Lotta Levensohn helped found Hadassah and played a pivotal role in its history as an independent organization for Zionist women. A leader of the women’s study group that formed the basis for Hadassah’s early leadership, Levensohn served for many years as a director of the Hadassah. She also served as secretary to Jacob de Haas and Judah L. Magnes, the successive secretaries of the Federation of American Zionists. In 1923 she made Aliyah and began writing and translating Zionist literature, including her 1942 Outline of Zionist History and her English translation of Theodor Herzl’s Das Altneuland. She returned to the United States in the 1950s.
A writer, publicist, and Zionist activist, Lotta Levensohn was among the original founders of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. Born in Syracuse, New York on August 13, 1882, and raised in Titusville, Pennsylvania, she was the daughter of Moshe Gerson Levensohn, a cantor, and Eva F. (Dvoretzky) Levensohn. Moving to New York, she attended the Teachers Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Levensohn was one of the leaders of the Harlem chapter of the Daughters of Zion, a women’s study group, which in 1912 decided to launch Hadassah as a national movement. Levensohn was for many years a director of the organization, serving as head of its Central Committee (an office equivalent to the presidency) during 1920 and 1921. At that time, Hadassah had briefly ceased to function as a separate organization, and Levensohn was one of two board members who favored the absorption of the group by the Zionist Organization of America. The seven members who opposed the plan prevailed, however, and Hadassah reemerged as an autonomous entity.
Levensohn served as secretary to Jacob de Haas and Judah L. Magnes when each held the office of secretary of the Federation of American Zionists. When Magnes became head of the New York Kehillah, Levensohn followed him there and remained secretary of that organization until 1923. Later that year she settled in Palestine, where she devoted her time to writing and translating Zionist literature. Levensohn also served as a public relations officer for the Hadassah Medical Organization and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Among her many publications were Outline of Zionist History (1942), Vision and Fulfillment, a history of the Hebrew University (1950), and an English translation of Theodor Herzl’s Das Altneuland (1940). Levensohn returned to the United States during the 1950s and settled in Los Angeles. She died in Santa Monica, California, in September 1972.
Dushkin, Julia A. “Lotta Levensohn.” Typescript. Seligsberg/Jacobs Papers, Hadassah Archives, NYC.
Levensohn, Lotta. “The Beginnings of Hadassah.” Hadassah Magazine (April 1972): 22.
Schoolman, Bertha. “Three American Pioneers in Israel.” Hadassah Newsletter (January 1956): 4+.
UJE; Who’s Who in World Jewry (1965, 1972).