By Carol Rushton
In honor of the modern State of Israel’s 70th Anniversary, Southwest Prophecy Ministries is presenting a series on Jews who are not very well known to Christians but who had a significant impact on Israel’s founding as a nation in 1948, a major fulfillment of end-times Bible prophecy.
Christians may not know the name of Henrietta Szold, but Jews recognize her as a leading figure in helping to establish the State of Israel in May 1948. Henrietta was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1860 to a prominent rabbi, the oldest of eight daughters. Even though she was a female, Henrietta received a great education in traditional Jewish religious studies by her father. She went on to become a teacher right out of high school, teaching French, German and algebra, eventually becoming a writer and translator of important Jewish religious texts.
In her forties, Henrietta was still unmarried but was hopeful that her single status was going to change when she met a Jewish scholar who took an interest her and spent time with her. Henrietta was devastated when the man unexpectedly announced his engagement to a much younger woman.
In order to try to help Henrietta recover from the deep depression she experienced as a result of the failed relationship, her mother accompanied her on a long tour to Europe and the Holy Land, hoping this would take Henrietta’s mind off of things. This changed the trajectory of Henrietta’s life. She was particularly shocked by the deprived conditions in which the early Jewish settlers lived in pre-state Israel, and she returned to the United States determined to do something about it.
In 1912, Henrietta founded Hadassah, a Jewish women’s service organization, taking its name from the Book of Esther, the female hero whose name in Hebrew means “myrtle.” Throughout the early 20th Century, Hadassah raised millions of dollars to help these foundling Jewish communities, especially targeting the dire health and education circumstances of the early Jewish settlers, while also extending medical aid and services to Arabs and non-Jews as well. Some of these funds were used to train women as nurses and bring much-needed medical equipment and supplies to Israel.
The two Hadassah Hospitals in Jerusalem, Israel today, one in Ein Kerem and one on Mount Scopus, have grown to include schools of medicine, nursing, and dentistry and have become world leaders in medical research. According to the Hadassah Medical Center website, the “the first robotic surgery and the world’s first computer-assisted hip replacement surgery” took place at Hadassah Hospital.
Today, Hadassah is an international organization with over 330,000 members in the United States alone, still committed to carrying out Henrietta Szold’s original vision for improving medical care and educational opportunities for Jews and non-Jews, not only in Israel but throughout the Middle East.
But Henrietta was not finished. She became involved in the Youth Aliya movement in the 1930s and was instrumental in bringing at least 30,000 young, European Jews to Israel by 1943, saving them from almost certain death at the hands of the Nazis and their death camps. Because of her passion for education and young people, Henrietta also helped to establish libraries throughout Israel, providing books for Jewish children to read, improving their educational opportunities. In 1927, Henrietta was also appointed to the World Zionist Congress, originally founded by Theodore Herzl in 1897.
Although Henrietta Szold did so much to help Jews in Israel, she never lost her desire to have a family and children of her own. When praised by others for all she had done to help the thousands of Jewish children in Israel, Henrietta replied, “I would exchange everything for one child of my own.” Henrietta Szold died in Jerusalem in 1945, three years before Israel became a nation again.