Ruth Keller

March 15, 1928November 12, 2013

Ruth (Advokat) Keller, 85

Born in Vienna, Austria, Ruth's happy childhood was changed forever in 1938 by Kristallnacht and the ensuing persecution of the Jews. With her parents she fled Austria, arriving first in Belgium and eventually in France. Her parents were deported from France and perished in the Holocaust, while Ruth was saved in the village of Chabannes through the efforts of L’Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE). OSE helped her to enter Switzerland in 1943, where she was cared for by a devoted Protestant couple in the city of Yverdon. When the war ended, cousins (who had been fortunate enough to come to the United States before the war) were able to provide the proper documentation that allowed her to come to New York in 1946. She lived in New York City during the late 1940's, while working in administration at Societe Generale. She married Paul Keller (passed away in 1982), an American-born educator, in 1950 and moved to Queens, NY. They had two sons: Joseph, born in 1954 (passed away in 1980); and Michael, born in 1956. They moved to Great Neck, NY in 1960.

As her children grew older, Ruth returned to the workforce, initially as an independent teacher of French. In 1965, she became a full-time teacher of French at The Portledge School in Locust Valley, NY. This began her long, rewarding career at Portledge, where she became affectionately known as "Madame Keller" and "Mrs. Madame" to generations of students. She eventually became Chairperson of the school's Foreign Language department. At the same time, she earned her undergraduate, graduate and masters degrees in Foreign Languages from Queens College in Flushing, NY. Shortly after her retirement from Portledge in 1992, Ruth became the Founding Secretary of Friends and Alumni of OSE-USA. She helped to plan the organization's 1997 reunion in Florida, and was in charge of the 2000 reunion in Washington, DC. In 1997, she became a Gallery Educator at the Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial To The Holocaust in New York City. Over the years, she became one of the Museum's most-requested docents, particularly for school groups and religious institutions. Unfortunately, the effects of aging caught up with Ruth during her final two years. Happily, she was still able to live comfortably at home, and enjoyed the company of close friends and family as often as possible. She is survived by her son, Michael, and daughter-in-law, Cheryl (Diener).

Donations in Ruth's memory can be made to:

Friend and Alumni of OSE-USA P.O. Box 2184 Livingston, NJ 07039


Museum of Jewish Heritage/A Living Memorial To The Holocaust 36 Battery Place New York, NY 10280


  • Funeral Service Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ruth Keller

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Roberta and Tom Levien

November 14, 2013

Wishing Michael and Cheryl our sincerest condolences on the passing of your dear Ruth. May the memories of her bring blessings and peace to you and everyone who knew and loved her.

Charlotte Abeles

November 14, 2013

Ruth Keller was my dearest and closest cousin and contemporary whom I have known for, as the moving hand has now written the most somber chapter, her entire life. I have vivid memories of 1920s and 1930s family life. Ruth's grandmother (whom she did not remember) had come from a very wealthy Galitzia estate where Ruth's mother (my aunt, tante Fansi) was born. As a child, in Vienna, Ruth had a vivacious and independent personality. My father, returning from a walk with Ruth, then 8, remarked on her impressive intelligence. Ruth was like a sister; neither had her own sister. Our families worked, played together, were close, and looked after one another. School ended in June 1938. Whereas I escaped to NY in 1939, I feared for Ruth deep within perilous Europe. But Ruth joined me in NYC one day, 67 years ago, arriving at age 18 by ship, having lived in Francophone Europe for seven formative years, to share my W 98th St. apartment. What should have been unimaginable had come to pass: we had lost all four of our parents (HY"D). Over the years, we remained close, sharing happiness and sorrow relying on one another as good family members do. I grieve for her loss and will miss her terribly