Henrietta Szold is considered to be one of the most outstanding Jewish women in American history. Her determination and tenacity to uplift the status of Jews in America and abroad made her a role model for all Jewish women.
She was born in 1860, one of eight daughters of Rabbi Benjamin and Sophia Schaar Szold. A year later, the family moved to Baltimore from Europe. At the age of 16, she graduated from Western Female High School in Baltimore. Her father continued her education by instructing her in Bible studies, philosophy, history and in languages (Hebrew, French, and German).
Her mother developed in Henrietta a strong sense of domesticity, duty and order. Encouraged by her mother. she became a teacher at the Miss Adams School in Baltimore, where she taught for 15 years. She also taught children and adults at her father's congregational school.
Szold became interested in writing for Jewish publications and, at the age of 19. she became the Baltimore correspondent for the Jewish Messenger, a weekly published in New York. In 1888, she became involved in the education of newly arrived immigrants, teaching them to read, write and speak English. When her father died in 1902, Szold and her familv moved to New York City. That same year, she became the editor of the Jewish Publications Society of America. a post she retained for 23 years. She was also the editor of the American Jewish Year Book from 1904 to 1908.
Interested in Zionism, Szold became involved in the Hadassah Study Circle in 1907. She traveled to Palestine and was greatly impressed with its beauty. In 1912, she and 38 other Jewish women formed the Haddasah Chapter of the Daughters of Zion. The name was later changed to Hadassah and she was elected its first president.
She was very active in raising funds for Hadassah and the American Zionist Medical Unit. In 1919, she became the representative of the American Zionist Organization. The following year, she moved to Palestine, where she was made the director of the Nurses Training School and also directed the health programs in the Jewish schools. The Nurses Training School was about to go bankrupt when Nathan Straus and Hadassah came to its rescue with badly needed funds.
Szold returned to the United States in 1923 and once again became the president of Hadassah. In 1926, she resigned and was named an honorary president. She retumed to Palestine the following year as a member of a three-member executive committee of the World Zionist Organization. Szold was responsible for health and education.
She retumed to the United States in 1933 and immediately embarked on a program to rescue Jewish children from Hitler, making several trips to Germany. Her efforts resulted in 30,000 Jewish children being saved from the Nazi death camps. This was her greatest accomplishment, in a life that had so many accomplishments.
Henrietta Szold was 84 when she died at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, where she is buried on the Mount of Olives.
This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes and Heroines of America, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.
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Last updated 19 October 2006