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Poster Commentary
"In the life of the spirit, there is no ending that is not a beginning."Henrietta Szold
Poster design:Ruah Edelstein


by Shulamit Reinharz

On the eve of the American Civil War, Baltimore was a bustling gateway to America, second in importance only to Ellis Island. The masses of immigrants fascinated a local Jewish young woman named Henrietta Szold, who saw first-hand how people needed help in order to begin their new lives in America. In response, Szold set up evening classes for Russian-Jewish immigrants to learn English. 

Seeing needs and taking action became Szold’s trademark – she was motivated by challenge, no matter how large. As Szold would later write: “Dream great dreams, and take practical steps to make them a reality.” 

Szold served on the publications committee of the Jewish Publication Society – the only woman on their staff and editor of major works of Jewish scholarship. In 1909 Szold traveled to Palestine and was shocked to discover the country’s appalling health conditions. With her American friends she formed a women’s study group called Hadassah (the Hebrew name of Queen Esther) to learn about their Jewish heritage and to improve the lives of Jews in the Yishuv (pre-state Jewish Palestine). Hadassah was extraordinarily successful at recruiting both members and funds, and under Szold’s direction and inspiration founded Hadassah Hospital, a nursing school, a college, a youth organization (Young Judaea), and more.

When Szold lived in Palestine in her 70s, as the Nazis were rising to power in Germany, she created the Youth Aliyah program, which brought thousands of endangered Jewish children from Europe to Palestine. 

In each chapter of her life Szold forged new beginnings – sometimes in the face of heartbreak and criticism – as she made enormous contributions to American Jewish women and the lives of Jews and Arabs in Israel.

Shulamit Reinharz is a professor of sociology at Brandeis University, where she founded the Women’s Studies Research Center and the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. She is the author of American Jewish Women and the Zionist Enterprise, Observing the Observer, and other books.



Conversation Guide


  • What about Szold’s story most inspires you?
  • In your own life experience, what endings turned into beginnings?
  • How do you connect the poster to Szold’s life and contributions?



Wall of Fame©2020, Ruah Edelstein, Quote: Henrietta Szold, Harold Grinspoon Foundation, West Springfield, MA