Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ruth Ellen Gruber is an award-winning writer, researcher, photographer and public speaker. She is an expert on Jewish heritage and other contemporary Jewish issues in Europe and has carried out extensive research on European Country Music and the “imaginary Wild West.”
She has lectured widely and is the coordinator of www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu, a project of the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe that serves as an on-line clearinghouse for news, information, insight, and expertise regarding Jewish historic monuments in 48 countries.
Ruth is the author of several well-reviewed books, including the influential Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe –– in which she coined the term “virtually Jewish” to describe the way the so-called “Jewish space” in Europe is often filled by non-Jews.
Among her other books are National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe (first edition published in 1992); Letters from Europe (and Elsewhere); and Upon the Doorposts of Thy House: Jewish Life in East-Central Europe, Yesterday and Today.
She has collaborated on, edited, and/or contributed chapters to many other books.
She began her career as a journalist and has written for the New York Times, Business Week, The Independent on Sunday, CBC Radio, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Tablet Magazine, Hadassah Magazine, and many other publications.
During a more than 10-year career with UPI, she was based in Rome, Brussels, London, Belgrade, Warsaw, and Vienna as a foreign correspondent. In January 1983, when based in Warsaw as UPI Chief Correspondent, she was arrested by Poland’s Martial Law authorities on a trumped up espionage charge, thrown into jail, interrogated for seven hours, and expelled from the country.
In 2011 she collaborated with the Czech bluegrass/country/fusion band Druha Trava on the CD Shuttle to Bethlehem, and she is the principal on-screen commentator in Banjo Romantika — a documentary film on Czech bluegrass that in 2016 was shown on dozens of PBS stations around the U.S.
In 2011 Ruth was decorated by Poland with the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit, one of Poland’s highest honors awarded to foreign citizens. She was the Arnold Distinguished Visiting Chair in Jewish Studies at the College of Charleston (SC), spring semester 2015.
Her other honors and awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEH summer stipend grant, and a Visiting Scholar Fellowship at the Autry National Center, as well as research grants from the Littauer Foundation, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, and the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute (HBI), where she was Scholar in Residence in 2011.
In addition to Jewish Heritage Europe, you can explore her other projects online, including Sauerkraut Cowboys, Indian Dreams: Imaginary Wild Wests in Contemporary Europe, (http://sauerkrautcowboys.blogspot.com) and Candlesticks On Stone: The Representation of Women in Jewish Tombstone Art.