder, Romana Goodman and Henrietta Irwell founded the Women’s International Zionist Organization in July, 1920.  Under her leadership, which lasted 43 years, the movement grew of embrace a quarter of a million Jewish women in fifty countries.  WIZO was to become her greatest single achievement, although she, and her family also founded the Daniel Sieff Research Institute in the Weizman Institute, in 1934, in memory of her son who had tragically lost his life.

When the Nazis rose to power she established the Women’s Appeal Committee, uniting all Jewish women’s groups in an attempt to save Jews from central Europe.  She personally enabled 1,000 youth to escape death by bringing them to England (they later settled in Palestine) and arranged for the transfer of five hundred Jewish families from Czechoslovakia to Palestine.

After the war she was amongst the first to visit the deportation camps in Europe and then spent Rosh Hashana of 1945 with Jewish survivors from Bergen Belson.  She made an impassioned plea at the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine in 1946, asking them to permit the 32,000 Jewish children who had survived the Holocaust and were in deportation camps to be able to settle in the yishuv in Palestine. 

She built her Tel Mond home in Israel in 1937, which became her permanent home after the establishment of the State of Israel.  Her later years were spent traveling all over the world campaigning for WIZO.  She served as the President of World WIZO from its founding in 1920 until 1963.

Among the many honours bestowed upon her during her lifetime were an Honorary Fellowship to the Weizmann Institute in 1935, An O.B.E. from the Queen of England in 1960 and just one week before her death her husband was made a peer and she became Lady Rebecca Sieff.

Rosa Ginossar


Rosa Ginossar 1966-1970

Rosa Ginossar was born in Gomel (Russia).  Her father, Mordechai Ben Hillel Hacohen, was a writer and brought his family to Palestine in 1908.

Rosa Ginossar became the first secretary of WIZO in 1920, with the establishment of the organization.  In 1922 she returned to Jerusalem and became to the Secretary of the Palestine WIZO Executive, where her duties covered everything from finding housing for new immigrants to securing  land and supervising plans and contracts. During the British Mandate she represented WIZO on the Advisory Committee, devoted to safeguarding the welfare of women in Palestine, which was chaired by Lady Beatrice Samuel and included both Jewish and Arab members.  She also served on the Immigrants’ Welfare Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Wyndham Deeds.

Rosa Ginossar earned a unique place in history by becoming Palestine’s first woman lawyer. After being refused permission, three consecutive times, to sit for the Palestine Bar Examination, on the grounds that the privilege was reserved for qualified men only, she brought her case before the Chief Justice of Palestine and the Privy Council.  After a long struggle she won her appeal.  This struggle marked the first battle in her war to secure the right of women to serve alongside men in all sectors of life in Israel.

Prior to the beginning of the Second World War, Mrs. Ginossar obtained immigrant visa for hundreds of Jewish refugees from Germany and after the war she dedicated her efforts to settling immigrant children.

She served as treasurer of the World WIZO Executive for many years and was elected Chairperson in 1951.   In 1963 she relinquished the position when Rebecca Sieff, at the World WIZO Plenary Session, who was suffering from illness at the time, asked to be appointed as Honorary President of World WIZO and for Rosa Ginossar to take the position as President of World WIZO.

Thus began her term of office.  She was later unanimously elected at the 15th World WIZO Conference, held in 1966 and served until 1970, when she was elected to the position of Honorary Life President of World WIZO.

Her husband, Shlomo Ginossar, was Inspector of Education for the Mandatory Government from 1922 to 1925, and Israel’s first Ambassador to Italy from 1948 to 1951, as well as serving on the Executive of the Hebrew University.

Rosa Ginossar passed away in 1979.

Raya Jaglom

Raya Jaglom 1970-1996

An outstanding Zionist leader, Raya Jaglom, has long been a standard bearer of the State of Israel and the Zionist movement throughout the world. She served as President of World WIZO for twenty-six years, and is currently the organization's Honorary President.

Throughout her years of service, Raya Jaglom has campaigned vigorously on behalf of Jewish communities in Israel and abroad, always cognizant of the needs of both the individual and of the community.

Raya Jaglom immigrated to Israel from Bessarabia in Romania in 1940, by means of a student certificate that she had received from the Hebrew University. She soon became involved with WIZO and during 1947-48, she served in the Haganah, fulfilling assignments in communications and transportation, and assisting in the landing of new immigrants on the beaches of Tel Aviv.

Following the War of Independence, she returned to her activities in WIZO where she served in several key positions. In 1970, she was elected World President, a role in which she made a significant impact in all areas of WIZO's activities.

Her primary endeavours were to establish programs for the community, in particular for its weaker members. Indeed, at her initiative, institutions were established throughout the country for young children, adolescents, women and the elderly. Similarly, her tireless efforts led to the establishment of branches of WIZO all over the world.

In 1964, at the invitation of the Soviet government, Raya Jaglom headed a delegation of women to the Soviet Union. During this visit she witnessed the plight of Jews living there and, as a result, she joined the struggle on their behalf. She was a founding member of the Council for Soviet Jewry, participated in all the World Conferences on Soviet Jewry held in Brussels, and campaigned for the cause of the World Jewish Congress. She served as chair of the Committee for Ida Nudel for eight years.

Among the many organizations that benefit from the generosity of Raya Jaglom and her husband Josef, are the Hebrew University (scholarship fund), the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's musicians' club, a synagogue in Tel Aviv and the Tel Aviv University (scholarship fund).

Raya Jaglom continues to generously contribute of her energy and experience to public causes. She serves as a deputy chair of the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University, she is a member of the executive of the World Jewish Congress, a member of the executives of the World Zionist Organization and of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency. In addition, she is President of the Friends Association of Tel Aviv University and a member of the International Board of the Israel Museum and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

In profound appreciation to Raya Jaglom, the Hebrew University has granted Mrs. Jaglom with the degree of Doctor Philosophiae Honoris Causa.

Michal Modai


Michal Modai 1996-2004

Michal Modai, nee Solomon, a seventh generation “sabra”, was born in Jerusalem to one of Israel’s oldest families. Yoel Moshe Solomon, a relative, was one of the founders of Petach Tikva in the 19th century. She was married to the late Yitzhak Modai, who served as a member of the Knesset for 20 years and held several Ministerial posts, the last one being the Minister of Finance. Michal has a son and daughter and seven grandchildren.

Michal is a graduate of the Evelina de Rothschild School, Jerusalem and the David Yellin Teachers’ Training College, Jerusalem. After finishing her studies she worked as a qualified kindergarten teacher at an immigrant camp near Zichron Yaacov. This was her first encounter with the distress of the new immigrants, and she saw the need for veteran Israelis to give a helping hand to the newcomers.

In 1968 Michal joined WIZO Herzlia-Pituach and soon was elected Chairperson of the branch. She decided to recruit WIZO volunteers to work for the poorer neighborhoods of Herzlia-Pituach, especially Neve Israel, whose population suffered from many social problems.

In 1974 she was elected as Deputy Chairperson of WIZO Israel, and was elected Chairperson of WIZO Israel in 1979. She devoted special care to the WIZO branches along the country’s borders and in the Galilee outposts. The problems of domestic violence distressed her greatly and she established the first WIZO shelter for battered women in 1983.

Michal served as Deputy Chairperson of the World WIZO Executive between 1980 – 1984, and in January 1984 was elected Chairperson of the World WIZO Executive. She regarded the schools and youth villages as being extremely important, and after negotiations with the Ministries of Education and Finance, the Ministry of Education’s Settlement Division signed a contract ensuring that they would contribute 50% of the maintenance costs of the five WIZO Agricultural youth villages, saving WIZO millions of shekels annually. Michal also approached private donors, and foundations to raise contributions of millions of dollars which enabled WIZO to renovate dormitories and family units, and to build new dormitories and a new wing in the WIZO Hadassah Canada Youth Village “Hanna Maisel Shohat” in Nahalal.

In 1992, at the 20th World WIZO Conference, Michal Modai was elected Vice President of World WIZO and re-elected Chairperson of the World WIZO Executive.

In 1996, at the 21st World WIZO Conference, Michal was elected President of World WIZO. One of her main aims was to bring the 50 WIZO Federations world-wide closer to WIZO in Israel. In 1997 Michal was appointed a member of the executive of the World Zionist Organization and became a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency. In 1998 she was appointed co-chairman of the Assembly Planning Committee of the Jewish Agency, a position she still holds.

As President, Michal carried out many missions to WIZO Federations around the world during her 8 years as World WIZO President, speaking before members of Parliaments and Government dignitaries, WIZO members and colleagues.

She was awarded “Guardian of Jerusalem” (1997), the Prime Minister’s Shield of Voluntarism (1999), was appointed a member of the World Jewish Congress (2001) and was presented with “Yakir Tel Aviv” (Honoree of Tel Aviv) by the Mayor of Tel Aviv on the 56th Independence Day of the State of Israel (April 2004).

Michal became Chairperson of the Council of Womens Organizations in Israel (January 2004), comprised of 11 major Womens Organizations, and participates in the Israeli delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York. As Honorary Life President she attends all Meetings of Representative and Conferences, as well as the Executive meetings of World WIZO.
Michal passed away on 2 March 2012 at the age of 81







 HELENA GLASER 2004-2012

HELENA GLASER, President World WIZO, joined WIZO Israel nearly 4 decades ago.. In 1975 she became Chairperson of Fundraising in WIZO Israel. In 1991 she was elected Chairperson of WIZO Israel. A strong believer in Gender Equality, and Women’s Rights - Helena initiated and advanced projects and activities for Single Parent families initiating the Department for Single Parent Families in WIZO; established Centres for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and for girls in Distress, and promoted legislation, while also focusing  WIZO’s activities on the absorption of the massive Aliyot from Ethiopia and the former USSR.

In 1996 Helena was elected as Chairperson of the World WIZO Executive - in this capacity she initiated the construction, renovation and expansion of projects, developed the concept of family & community involved projects,; promoted integration & expanded youth leadership training and volunteerism at WIZO schools, youth villages, and youth clubs; developed unique services for children with special needs and initiated the Poverty is not only Food Fund and the Security Fund. Helena is also the Chairperson of the Board of Governors of the Neri Bloomfield WIZO Academy of Design and Education, Haifa.

In 2004 Helena was elected President of World WIZO. In this capacity Helena worked diligently to promote WIZO and its Federations on all levels; to put WIZO in its rightful place as an agent of social change; to strengthen WIZO's ties and status within municipal & governmental bodies; international organizations and the national Zionist institutions. Since 2004 Helena has served as an Executive of the World Zionist Organization and as a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency. In 2010 Helena became the first women to be elected – Chairperson of the Zionist General Council. Helena is also one of the Deputy Presidents of the World Jewish Congress. In 2012 Helena was elected as Honourary President of World WIZO.

Helena represented WIZO abroad and was a Member of the Governent Delegation to 38th UN Committee on the Status of Women in New York (1994); a Member of Israeli Government Delegation to the 4th World Conference of Women in Beijing (1995); at IAW conferences, and she headed the WIZO delegation at the Durban II Conference in 2009. Helena also served as- the Chairperson of the Voluntary and Non Profit Sector in Israel; and as Chairperson of The Israel Council on Social Welfare;
Helena is married with 2 children and 3 grandchildren