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Lore Rasmussen, refugee and civil rights activist, dies

BERKELEY, Calif. (JTA) — Lore Rasmussen, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who became an American civil rights activist and pioneer in mathematics education, has died.

Rasmussen’s family announced that she died Jan. 23 of congestive heart failure at her home in Berkeley. She was 88.

Born Lore May in Lampertheim-am-Rhein, Germany, in 1920, she escaped to the United States in 1938. She completed her college education at the University of Illinois on a scholarship from the Hillel Foundation and married sociologist Donald Rasmussen in 1940.

In 1942, the couple moved to Alabama, where both taught at Talladega College, a historically black school. During their tenure, they and an African-American friend spent a night in the Birmingham jail for eating together in a black-owned restaurant. The couple’s experiences in Alabama were recounted in "From Swastika to Jim Crow," a 2001 PBS documentary about Holocaust refugees in the U.S. civil rights movement.

In 2003, Talladega College awarded Rasmussen an honorary doctorate.

The Rasmussens moved to the Philadelphia area in 1956, where Rasmussen began a 30-year career as a mathematics educator whose innovations were recognized internationally. In 1976, she received the John B. Patterson Award for Excellence in Education for her work on behalf of public education in Philadelphia.

 

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