Henrietta Szold, 1860 - 1945
Meeting JTS professor Louis Ginzberg in 1903 awakened Szold, at age 42, to feelings of sexual attraction that she had never before experienced. Their acquaintance grew as Ginzberg took part in informal English lessons that Szold offered new JTS professors, and Szold attended Ginzberg's Talmud class. Like other JTS professors, Ginzberg sought Szold's assistance in translating and editing his academic writings. Since JPS was to publish Ginzberg's monumental work, The Legends of the Jews, Szold devoted untold hours to facilitating and sharpening his work. Soon Ginzberg was spending his Tuesday afternoons and evenings at the Szold household. By 1908, a combination of academic work, long walks along the Hudson, and lunch and dinner at the Szolds, meant that the two spent much of every day together.
Szold had long accepted that the difference in their ages (she was thirteen years his senior) precluded any realistic hope of romantic attachment. Yet, despite herself, she wondered if Ginzberg's intensifying attention and affection might result in a marriage proposal. In the summer of 1908, Ginzberg traveled to Europe for his customary research and family visit. While there, he was introduced to eighteen-year-old Adele Katzenstein. On their third meeting, he proposed marriage.
For Szold, Ginzberg's engagement proved devastating. In a grieving process that lasted for years, her inexorable heartbreak sensitized her to the amount of energy and talent she had expended in servicing other people's accomplishments. Her continuing arduous work for JPS combined with her despair over Ginzberg overwhelmed her with what seemed like the utter futility of all her efforts, both personal and professional.