Henrietta Szold, 1860 - 1945
Szold's belief that the opportunity to help revive Jewish culture and civilization in Palestine could transform American Jewish women had borne fruit. With the great success of Hadassah, thousands of Jewish women invested their energies and spirit in a cause that transcended their own personal lives. One result of this success was that Szold herself became a symbol of the Zionist dream and of the commitment and vision that animated Hadassah. When she was in her 70s and 80s, Hadassah leaders in the United States craved visits from Szold both for the inspiration that she provided and so that they might honor her in ways that could benefit the organization financially.
Szold herself became something of an institution. Holy Land tourists came to call, and guides directed visitors to her dwelling. She also became the recipient of numerous honors including honorary degrees from the Jewish Institute of Religion and Boston University (delivered in a live radio broadcast), mention by The Nation magazine as one of the most significant Americans in 1936, and even a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Szold tried to deflect those who celebrated her special leadership or inspirational qualities. Rather, she claimed her talent was in being a "hard worker." In an interview conducted when she was 75 years old, she noted that her greatest assets were "a strong constitution, a devotion to duty and a big conscience," together with "a flair for organization" and "a pretty big capacity for righteous indigation." Despite her public modesty, it is clear that when it was necessary to do something well, the person she most trusted was herself. Even in her 80s, she was loathe to yield decisions about Youth Aliyah to any but her most trusted assistants and co-workers.