Dear Hadassah Sisters,
This week we will celebrate Purim and enjoy the many traditions that make this holiday so lively and meaningful. Some of us will dress in costumes, attend Purim carnivals, and of course, enjoy hamantaschen, reminiscent of Haman's three cornered hat. A wonderful tradition is mishloach manot, sharing baked goods and treats with our friends and families. This tradition has been extended to remembering those in our community who are hungry, and, by making donations to local food banks. Purim is also the ideal time to remember and pay tribute to Hadassah's founder, Henrietta Szold.
The idea of founding a Women's Zionist organization, which would focus on promoting health care and medical treatment in Palestine, was born during Miss Szold's first visit to Palestine in 1909. The highlight of this eye-opening mission to Eretz-Israel was the trigger for creating Hadassah. In the old town of Jaffa, the ladies noticed that many of the children running in the filthy streets had black rings around their eyes. When they took a closer look they realized that the rings were created by hundreds of tiny little black flies. This was the symptom of the terrible trachoma disease.
Miss Szold returned to America with determination to take action. With a few friends, she came up with the idea of creating a volunteer women's organization, one with a Zionist - apolitical agenda, which would promote and establish a modern medical care system in Palestine. In honor of the approaching holiday of Purim, Miss Szold and the women in her study group, chose to name their new organization, Hadassah, after Queen Esther, heroine of the Purim story, and a strong, Jewish woman role model. Miss Szold was nominated as the first president of Hadassah and led the organization for 14 years.
Ten years later, Miss Szold made Aliyah. Her historic mission began in the early 30's, when it became imperative to evacuate thousands of Jewish youth from Nazi Germany. Miss Szold devoted herself to this task and the Youth Aliyah movement was formed. Ships bringing Jewish youth arrived in Palestine from Europe, and these children were sent to Kibbutzim all over Israel. A new kibbutz was established in the upper Galilee at that time, and was named in honor of Henrietta. It was known as Kibbutz Kfar Szold.
Miss Szold devoted herself to the creation of a new state. Unfortunately, she did not live to see her dream come true. In 1945, at the age of 85, Miss Szold died and was buried in Jerusalem. She did not have any children of her own, but was the mother of tens of thousands of children who owe their lives, their health and their education to the actions of this great woman. Until this day, Mother's Day in Israel is still celebrated on Miss Szold's birthday, 30 of Shevat.
This week we will gather in synagogues and schools to hear the Megila reading. Once again, we will rejoice over the brave actions of Queen Esther, as she risked her own life and devoted herself to save and assist her people. Please use this opportunity to reflect on Hadassah and Henrietta Szold, who also devoted her life to her people, acted as a role model, and created an organization that saves lives and gives hope.
We wish everyone a Happy Purim, a happy 103rd birthday to Hadassah, and thank the women in our Chapter for keeping Queen Esther's and Miss Szold's legacy alive.
Rachel and Stephanie
Rachel Belenker and Stephanie Elliott
Columbus Chapter Co-Presidents