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

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

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict