Charlotte Jacobson, a towering figure in the Zionist movement, died May 14, 2010, in Florida. In addition to serving as Hadassah’s National President from 1964 to 1968, over the course of the past 60 years she occupied a wide range of key positions in the American and world Zionist leadership.
Ms. Jacobson served as Hadassah’s President during the momentous period of the Six Day War. After the fighting stopped, she was able to reclaim two key pieces of ground in Jerusalem that Hadassah had lost 19 years earlier, during Israel’s War of Independence. One was the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus. The other was the gravesite of Henrietta Szold, Hadassah’s founder, on the Mount of Olives.
One of the key positions she held after her presidency ended was chair of Building and Development for the Hadassah Medical Organization. In that post she supervised the rebuilding of the Mount Scopus Hospital and as well as the building of the Moshe Sharett Institute of Oncology.
Born into a Zionist family in New York, Charlotte Jacobson grew up with the movement to create a Jewish state. She made her first visit to Israel in 1951, three years after independence.
Though much of her contribution to Israel and the Zionist movement came through her leadership of Hadassah, she also served on the board of directors of the Hebrew University, the Jewish Agency, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the American Zionist Youth Foundation. From 1971 to 1982 she served as chair of the American Section of the World Zionist Organization. In 1981 she became the first woman elected to the presidency of the Jewish National Fund.
She traveled the world in defense of Jewish rights, meeting with refuseniks and facing commissars in the Soviet Union, and advocating freedom of worship and emigration in front of the leaders of Syria and Egypt. She also defended Israel and the Jewish people in the halls and overseas conferences of the United Nations.
Within Hadassah she held a wide range of leadership positions during the course of her career. In 1998, Ms. Jacobson became the first Hadassah leader to receive the coveted Henrietta Szold Award reserved for world leaders.