Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia


Aline Kaplan

1923 – 1983

by Debra Newman Kamin

Aline Kaplan was one of the most dynamic Jewish leaders of the twentieth century. As executive director of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization, Kaplan touched thousands of lives both in the United States and abroad. She credited Hadassah’s success to “the level of creative leadership and commitment of its volunteers,” which numbered 370,000 worldwide under her leadership.

Kaplan was born to Morris and Dora (Zeresky) Kaplan in New York in June 1923, one of three daughters. Her family was committed to Jewish culture and Jewish values, which Kaplan incorporated into her adult life. She devoted herself to strengthening Judaism and Zionism.

Kaplan practiced law from 1946 to 1952, with expertise in estate planning and real estate matters. The practice of law, however, did not fulfill her intellectual or spiritual needs. In 1952, she left her law practice to become the director of Junior Hadassah (now Hashahar). She found creating educational programs for Jewish youth a better way of living out her Jewish values than the practice of law. In order to better serve the Jewish community she undertook graduate studies at Yeshiva University, earning a doctorate in Jewish history.

Kaplan held a succession of important posts within Hadassah: in 1964, assistant to the executive director; in 1970, assistant executive director; and in 1971, executive director, a post she held until her death. Fluent in Hebrew, Kaplan made yearly trips to Israel, both to oversee Hadassah’s work there and for her own pleasure.

Kaplan was a delegate to the World Zionist Congress beginning in 1956. She was a member of the board of directors of the American Zionist Federation, the United Israel Appeal, and the National Council of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. She wrote articles for the Zionist Encyclopedia and other publications.

Aline Kaplan died of heart failure on September 29, 1983.

Hunter College - still image [media]
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Long known as the "Jewish Girls' Radcliffe," Hunter College provided New York City residents with a superb free education for nearly a century. Shown here is the long-time executive director of Hadassah, Aline Kaplan, receiving Hunter College Hall of Fame recognition in 1983 from the institution's president, Donna Shalala.

Institution: Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America


AJYB 85:416; Hunter College Hall of Fame, Alumni Association, 1983; Obituary. NYTimes, October 2, 1983; “Tribute to Aline Kaplan” (October 6, 1984). Hadassah Archives, NYC; WWWIA 8.

How to cite this page

Kamin, Debra Newman. "Aline Kaplan." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 17, 2014) <>.