Helena Kagan

Dr. Helena Kagan improved the lives of generations of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian children in Jerusalem. In 1905, Kagan began studying piano at the Bern Conservatory in Switzerland while simultaneously training for medical school entrance exams. She completed her studies in 1910 and obeyed her father’s dying wish by making Aliyah in 1914. In Israel, she worked as a nurse and trained Jewish and Arab teens as nurses because Ottoman rule did not allow women doctors. In 1916 she opened the first Jewish children’s hospital in Jerusalem, which included a day care center and a cow to feed milk to malnourished children. From 1919–1925 she served as head of the pediatrics department at the new Rothschild-Hadassah Hospital and opened a number of preventative care clinics and daycare centers for WIZO, going on to run WIZO’s Childcare Division until 1966. In 1924 she opened an orphanage in Jerusalem for Jewish children, followed by one in 1925 for Arab children, and chaired the Palestine-Jerusalem Pediatric Association from 1926–1943. She led Bikur Holim Hospital’s pediatrics department from 1936–1975. During the 1948 War of Independence, Kagan was director of the medical department of Jerusalem. A founding board member of the Hebrew Women’s Organization (later WIZO Israel), she represented women’s interests to Israel’s National Council for fourteen years. She published her memoir, The Voice that Called, in 1978. Among her many honors, she was named an Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem in 1958 and was awarded the Israel Prize in 1975.


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Physician Helena Kagan (L) and WIZO's first president Rebecca Sieff (R) at the opening of WIZO's Rebecca Sieff Center for the Family in 1955, alongside the center's first director.
Courtesy of WIZO Archives, Tel Aviv.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Helena Kagan." (Viewed on June 12, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/kagan-helena>.


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