Ruth Rappaport was born on May 27, 1923 in Leipzig, Germany. Her father, Mendel Rappaport was a Romanian subject, born in Rostoki. Her mother, Helene Rubinstein, was born in Mielic, Poland (south of Tarnow) and was a first cousin to Helene Rubinstein. Mendel's first wife had 3 daughters, then died in childbirth, and later he married Helene in 1911. Mendel was a Zionist and had always wanted to go to Palestine, but Ruth's mother, who had three brothers in Seattle, Washington, wanted to go to the U.S. The family lived in a mixed neighborhood and belonged to the large modern Orthodox Carlebach synagogue. Ruth belonged to the Zionist youth group, Habonim. The night before Kristallnacht, her German neighbors warned Ruth and her family about the destruction that would take place and urged them to stay inside. Her family left for Switzerland very quickly after Kristallnacht. Her parents decided to go back to Germany and Ruth jumped off the train at the station right before it left because she did not want to go back to Germany. She became an au pair in Zurich in the Herzog family where she helped the young children and taught them English. Her parents couldn't send her money so they sent nail polish for her to sell in order for her to get spending money.
Ruth's mother's oldest brother, Carl Rubinstein, who lived in Seattle, Washington, sponsored Ruth to come to the U.S. Ruth left in December 1939 on the Holland American Line Boat, the Veendam, after having to go through Germany and Holland because of confusion over the boat reservation. Her uncle met her in New York having waited 6 weeks in the city for her. She thought her parents would be coming to the U.S. and received only two 25 word exchanges from them through the Red Cross. Her parents had Cuban visas and were in contact with Washington, D.C. lawyers to whom they had paid $10,000 but nothing happened after December 7, 1941. (Records show her father died in Buchenwald and her mother in Ravensbrueck, both in 1943.) Ruth went to high school in Seattle, then to the University of Washington, majoring in sociology. While a part-time student, Ruth worked for a Jewish newspaper in Seattle. In early 1948, she went to work for the Zionist Emergency Council in San Francisco. She traveled to Palestine as an advance person to prepare for a mission of wealthy San Francisco Jews and wrote stories from Israel and was there during the War of Independence in 1948. She also helped establish the Israel Photographical Archives and stayed until July 1950. After she returned to the United States, she finished her education at Berkeley. Ruth worked for the Department of Defense as a librarian and lived overseas in Okinawa, Taipei, and Vietnam. She worked for the Library of Congress from ca. 1970-1993.