The Founder of Hadassah Invigorated American Zionism and Brought Thousands of Jewish Children to the Land of Israel

Sept. 14 2021

Born in 1860 to a rabbinic family that had left its native Hungary and settled in Baltimore, Henrietta Szold is best known today as the founder of the women’s Zionist organization Hadassah. She was also a pioneering journalist, accomplished editor and translator, and one of the leading Jewish philanthropists of both the U.S. and the Land of Israel. Reviewing Dvora Hacohen’s biography of Szold, recently translated from Hebrew into English, Jenna Weissman Joselit describes its subject as an “avid Zionist at a time when committed American Zionists were few and far between,” and credits Hadassah with “transform[ing] Zionism from a cause into a calling.”

Szold’s adaptability, her nimble genius, might well be credited to her having had an early start. She began her professional career at the age of seventeen while a cub reporter for the Jewish Messenger, a New York weekly. Going by the name of Sulamith, she happened to be on the scene and at the table in July 1883 when the drama of the “Trefa Banquet” unfolded in Cincinnati. “There was no regard paid to our dietary laws,” the kosher-keeping eyewitness related of the celebratory communal dinner marking the graduation of the very first class of Reform rabbis in the United States. Worse still, when she and several of her tablemates refrained from eating the forbidden bill of fare, awash in seafood, “We were . . . stared at as if we were mummies or fossil remains.”

By 1920, when Szold relocated to Mandatory Palestine, she had numerous accomplishments under her belt, but was about to begin the most impressive part of her career:

At the age when most of us are just about to fold our tents, Szold pitched hers—and in the Holy Land, no less. With a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy that belied her years, she gave her all—and then some—to improving the well-being of the Yishuv’s residents in the years following the Great War. Forming the “American Daughters of Zion, Nurses Settlement” in Jerusalem, a neighborhood clinic that took its cue from the Henry Street Settlement in New York, and establishing the Hadassah Medical Organization, replete with a nursing school, ambulances, and the latest technology, including X-ray machines, she did battle with the many diseases and ineffectual Old World remedies that afflicted the local population.

Szold also served on the Yishuv’s Jewish National Council, where she juggled the demanding education and health portfolios. And then, in what would turn out to be the apex of her career, she created the Youth Aliyah organization in response to the worsening crisis in Europe, rescuing thousands of Jewish children, many of them soon to be orphans, by resettling them in specially designed settlements.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Aliyah, American Jewish History, Hadassah, History of Zionism, Holocaust rescue

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount