Dina Rabinovitch

Journalist and writer


Dina Rabinovitch, journalist and writer: born Charleston, South Carolina 9 June 1963; married first Guido Rauch (three daughters; marriage dissolved), secondly 1999 Anthony Julius (one son); died London 30 October 2007.

Dina Rabinovitch, who has died from breast cancer, gained her widest audience as a journalist with her writing about the disease. What marked out her writing was an absence of self-pity and an ability to spin the multiple strands of her life into a colourful tapestry of storytelling.

While her health deteriorated, she produced a vast volume of increasingly strong work as she wrote columns in The Guardian and The Jewish Chronicle, magazine pieces and, earlier this year, a book called Take Off Your Party Dress: when life's too busy for breast cancer. Proceeds from the book have gone to the appeal she launched which aims to raise £100,000 to establish a cancer research centre at Mount Vernon Hospital, in Northwood, Middlesex. A lot of people came to know Rabinovitch through the blog she kept charting her fundraising efforts. The blog took on a life of its own as she included news about breast cancer treatments, personal snippets about her family, funny anecdotes and her own health challenges.

As the indignities of the disease and its treatment crept up on her, she took care to show the world a groomed and elegant face. When her nails crumbled as a drug side effect, she had regular manicures at home. After her mastectomy, she marshalled fashion advisers from Vogue to help track down pleated, soft clothes that you could get your arms into after the operation and which would fall naturally and look good on a single-breasted woman. As her hair fell out from chemotherapy, grew back, and later thinned as she became weak, she kept it coloured and cut in flattering styles. Some of her funniest blog entries detailed her quest for the perfect blow-dry within walking distance of her home. It is a measure of her inclusive nature that the manicurist, hairdresser, local fruiterer and home help all regarded Rabinovitch as a close personal friend.

Dina Rabinovitch was born in South Carolina and lived briefly in Canada before moving to England with her parents and five siblings. She retained a slight transatlantic accent, most evident in the way she pronounced the word "yoghurt". Her taste in television also remained resolutely American and she was an early and enthusiastic fan of The Sopranos and The West Wing.

She was unusual in the way she straddled the worlds of orthodox Judaism and hip journalism. Her father, Rabbi Nahum Rabinovitch, is a scholar and communal leader from a highly rigorous and exacting strand of Judaism. Dina was educated in Jewish schools until she opted for a secular, academic girls' grammar school, Henrietta Barnett, for the sixth form. After school, she went to a theological seminary in Israel at which girls study Jewish law and traditions to a high academic level. Dina Rabinovitch's Judaism was like a skin. It was an integral part of her which she never sloughed off. Her daily life revolved round Jewish festivals and the weekly Sabbath. She was strictly kosher, which meant she rarely ate at work dos, but fellow journalists say she was never judgemental and regarded her religious practice as her own business.

Her taste for journalism had surfaced at a young age. While still at school, she helped to start a schools section in The Observer. While studying International Relations at the London School of Economics, she started writing for the student newspaper, The Beaver. Perhaps surprisingly, given the subject she was studying, Rabinovitch shied away from political themes, preferring to write about the arts, especially theatre.

Friends from her LSE days remember her as an ambitious and bright young thing who was clearly going to do well in life. She didn't follow the path of many aspiring journalists who start work on local papers but joined a short-lived arts and culture magazine. Colleagues recall Rabinovitch as cool and fashionable. She enjoyed her contact with celebrities, especially if they had a good story to tell, though she was far from star-struck.

In 1986, Rabinovitch joined the newly launched Independent as deputy features editor. Her marriage to the businessman Guido Rauch resulted in three daughters and, as family commitments were always her first priority, Rabinovitch opted for freelance journalism. Her acrimonious divorce exposed her to the vagaries of family courts and she wrote passionately about the failure of the system, as she saw it, to put the needs of the children first. Later, she worked as a journalist for The Guardian and recognised that children's literature was a growing and exciting field. She interviewed many leading children's writers and some, like Francesca Simon, author of the Horrid Henry books, and Meg Rosoff, became friends.

Dina Rabinovitch met and married the lawyer Anthony Julius in 1999 and worked hard to create a welcoming home environment for Anthony's four children, her three girls, and the son they had together. With up to eight children, two cats and numerous visitors, their house in Hendon hummed with life. From the small cosy kitchen, Dina gently nurtured an unusually warm and inclusive home life.

To most people, Hendon is an unprepossessing suburb in north London, but Dina Rabinovitch, who lived there for most of her life, kept lists of all the fascinating people and events that had a Hendon link. Disobedience, the recent novel by Naomi Alderman, whom Dina befriended just before she died, was set in Hendon, which Dina triumphantly took as proof of her point.

Dina was a welcoming and warm hostess and it was impossible to pop in to see her without being offered a piece of her mother-in-law's excellent cake or a tempting snack she'd conjured up. Sabbath lunch was always a lively affair with an array of dips, platters of cooked food and tasteful desserts. Guests might include a young novelist, a visiting Israeli academic, a well-known American lawyer, a playwright, local friends and the kids and their friends.

Conversation was always robust and fun. Both Dina and Anthony wore their huge intellects lightly and, in company, Dina was highly attentive to her guests and unlikely to let the full force of her views show. In private, she was more forthright, dispensing advice, sympathy and good humour with a generosity of spirit that inspired great love and devotion in her friends.

Ann Robinson

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker