Terror Victims' Activist Reuven Hoffman Remembered

Countless people mourned Reuven Hoffman, known for his decades of activism and sense of humor.

Ben Bresky & INN Staff ,

Reuven Hoffman
Reuven Hoffman

Reuven Hoffman passed away at the age of 84 in Jerusalem. He was mourned by countless people including the numerous terrorist attack survivors and victims' family members he assisted over the years. Reuven Hoffman was remembered for his ever present smile and easy sense of humor. He left behind his wife of 59 years, Shifra, and two sons.

He was born Ralph Hoffman in 1929 to Jewish-Russian immigrant parents in Hoboken, New Jersey, one of ten children. His mother died when he was four years old. Although he did not have the opportunity to learn about Judaism at a young age, he eventually grew into it, dedicating his life to working for activist causes.

Reuven served in the United States military during the Korean War. His experience manning the heavy artillery led to permanent hearing loss. He took his deafness in stride often joking, "I can't hear a single word you said, but I'll fight to defend your right to say it." He worked for decades alongside his wife Shifra with such groups as Victims of Arab Terror and Shuva, a pro-aliyah organization. His wife related many humorous and serious events relating to demonstrations and volunteer work.

One particular incident took place outside the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. "Most of us ended up getting arrested," Shifra related. "We were taken in to be interrogated separately, but I saw Reuven walking out and was surprised that he was released so quickly. He explained, 'I just told them I don't speak Hebrew and I'm deaf, so they let me go'."

Shifra and Reuven may have initially appeared to be an odd couple, with his jovial sense of humor juxtaposed with her serious activism. However, they were noticeably loyal to each other, despite the differences. Reuven often joked, "behind every great activist, there is a man willing to wait for his supper." While his wife went on speaking tours abroad and appeared on talk shows, he was working tirelessly behind the scenes. One regular task was the delivery of school supplies to needy families who had lost a loved one due to terrorism. During Reuven's illness, he was visited regularly by people who remembered his dedication over the years.

Prior to making aliyah, the Hoffmans were active in a variety of pro-Israel organizations starting back in the late 1960s. They moved to Israel in 1986 with Reuven taking early retirement and giving up a larger pension. Tamar Adelstein, a long time activist in New York stated, "for all of Shifra's efforts to encourage Aliyah, no one proved a better poster boy than Ralph. Here was a man who sustained gradual hearing loss from his time in the army, really didn't speak Hebrew, but took early retirement to move to Israel without much in the bank. And, yet he 'came home' with a terrific spirit of adventure rarely complaining about the hardships of resettling."

Reuven often joked, "my wife told me when I retire she's going to take me to live with our people, and I thought she meant Miami Beach." Alongside the humor was a deep dedication and big heart. "I remember him watching the Holocaust TV drama Shoah and crying," said his wife. "He joked a lot but when when I told him he didn't have to make aliyah just for me, he said, "I'm doing it because they didn't stop Hitler when they had the chance."

His son Baruch Leib Hoffman stated, "although my father didn't have a formal religious background, he did what he did with conviction. Moving to Israel was doubly hard for him but he made the transition and contributed to the country because he was just happy to be here. He was a dedicated husband and father -- a sincere, genuine person and the type of Jew to make you proud."