Defining Moments – Part 1


By Wendy Elliman, Rachel Schwartz­berg, Zelda Shluker, Barbara Sofer and Alan M. Tigay

Hadassah can be measured in thousands (members), millions (lives touched), even billions (dollars raised and spent on its projects since 1912). Its success can also be expressed in the way it treats and educates people or builds its grassroots movement—one by one by one. Perhaps the best way to explain Hadassah is through its universe of stories. Following are events and tales that cannot be expressed in numbers.

In February 1912, the same month Hadassah was founded, Isidor and Nathan Straus, owners of Macy’s, sailed to Europe. Nathan traveled on to Palestine, but Isidor and his wife, Ida, booked passage to return to New York on the Titanic. Both refused seats on lifeboats, and they perished together. When Nathan returned to the United States, he declared that—inspired by the examples of his brother and sister-in-law—he would retire from business and devote his energies to philanthropy, focusing on public health and Palestine. Straus knew of Henrietta Szold’s ideas on practical Zionism, and in December 1912, made her an offer: If Hadassah could find a nurse and raise $2,500—covering two-years salary—he would pay the nurse’s travel expenses and fund a clinic in Jerusalem for two years. The catch? The money had to be raised and the nurse ready to travel when Straus sailed on January 18, 1913. At the time, Hadassah had $283 in its treasury. On January 18, he left with not one but two Hadassah nurses—Rachel Kaplan and Rose Landy. Hadassah’s mission, which eventually built the medical infrastructure of the future State of Israel, had begun.

One Patient
Israeli troops were sent to capture a Hamas leader, but before he was stopped, he pumped a bullet into one soldier’s neck. Blood gushing from his ruptured vertebral artery, the wounded soldier was rushed to Hadassah Hospital. With only minutes to act, neurosurgeon José Cohen (right) improvised. He inserted an endovascular coil he helped develop but had used only in slow-bleeding stroke victims into the young man’s femoral artery, guiding it to the vessel in his neck. It took 16 coils to stop the bleeding. A few months later, the soldier returned to the hospital—this time to be with his wife and cradle his newborn in his arms.

Good Reception
On February 19, 1934, the first organized group of Youth Aliyah children—refugees from Nazi Germany—walked down the gangplank of the S.S. Martha Washington, docked at Haifa harbor (opposite page). There to meet them in pouring rain was 73-year-old Henrietta Szold, who greeted each of them by name. She accompanied them to Kibbutz Ein Harod, the first Youth Aliyah center, and spent that first day with them. Until the end of her life, Szold would meet every group of arrivals (33,000 youngsters were saved during this period). Her reception stamped the program with familial warmth that permeates Hadassah’s work with at-risk children to this day.

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3 Responses to “Defining Moments – Part 1”

  1. 1 Sima Schuster

    I am recovering from knee replacement and have been confined to home—the good news is i am getting to catch up on my reading and this blog is awesome!!!!

    I ,love these stories and will use them to spread the wonders of Hadassah. Only one question for this cyber challenged, yet devoted, member…how can I print out the stories?

    Keep up the fabulous work.

    • 2 Hadassah SC

      We are so glad you are enjoying the blog and thank you for the wonderful feedback!

      To print the blog post:
      – At the top of your computer screen select file
      – Scroll down and there should be a print option

      Please let us know if that doesn’t work.

    • 3 Hadassah SC

      Thank you dearly Sima!

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