Cecile Lena Kantrowitz Israel, class of 1930


Cecile Lena Kantrowitz Israel begins this interview by explaining her Russian heritage and Jewish upbringing, her father’s career as a Hebrew teacher and cantor, and tracing her roots to Baal Shem Tov. She discusses her education at Classical High School, her mother’s liberated beliefs, and why she chose to attend Pembroke College. Regarding her education at Pembroke, Israel describes her first days, joining Phi Beta Kappa, and being a student of languages. She discusses founding the Debating Club and going against the grain by not doing homework and by rejecting certain dress codes. Israel closes by sharing her failed elopement with her husband, using the Brown library, and looking up to the Pembroke deans as role models.

Part 1


Recorded on June 1, 1990
Interviewed by Susan Friedland

Suggested Chicago style citation: Israel, Cecile Lena Kantrowitz. Interview. By Susan Friedland. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. June 1, 1990.


Cecile Lena Kantowitz Israel was born in 1910 in New Jersey, but spent her adolescence and young adulthood in Providence, Rhode Island. Educated at Classical High School, she attended Pembroke College in the late 1920s. Israel showed an interest in languages, becoming fluent in French and German, as well as Yiddish which was spoken in her home. She was a founder and board member of the Pembroke-Brown Debating Club and received a number of scholastic accolades. After graduation, Israel conducted oral language examinations for the Civil Service and was involved with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She married Fred Israel in 1930.