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Henrietta Szold

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Henrietta Szold

Henrietta Szold
Born (1860-12-21)December 21, 1860
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Died February 13, 1945(1945-02-13) (aged 84)
Jerusalem, Mandatory Palestine
Known for Founder of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America
Henrietta Szold

Henrietta Szold (December 21, 1860 – February 13, 1945) was a Ihud, a political party in Mandate Palestine dedicated to a binational solution.


Henrietta Szold was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of Rabbi Benjamin Szold, who was the spiritual leader of Baltimore's Temple Oheb Shalom.[1] She was the eldest of eight daughters. In 1877, she graduated from Western High School. For fifteen years she taught at Miss Adam’s School and Oheb Shalom religious school, and gave Bible and history courses for adults. To further her own education, she attended public lectures at Johns Hopkins University and the Peabody Institute.[2]

Szold established the first American night school to provide English language instruction and vocational skills to Russian Jewish immigrants in Baltimore.[3] Beginning in 1893, she worked for the [5]

Zionism and origins of Hadassah

In 1896, one month before Federation of American Zionists elected Szold as the only female member of its executive committee. During World War I, she was the only woman on the Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs.

At her home in Jerusalem, ca. 1922

In 1909, at age 49, Szold traveled to Palestine for the first time and discovered her life's mission: the health, education and welfare of the Yishuv (pre-state Jewish community of Palestine). Szold joined six other women to found Hadassah, which recruited American Jewish women to upgrade health care in Palestine. Hadassah's first project was the inauguration of an American-style visiting nurse program in Jerusalem. Hadassah funded hospitals, a medical school, dental facilities, x-ray clinics, infant welfare stations, soup kitchens and other services for Palestine's Jewish and Arab inhabitants. Szold persuaded her colleagues that practical programs open to all were critical to Jewish survival in the Holy Land.

In the 1920s and 1930s she was a supporter of binational solution. In 1942, she was one of the co-founders of the Ihud party which advocated the same program.


Szold never married, and to her great sadness never had children of her own. While she was in her forties, she had an unrequited relationship with Talmudic scholar Rabbi Louis Ginzberg. He was fifteen years her junior, and he returned her feelings only platonically. After their relationship ended, she expressed her sadness: "Today it is four weeks since my only real happiness was killed." Years afterward, she said: "I would exchange everything for one child of my own."[6]

Death and burial

On February 13, 1945, at age 84, Henrietta Szold died in the same Hadassah Hospital she helped to build in Jerusalem. She was buried in the Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.[5]

From 1948 to 1967, the Mount of Olives was cut off from the rest of Jerusalem by the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine and the 1949 Armistice Agreements. After Israel regained the region in the Six-Day War, Kalman Mann, then-director general of Hadassah Medical Center, went with a group of rabbis to the cemetery to assess the condition of Szold's grave. They found that it had been paved over by a road built by the Jordanians, who had also vandalized many grave markers. They were able to locate Szold's burial site using a cemetery chart and "counting the indentations in the ground". The grave was later rebuilt and remarked with a new stone marker in an official ceremony.[7]

Mourner's Kaddish

Szold was the oldest of eight daughters, and had no brothers. In Orthodox Judaism, it was not the norm for women to recite the Mourners' Kaddish. In 1916, Szold's mother died, and a friend, Hayim Peretz, offered to say Kaddish for her. In a letter, she thanked Peretz for his concern, but said she would do it herself.

I know well, and appreciate what you say about the Jewish custom; and Jewish custom is very dear and sacred to me. And yet I cannot ask you to say Kaddish after my mother. The Kaddish means to me that the survivor publicly and markedly manifests his wish and intention to assume the relation to the Jewish community, which his parent had, and that so the chain of tradition remains unbroken from generation to generation, each adding its own link. You can do that for the generations of your family, I must do that for the generations of my family.[8]

Szold's answer to Peretz is cited by "Women and the Mourners' Kaddish," a responsum written by Rabbi David Golinkin. This responsum, adopted unanimously by the Va'ad Halakhah (Law Committee) of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel, permits women to recite the Mourners' Kaddish in public when a minyan is present.[9] Szold was religiously traditional, but advocated a larger role for women in Rabbinic Judaism.


Kibbutz Kfar Szold, in Upper Galilee is named after her. The Palmach, in recognition of her commitment to "Aliyat Hanoar" Youth Aliyah, named the illegal immigration (Ha'apalah) ship "Henrietta Szold" after her. The ship, carrying immigrants from the Kiffisia orphanage in Athens, sailed from Piraeus on July 30, 1946, with 536 immigrants on board, and arrived on August 12, 1946. The passengers resisted capture, but were transferred to transport for Cyprus.[10]

The Henrietta Szold Institute, National Institute for Research in the Behavioral Sciences, located in Jerusalem, is named after her. The institute is Israel's foremost planner of behavioral science intervention and training programs.[11]

Public School 134 on Manhattan's Lower East Side in New York City is also named after her.[12]

In 2007, Szold was inducted into the American National Women's Hall of Fame.[3]

In Israel, Mother's Day is celebrated on the day that Szold died, on the 30th of Shevat.

In the northwest corner of Szold's home city of Baltimore, Szold Drive, a short street in a residential neighborhood with homes built in the 1950s, is named after her as well.[13] The northernmost part of the street is in Baltimore County.

In New York City, Szold Place, formerly Dry Dock Street[14] runs from East 10th Street to East 12th Street in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan.


  1. ^ History – Temple Oheb Shalom
  2. ^ Henrietta Szold (1860-1945) Hagshama
  3. ^ a b c "Dateline World Jewry", April 2007, World Jewish Congress
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Jewish Heroes and Heroines in America
  6. ^
  7. ^ Levin, Marlin (2002). It Takes a Dream: The story of Hadassah. Gefen Publishing House Ltd. p. 290.  
  8. ^ Henrietta Szold: Her Life and Letters, edited by Marvin Lowenthal (New York: Viking, 1942), pp.92-93.
  9. ^ Responsa in a Moment: Halakhic Responses to Contemporary Issues, Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies
  10. ^ Ha'apalah Ship Henrietta Szold, Palmach Information Center
  11. ^ Henrietta Szold
  12. ^
  13. ^ See Szold Drive, Baltimore, Maryland on Google Maps. The years in which the houses on Szold Drive were constructed can be found in the real property records on the website of the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, accessible here.
  14. ^ Forgotten New York – Lost Streets of Manhattan

External links

  • Henrietta Szold Biography at Jewish Virtual Library
  • Women of Valor exhibit on Henrietta Szold at the Jewish Women's Archive
  • The Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem site. Office of Henrietta Szold (S48), Personal papers (A125)
  • Papers, 1889-1960. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
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