Henrietta Szold: The Great Zionist and Philanthropist Who Founded Hadassah

First published in Hebrew in 2019, the Israeli historian Dvora Hacohen’s biography of Henrietta Szold has recently appeared in English—with an introduction by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Szold is best known for founding Hadassah (the women’s Zionist organization of America), as well as the Jerusalem hospital of the same name. Amy Spiro writes in her review:

Szold was born in Baltimore in 1860, shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War. From a young age she pursued educational and professional paths that were normally closed off to women. She became the first-ever female editor at the Jewish Publication Society, the first woman enrolled at the Jewish Theological Seminary (though she had to promise to not seek ordination), and the only female member of the Federation of American Zionists’ executive committee. She died in 1945 in Jerusalem at age eighty-four, “a life bounded by two wars,” wrote Hacohen.

Later, Szold also became a passionate and outspoken Zionist. . . . In 1933, at age seventy-three, Szold relocated to Jerusalem and became an active driving force behind Youth Aliyah, the organization that rescued 30,000 Jewish children from Nazi Europe. Though Szold never married or had children of her own—to her great regret—she became known as such a maternal figure in Israel that the country’s Mother’s Day is marked on the anniversary of her death, “because she was called the mother of Youth Aliyah.”

“Today Hadassah is one of the largest Jewish organizations in the world, with hundreds of thousands of members,” noted Hacohen. Szold was “an ardent Zionist,” who first visited Palestine in 1909. The poverty and disease she saw during that trip spurred her to dedicate the rest of her life to the welfare and health of the Jews living there, through extensive health clinics, medical training schools, soup kitchens, educational institutions, and much more.

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More about: American Jewish History, Hadassah, History of Zionism, Holocaust rescue, Ruth Bader Ginsburg

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship