Born in New York City to recent immigrants from Poland, Lucy (Schildkret) Dawidowicz (1915-1990) attended Hunter College High School and the Sholem Aleichem Mitlshul, a secular Yiddishist supplementary school, and studied English literature at Hunter College. In 1938, she set off for Vilna, Poland to conduct research at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. She fled Vilna only days before the Germans invaded Poland. In 1940, Max Weinreich, a founder of the YIVO who had also escaped from Europe, invited Dawidowicz to rejoin YIVO in New York.
At the end of World War II, Dawidowicz spent eighteen months on the staff of the Joint Distribution Committee in Germany helping Jewish survivors in DP camps. In 1948 she married Szymon Dawidowicz, a political refugee from Poland, and began working for the American Jewish Committee. In 1969, she became a professor at Yeshiva University. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Dawidowicz wrote books and articles about Eastern European Jewry, the Holocaust and Jews in America.
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