Born Ruchel Pomeranz (5 November 1866, Ternopil – 19 Otcober 1934, Lviv), the oldest daughter of Mendel and Hanie Bejla Pomeranz. Her parents supported the Zionist movement; Róża and her younger brother Abraham Selig set up the first Zionist youth clubs in Ternopil.
She studied the piano in Leipzig, where she also took lessons in languages, history, and literature. It is believed she also studied in Dresden, Vienna, Berlin, and Paris, but little is known about this period of her life. After her return to Ternopil, she became an avid social and political activist. She was particularly interested in the role of the Jewish woman in the development of the Zionist movement. In 1898, she published the brochure An die jüdischen Fauen! Ein Appell zur Umkehr, which won her large following within the community of Galician and Austrian Zionists. In 1905, she published the article Die Bedeutung der zionistischen Idee im Leben der Jüdin, in which she continued to discuss the role of Jewish women in promoting national ideals. According to Pomeranz-Melzer, female Zionists should focus on social work and raising children in the spirit of national pride.
On 4 March 1906, she married Izaak Melzer, a clerk working at the Imperial-Royal Austrian State Railways and a Zionist activist. The same year, she moved to Lviv, where she lived until her death. In 1909, she became the president of the Jewish Women's Circle (KKŻ) in Lviv; she performed the function for the following 16 years. Even though Pomeranz-Melzer did not have her own children, she devoted a significant part of her social work to the youngest generation.
When World War I broke out, she left for Vienna along with a significant part of Lviv's Jewish intelligentsia. However, she relatively quickly returned to Lviv, where she opened a public eatery with a laundry and a disinfection facility for the poor, as well as a children's clinic. In the aftermath of the experience of World War I, particularly the wave of pogroms which swept Galicia, Melzer decided to no longer write her emotional appeals and instead focused on fulfilling tangible tasks. Together with Flora Rothfeld, she went on a tour across Western Europe, visiting prominent members of Jewish communities. The aim of the tour was to collect funds for Jewish war orphans. Thanks to Melzer's efforts, KKŻ was granted a new seat, located at 4 Plac Strzelecki. Apart from administrative rooms, a significant part of the building was used as an orphanage for children whose parents had died in the pogroms. Later on, a dormitory for young Jewish women and various workshops for working girls operated there. The building also hosted a printing house publishing children's literature.
Róża Melzer entered the world of politics in 1922, when was elected to the Sejm, the lower house of parliament, as a representative of the Committee of the United National-Jewish Parties. She was one of the nine women to win the ballot, and, most importantly, the first Jewish woman to become a Member of Parliament in inter-war Poland. Her work in the Sejm focused primarily on the Committee for Social Welfare and Disability. In the next election, Melzer failed to repeat her success. She ran for a seat in the Sejm (2nd term election) and in the Senate (3rd term election), but to no avail. One of her major achievements in the field of social work was the successful initiative to open a facility for Jewish four-sense children (deaf-mute or blind) in Bojanów. The facility was financially supported by donors from the United States and Western Europe. It was active for nine years and was shut down in 1935.
Pomeranz-Melzer was also a writer. Until 1914, she wrote in Polish and German. She published her short stories in the Wschód weekly and the Haszachar children's periodical, as well as in the German Zionist press, including Die Welt. Her only surviving novel, Im Lande der Noth, which could be described as a Zionist romance, was published in 1901. In the book, she depicted the everyday life of Jewish families in Galicia at the turn of the century. Her novels Król Chazarów and Chancia, the latter of which was reportedly published in 1932 and dealt with Jewish-Polish-Ukrainian relations in Galicia, have not been preserved to the present day. Pomeranz-Melzer was also a playwright; her play Rozbite marzenie [A Broken Dream] was staged in Lviv's Teatr Rozmaitości in 1931. After 1918, she regularly wrote for Polish-Jewish press: Nasz Przegląd, Ewa, and, most importantly, for the Lviv-based Chwila.
She devoted the final years of her life to taking care of her ailing husband. She would still publish articles in the Polish-Jewish press, but she almost totally withdrew from public life. She continued to be interested in conscious motherhood and eugenics. Due to her efforts, an eugenics clinic was opened in 1934 in Lviv's branch of the Healthcare Association. According to reports from her colleagues, Melzer became severely depressed after her husband's death in 1933. She died in Lviv on 19 October 1934.
- Antosik-Piela M., “Emancypacja kobiet w Galicji - Róża Melzer,” [in]: Kwartalnik Historii Żydów, no. 2/2015.
- In Memory of Róża Melzer, Lviv 1936.