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Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America
Type American Jewish volunteer women's organization
Founded 1912
Founder(s) Henrietta Szold
Services promotes health education, social action and advocacy, volunteerism, Jewish education and research, and connections with Israel.
Hadassah flag

Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America is an American Jewish volunteer women's organization. Founded in 1912 by Henrietta Szold, it is one of the largest international Jewish organizations, with around 330,000 members worldwide, including Members, Life Members, Child Life Members and Associates, who are male members.[1] In the United States, Hadassah promotes health education, social action and advocacy, volunteerism, Jewish education and research, and connections with Israel.

Hadassah celebrated their centennial year in October 2012 with a large convention in Jerusalem, Israel, October 15–17, 2012.

Headquarters of Hadassah in Manhattan

Hadassah was established in New York City by Henrietta Szold and the Daughters of Zion, a women's study group. The goal was to promote the Zionist ideal through education, public health initiatives, and the training of nurses in what was then the Palestine region of the Ottoman Empire. At the founders' meeting, which coincided with the Jewish holiday of Purim, the group chose the name Hadassah, the Hebrew name of the biblical heroine Esther, central figure in the celebration of Purim.[citation needed] With Szold serving as the first national president, Hadassah chapters soon opened in Baltimore, Cleveland, Chicago, and Boston.

According to Nancy Falchuk, the organization's National President from July 2007 to July 2011, Hadassah's missions include health, education, fighting anti-Semitism, promoting Israel's security, and encouraging stem-cell research.[1] In July 2011, Marcie Natan became Hadassah's 25th National President.


In 1913, Hadassah sent two nurses to Palestine. They set up a small public health station in Jerusalem to provide maternity care and treat trachoma, a dreaded eye disease rampant in the Middle East.[2]

In 1918, Hadassah established the American Zionist Medical Unit (AZMU), manned by 45 medical health professionals. The AZMU helped to establish six hospitals in Palestine which were then turned over to municipal authorities. That year, Hadassah also founded a nursing school to train local personnel and create a cadre of nurses.[2]

In 1919, Hadassah organized the first School Hygiene Department in Palestine to give routine health examinations to Jerusalem school children. During the Arab riots of 1920, Hadassah nurses cared for the wounded on both sides. Henrietta Szold moved to Jerusalem that year to develop community health and preventive care programs.[2]

In 1921, a Hadassah nurse, Bertha Landsman, set up the first Tipat Halav perinatal care center in Jerusalem, and Hadassah opened a hospital in Tel Aviv. The following year, it established a hospital in Haifa.[2] In 1926, Hadassah established the first tuberculosis treatment center in Safed. In 1929, Hadassah opened the Nathan and Lina Straus Health Center in Jerusalem. In the 1930s, planning began for a new hospital to replace the Rothschild hospital founded in 1888 on Street of the Prophets, Jerusalem. Rose L. Halprin, Hadassah's sixth national president, moved to Jerusalem to serve as liaison between the American office and Hadassah in Palestine. The Rothschild-Hadassah University Hospital, the first teaching hospital and medical center in Palestine, opened on May 9, 1939.[2]

The British Royal Commission, known as the Peel Commission, praised the work of Hadassah in its 1937 report:

The Hadassah Medical Organization has developed a widespread system of clinics in Jewish centres and hospitals in the principal towns...Though naturally the Jewish population benefited most, the Hadassah medical services were available to all the communities in Palestine and many of the poorer classes amongst the Arabs received much assistance from the work of the organization. This disinterested philanthropy of Hadassah deserves recognition: it was a real step towards the promotion of good feeling between the two races; but unhappily the effect of its work was impaired by other influences.[3]

Hadassah founded the Hebrew University of Jerusalem-Hadassah Medical School, the Henrietta Szold Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Nursing, and Hadassah College Jerusalem. Hadassah supports The Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO), consisting of two hospital complexes at Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus in Jerusalem.[1]

Hadassah Hospital[edit]

Hadassah Ein Karem

During the Arab siege of 1948, the hospital and the adjacent Hebrew University held out against repeated attacks. On April 13, 1948, the Hadassah medical convoy massacre took place:[4] The dead included Haim Yasky, the Director General of the Hadassah Medical Organization. The hospital was evacuated shortly thereafter.

The ceasefire of 1949 left Hadassah Hospital and the university enclave cut off from the Israeli sector of the city. A new hospital was built in Ein Kerem (Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital) on the west side of the city, and opened its doors in 1960. The original hospital was retaken in the Six Day War and was reopened in 1975, serving the Arabs of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.[citation needed]

In 2005, the two Jerusalem hospitals of the Hadassah Medical Organization were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, citing areas in which they promoted peace:[5]

  • Maintaining equal treatment for all regardless of religion, ethnicity and nationality
  • Setting an example of cooperation and coexistence by maintaining a mixed staff of people of all faiths
  • Initiatives to create bridges for peace, even during periods of active conflict between Israel and one or more of its neighbors

Hadassah has announced plans to establish Israel's first military medical school, scheduled to open in October 2009 as part of the Hebrew University School of Medicine.[1]

Other efforts[edit]

Hadassah College of Technology, Jerusalem

In 1934, Hadassah took over the Youth Aliyah[6] program, which rescued tens of thousands of children from the Holocaust and subsequently helped rescue Jewish youth around the world and integrate them into Israeli society.

In 1967, Hadassah took over management of Young Judaea, a Zionist youth movement, and merged it with Junior Hadassah under the Young Judaea name.

Hadassah runs the WUJS Arad Institute, in Arad, which brings foreign students to Israel.

Hadassah is a major supporter and partner of the Jewish National Fund, which plants trees and implements other land reclamation programs in Israel.

Hadassah advocates for progressive issues of importance to women and to the American Jewish community, including First Amendment issues, separation of church and state, support for Israel, and other causes.[citation needed]

International programs[edit]

Established in 1984 by National President Bernice Tannenbaum, Hadassah International is a network of volunteers, including men and women of many faiths and nationalities. Its mission is to:

  • Enhance the image of Israel through the work of the Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO).
  • Provide support for HMO so that it remains an academic center of excellence for healing, teaching, and research.
  • Serve as a bridge to nations through medicine.

Hadassah International does work on every continent save Antarctica. In 1988, at the invitation of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), HMO medical staff members helped to plan, construct and open a hospital in Kinshasa, Zaire.[citation needed] In 1996, Hadassah purchased 100 tons of medical supplies for Bosnia.[citation needed] In Kenya, Haddassah surgeons cured blindness in hundreds of people in a two-week program.[citation needed]

Young Hadassah International is Hadassah International's branch for 18- to 35-year-olds, active in Germany, Australia, Mexico and the United Kingdom, among others.[citation needed]

Hadassah Magazine[edit]

Hadassah Magazine is published out of Hadassah, WZOA's headquarters in Manhattan.[7] In 1993, it was nominated for a National Magazine Award.

Madoff scandal[edit]

Hadassah invested some $40 million with Bernard Madoff Securities, beginning in 1988 with a $7 million gift from a French donor and adding $33 million over the following eight years. The investment initially proved quite profitable: through April 2007, Hadassah withdrew a total of $137 million.[8]

Hadassah's balance of $90 million evaporated in December 2008, when the fund was revealed as a Ponzi scheme.[9] Moreover, because Hadassah had profited from Madoff's scheme, it was targeted for "clawback" efforts by the trustee representing Madoff victims who lost money.[10] After several months of negotiations, Hadassah agreed to contribute $45 million to a fund for Madoff's victims.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Building towers in the sky", Haaretz
  2. ^ a b c d e Hadassah Hospital History Retrieved December 20, 2009
  3. ^ Peel Commission report, July 1937, chapter 12, page 312 (paragraph 5)
  4. ^ Hadassah Convoy Massacre
  5. ^ Local hospitals up for Nobel Prize
  6. ^ Aliyat Hanoar – definition – Zionism and Israel
  7. ^ Hadassah magazine
  8. ^ "Two Dozen Nonprofits Face Lawsuits Over Madoff Fraud". The Chronicle of Philanthropy. January 10, 2011. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Giant Wall St. Fraud Leaves Charities Reeling". The New York Times. December 16, 2008. Retrieved December 20, 2008. 
  10. ^ Van Voris, Bob (December 13, 2010). "Madoff Firm Trustee Seeks $50 Billion as Clawback Window Closes". Bloomberg. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 
  11. ^ Popper, Nathaniel; Pfeifer, Stuart (December 18, 2010). "$7.2-billion settlement raises hopes for Madoff victims". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 

External links[edit]