Tag Archives: Baltimore

Jew of the Week: Henrietta Szold

Founder of Hadassah, Mother of Israel

Henrietta Szold

Henrietta Szold

Henrietta Szold (1860-1945) was born in Baltimore, the eldest of eight daughters. After finishing high school, she became a teacher, and while working at both an all-girls school and a Jewish school, she was also taking additional studies at Johns Hopkins University. Soon, she opened up her own night school to assist Russian-Jewish immigrants and teach them English. After some 15 years as a teacher, Szold became the first editor of the Jewish Publication Society (famous for its JPS Tanakh, and now the oldest non-profit publisher of Jewish literature in English). Over the next 23 years at this position, she translated multiple Hebrew books into English, edited many others, wrote countless articles, and helped to produce the popular Jewish Encyclopedia, as well as Marcus Jastrow’s well-known Talmudic Dictionary. Meanwhile, Szold pursued advanced studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary (America’s leading Conservative Jewish academy). At the time, these studies were reserved only for men, but Szold managed to persuade the school president to let her in. In 1898, she was elected to the executive committee of the Federation of American Zionists, the first woman on the board. Her devotion to Zionism became even greater when she took her first trip to Israel in 1909. Three years later, she founded Hadassah, an organization that worked to establish a proper health care system in Israel – for both Jews and Arabs. Under Szold’s leadership, Hadassah helped to create some of Israel’s very first dental clinics, maternity clinics, food banks, medical schools, nursing programs, and at least half a dozen hospitals (Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Centre is still one of the largest hospitals in Israel). Today, Hadassah, or the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, is one of the largest volunteer organizations in the world, with over 330,000 active members serving to support health education, women’s rights, freedom of religion, and the State of Israel. Among her many other accomplishments, Szold co-founded the Ihud political party, and played a key role in Youth Aliyah, an organization that rescued over 30,000 Jewish children from the Nazis. Today, many institutions are named after her (including a public school in Manhattan), and Israelis celebrate Mother’s Day on her yahrzeit, the 30th of Shevat. Szold passed away in the Jerusalem hospital she helped to found, and was buried in the nearby Mount of Olives. She was recently inducted into America’s National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Words of the Week

… there is no ending that is not a beginning.
– Henrietta Szold

Jews of the Week: Nili Block and Sarah Avraham

Don’t Mess With These Ladies

Nili Block and Sarah Avraham - Photo by Kobi Kalmanowitz

Nili Block and Sarah Avraham – Photo by Kobi Kalmanowitz

Nili Block¬†was born in Baltimore, Maryland and made aliyah to Israel with her family when she was just 2 years old. At age 10, she joined her mother in Thai boxing classes. By 18, she won the KickBox World Cup in Hungary, a gold medal at the world kickboxing championship in Bangkok, and a European championship title, too. Block trains alongside¬†Sarah Avraham, who also won the world championship in her division in Bangkok. Like Block, Avraham made aliyah with her family to Israel, hailing from India. Avraham was born in Mumbai to a Christian mother and a Hindi father who were both drawn to Judaism for many years and eventually converted. (They began the process with Rabbi Gavriel and Rebbetzin Rivka Holtzberg – who were tragically gunned down at their Chabad House in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.) Block and Avraham are the same age, and are both coached by Eddie Yusupov. The former is now a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, while the latter is doing her part in Israel’s National Service. They are both Torah-observant Jews, keeping kosher and Shabbat even on their boxing tours. The two world champions hope to compete in the 2016 Olympics Games, if kickboxing will finally be included as an Olympic sport.

Words of the Week

Just as it is incumbent upon every Jew to put on tefillin every day, so is there an unequivocal duty which rests upon every individual, from the greatest scholar to the most simple of folk, to set aside a half-hour each day in which to think about the education of his children.
– Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch