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Rose Morey Dreyer, activist for Soviet Jewry & woman of many talents, dies at 96
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Rose Morey Dreyer, activist for Soviet Jewry & woman of many talents, dies at 96

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

Rose Morey Dreyer kept the extent of her work to free Soviet Jews under the radar. Photo courtesy Nancy Dreyer
Rose Morey Dreyer kept the extent of her work to free Soviet Jews under the radar. Photo courtesy Nancy Dreyer

Rose Morey Dreyer of Short Hills, a painter, performer, and philanthropist, died Dec. 29 at the age of 96 of natural causes, according to daughter Nancy Dreyer of Newton, Mass.

Rose was an active supporter of the local Jewish community together with her husband Edward, who predeceased her in 2010. Dreyer said that her mother’s relationship with the Jewish religion was “at best, distant,” and much of the family involvement in Jewish causes came from Edward, a founder of Temple Sinai in Summit.

While her father was dedicated to the religious aspects of Judaism, Nancy said, her mother remained culturally and philanthropically committed throughout her life. Dreyer maintained a Jewish household where “everyone” came to the Passover seders, and she was “totally pro-Israel,” including making frequent trips to Israel, according to Nancy. Even after Edward’s death, Rose continued to support Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ at the highest levels.

Nancy recalled the impact of anti-Semitism on her parents’ lives, in ways both small and large, including when the Dreyers bought their home in Short Hills in 1950. “When the sellers found out they were Jewish, they tried to pull out of the sale,” said Nancy, recalling that she and her brother seemed to be the only Jewish kids around. “I remember a Catholic neighbor asking if she could see my horns, and exactly which person in my family killed Christ.”

Rose and Edward were deeply involved in the struggle for Soviet Jewry on the local level. They assisted with federation’s efforts in rescuing Soviet Jews, including 40 members of their extended family whom they helped settle in the U.S. and Israel.

But the Dreyers didn’t publicize their philanthropy. Even Nancy didn’t realize the extent of it until she attended a federation event and “someone mentioned the number” of people they had rescued, she said. That was apparently true of many of their philanthropic endeavors, which included an endowed scholarship and professorship at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, as well as support for the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League.

“Rose and her beloved Ed were long-lasting, stalwart supporters of UJA,” said Max Kleinman, former federation executive vice president and CEO. “Rose and ‘The Admiral,’ as Ed was affectionately known, were ‘first responders’ with lead gifts during Israeli wars … Rose was the quintessential Woman of Valor.”

Calling Rose “a remarkable woman,” Merle Hirschmann, a past women’s philanthropy president at federation, added, “When it came to her family, friends, and philanthropic interests, her generosity was limitless. If there was an emergency for Jews anywhere in the world, she and Ed could be counted on.”

Rose Morey was born in White Plains, N.Y., on March 12, 1922, to Sigmund and Sarah “Sadie” Himoff Morey. A teenager when World War II broke out, she tried to join the war effort as a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, but at just 5 feet tall, she did not meet the height requirement. She did, however, earn a pilot’s license, and continued to fly into her early 20s. Rose went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from William and Mary College, and studied fine art at Yale University under abstract expressionist Hans
Hofmann.

She and her future husband grew up together — his family ran the pharmacy in White Plains. But it wasn’t until 1939, according to family lore, that Ed started driving his motorcycle outside the Morey home, hoping she would notice him. Eventually his efforts were rewarded and their romance took off. They were married in 1944 after he finished a stint in the United States Navy. 

A successful artist, Rose had a one-woman show at the Newark Museum in the 1960s, and later became a performance artist. A member of the Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds, she acted in the plays of avant-garde playwright Robert Wilson. Meanwhile, Ed was CEO of Adamas Carbide Corp., a tungsten carbide machine-tool manufacturer, which he grew into an international industry leader. The couple loved to ski, deep-sea fish, and travel, especially to various locations around the world to watch the Olympic games.

Rose stayed active up until her death, participating in a book club, meeting friends at the Orange Lawn Tennis Club, and continuing to work out at her gym five days a week.

“One of her greatest pleasures was going out to dinner every night and taking groups of friends with her,” Hirschmann said. “Rose Dreyer was a kind, thoughtful, and generous woman. She will be deeply missed.”

Rose Morey Dreyer is survived by her children, J.R. (Jonathan Cutler) and Nancy (Ken Rothman); a granddaughter; and two great-grandchildren.

Services were held Dec. 30 with arrangements by Bernheim-Apter-Kreitzman Suburban Funeral Chapter, Livingston. A celebration of her life was held Jan. 5.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ at jcfmetrowest.org.

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