views updated May 08 2018


Jewish women's philanthropic organization.

The largest Jewish women's organization in the United States, Hadassah was founded by Henrietta Szold and fifteen other women on 24 February 1912. Its stated purpose was to foster Zionist ideals through education in America and to begin public-health and nursing training in Palestine. In Hebrew, the word hadassah means myrtle, a hardy plant used to bind and enrich the soil.

In 1913, Hadassah sent two nurses to Jerusalem to set up a maternity and eye clinic. This was the beginning of its continuing involvement in the medical care of the people of Palestine. In 1939, the RothschildHadassah University Hospital, the first teaching hospital in Palestine, opened atop Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. During the ArabIsrael War of 1948, Mount Scopus was designated a demilitarized zone. The hospital was evacuated, and a new center was built in Jewish Jerusalem. After the ArabIsrael War of 1967, the Mount Scopus center reverted to Jewish control.

Hadassah has more than 1,500 chapters, with over 385,000 members and 22,000 associates (male members). Its activities support the Hadassah medical center in Jerusalem and other philanthropic activities in Israel.

See also arabisrael war (1948); arabisrael war (1967); szold, henrietta.


Baum, Charlotte; Hyman, Paula; and Michel, Sonya. The Jewish Woman in America. New York: Dial, 1976.

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views updated May 21 2018

Hadassah. The women's Zionist organization of America. According to its constitution, Hadassah is dedicated to ‘the ideals of Judaism, Zionism, American democracy, healing, teaching and medical research’. It was founded in the USA early in the 20th cent.