Remembering Hilda

The thirtieth day following the passing of the ex-chairman of the Society, Hilda Friedstein: a special movie and a letter from the Society's chairwoman

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How do you say “thank you” to someone who cannot hear you anymore because she passed away? I actually hope that I did say that to Hilda when she was still alive – as well as “I love you”. But I would like Hilda’s name to continue, because, as the popular belief goes: he (or she) who is remembered is never forgotten and keeps on living and we, in the animal welfare world in Israel owe her forever.

Of course there were others before her, in the SPCA Israel, but Hilda, being who she was, took her volunteering to the most serious level, not only in devoting all of her time to the SPCA, forfeiting much family life, her tennis playing, her playing the piano, just to mention a few things in which she excelled and actually loved to do so much, but also she kept on looking for ways to make animal suffering less or disappear and was in constant touch with other societies of this kind abroad.

Therefore and because the period of time she was involved (from the mid 1950s till 2005), means that the SPCA Israel was Hilda, and the other way around. And there is more that many people maybe do not know; for instance it was Hilda who was actually the one who was instrumental in starting the movement in Israel that fights against experiments on animals. Hilda had told people in South Africa of her wish to introduce this subject in Israel and to fight it and then was told of a young veterinarian in South Africa that could be the right person to help her and thus Hilda got in touch with this doctor, Andre Menache, offered him a position in the SPCA and also in other ways made his aliya easier, all the time having in mind that she wanted to start this struggle against animal experiments.

I met Hilda more than 30 years ago and have many memories of her, some of which were funny. Before the time of the existence of cellphones one Friday afternoon, Hilda and I left the SPCA to go to our homes and informed our husbands we were on the way, but actually, as often was the case, we got stuck several times because we found stray dogs, returned to the shelter with them and went on our way again, and the same thing was repeated two more times. It started getting dark and then somewhere near Moshav Hemed Hilda’s car gave up. No one to see in sight that we could ask for help.

Suddenly a big black car, with curtains in front of the windows stopped, and out of it came two men and everything looked straight from a scene from “The Godfather” and we felt a pang: what was going to happen to us! We giggled from nervousness but then one of the men showed us a telephone in his car and offered to call our respective husbands who quickly came. By then we could not stop laughing and no wonder that our husbands upon seeing us got angry because they thought we had been looking a little too deep in the glass and were drunk.

The last 20-25 years many things in Israel have changed, from people constructing flowerpots outside their windows, buying new(er) cars, being able to fly abroad for a holiday and with these “luxuries” came the additional wish to adopt an animal. The Environment Ministry was brought into being. They now have a day dedicated especially to animal welfare and help fund many projects. Personally I feel that we in Israel now are, in regard to how we see animals and the compassion we have for them, like most western countries. And Hilda was a big part of this development.

Thank you, Hilda!
Hilma Shmoshkovitz
Chairperson SPCA Israel – groomed by you for this task.