Home > Hadassah National News

Search Hadassah News

Search Hadassah News, hMedicine and hCoast-to-Coast archives:   

Joyful Mother Of Children: Part 2

Youth Aliyah Under Henrietta Szold
By Marian G. Greenberg


Youth Immigration Begins

With the Government's first grant of 350 youth certificates on Novem¬ber 22, 1933, Youth Aliyah received its Magna Carta. The arrival of the first organized group in 1934 marks its Pilgrim Landing. Imme¬diately after welcoming the pioneers, Henrietta Szold described their settling-in.

On Monday, February 19, 1934 on the Steamship Martha Washington the first group of boys and girls organized for settlement in Palestine by the Juedische Jugendhilfe arrived at the recently opened port of Haifa. Hanoch Reinhold, their leader, accompanied; them. The group was des¬tined for Ein Harod.

Everything from quarantine to customs and from customs to the first meal on Palestinian soil moved flawlessly - except the weather. The vessel came in under a heavily shrouded sky, driven by a gale with the rain pelting down steadily. Good humor prevailed nevertheless.

The luggage heaped up on the dock was a formidable pile. Among the suitcases of every conceivable shape, size, and material, there stuck up flagpoles, cellos, and mandolins and, first and foremost, bicycles. Some of the boys and girls had chunky rucksacks strapped to their backs.
On their arrival at Ein Harod the travelers were hurried into the dining room where they sang out lustily one Hebrew song after another, their hosts joining in with a will. After the meal came the inevitable Horah, which at once integrated the new arrivals into the company of the old residents.

The ceremony of reception established for the Ein Harod group became a tradition. During 1934 other groups were welcomed with song and laughter in Ahavah and Ben Shemen; at the Girls Training Farm near Talpioth; at the religious Kibbutz Rodges and the Bet Zeirot Mizrachi (Domestic Science School) in Jerusalem, and at Tel Josef.

In all places the general program has a two-fold basis, work and study ¬ - four hours of labor in the field and workshop and four hours of study (the curriculum included Hebrew, Bible, history, and science). . . . The aim is to inure young Jews of urban tradition and centuries-long removal from the plough and the saw to the labor which lies at the foundation of the social structure.

General Problems

Relatively speaking, these were the halcyon days of Youth Aliyah. In Germany parents could still pay half of the total transportation and settlement costs and the general public, there and abroad, the rest. In Palestine the chief concerns were practical: more certificates, more places, more housing, more teachers, and more funds.

The first arrivals posed few grave psychological problems of adjust¬ment and development. They had been carefully selected and trained in preparation camps at home. Those designated for Eretz Israel established an immediate rapport with their hosts on the basis of shared Zionist motivations and goals. The movement was able to place greater emphasis upon fulfillment in Palestine than on flight from peril. Since the formative period was not pressured by panic, its founders built soundly and well. Youth Aliyah proved firm and flexible enough to withstand the Juggernaut which nearly crushed the free world and which all but stamped out European Jewry. It never stopped saving children.

Idyllic as the first few years may seem in retrospect, they were difficult as are all beginnings. From 1936 to 1948 the British Govern¬ment issued or withheld certificates, modified regulations and categories, and alternated between subservience to Arab violence and sympathy for Hitler's victims.

Internally, the dilemmas were even more baffling. Paramount in the overall settlement problem was the lack of places for religious youth. Placement in kibbutz (cooperative settlement) versus moshav (small¬holders' farms) had to be decided. Immigrant parents pressed for the admission of younger children who had accompanied them to the country; underprivileged Palestinian-born youth, whose legitimate claims Miss Szold had championed from the first, won an increasing number of advocates. While the demand for accelerated intake mounted. the inadequate provision for graduates became manifest. Seminars and conferences for teachers (madrichim) were required to professionalize a devoted but, as yet, only partially trained staff.

Despite the fluctuations of the political seismograph (each suspen¬sion of certificates left fund-raising drives dangling), the funds had to be kept rolling. Fortunately, the Jewish wor1d adopted the philosophy and the work-patterns of Miss Szold who, on the threshold of World War II, declared:

I determined long ago to go ahead, no matter what messes the politicians brew. This is what I did during the disturbances; that is what I am doing now.

By objective evaluation of the movement's trials and triumphs, Miss Szold laid the groundwork for continued self-appraisal and growth. Youth Aliyah under the stimulus of Israel's statehood and under the pressure of free immigration might have been stampeded into a mechani¬cal mass movement. It might have taken refuge in vain repetitions of old slogans and stereotyped attitudes.

The movement did none of these things. Led by Miss Szold's dis¬ciples and former charges, captained since 1948 by its trail blazing director, Moshe Kol, Youth Aliyah has proven a faithful and flexible instrument for the education and integration of a multitude. Miss Szold's enduring contribution is not an excellent and unalterable pattern but a trustworthy tape for measuring its new and ever changing dimensions. Her heirs and successors are using that precious testament.

Placement for Orthodox Youth

From the start Miss Szold agonized over her inability to meet the legitimate demands of the Orthodox.

The Youth Aliyah became possible in its present form only because the kvutzoth (cooperative settlements) gave us the opportunity of maintain¬ing, educating, and adjusting young people to agricultural pursuits at a minimum expenditure of funds. Our aim must be to parallel for the Orthodox the 30 or more cooperative settlements which Labor Palestine has created in the course of time without dreaming that they would enable us to meet the emergency. Unfortunately, it was not possible to charm, as with an Aladdin's Lamp, into existence a series of institutions which the religious community failed to erect all these years.

Hence it was decided to build an Orthodox institution, similar to Ben Shemen, for the reception of 150 students (opened with 80 in 1937). Kfar Hanoar Hadati was established on land within the com¬plex of Kfar Hassidim and enhanced the quantity and quality of the Orthodox program. Hadassah was the first organization to contribute toward its construction in the amount of $15,000.

Kibbutzim, Moshavim, and Institutions

The cooperative farming villages vied with each other in welcoming the youth. They applied for loans to build housing, sanitary facilities, and schools. They provided exemplary leaders (madrichim) for the education and guidance of adolescents. And these madrichim were released from all other duties to devote themselves to the newcomers.

Since the kibbutzim could not keep pace with the steadily growing number of arrivals, Miss Szold began to negotiate with moshave ovdim (smallholders' settlements). In April 1936 the first group was assigned to Nahalal; and during that year 180 places were provided in four moshavim out of a total of 672 young people placed in all settlements.
The institutional pattern was felicitously established by two of Youth Aliyah's constituents - the Children's Village of Ben Shemen and the Ahavah Home. Ben Shemen is the lengthened shadow of its founder, Dr. Siegfried Lehmann, whose death in 1958 deprived Israel and the world of a unique educator and humanist. This, the largest children's community in the world, has prepared thousands of boys and girls for useful and creative lives - in agricultural pursuits and rural living, in arts and crafts, in cultural expression and appreciation. Above all Dr. Lehmann taught the art of living in a community which encom¬passed one's roommate, one's village, one's people, and one's Arab neighbors.

Ahavah (Love) is conducted along traditional lines and wins accept¬ance by observant, if not Orthodox, Jews. Of its founder and director. Mrs. Beate Berger, who died suddenly in May 1940, Miss Szold wrote: "As head of a child care institution she was admirable. It is the model of a home for Palestine - simple, sound, pedagogically excellent, and beautifu1." In 1939 Junior Hadassah (with the support of the senior organization) expanded its Children's Village at Meier Shfeyah for the reception of refugee youth. "We have guaranteed youth and children to Meier Shfeyah as long as Youth Aliyah exists," exulted Miss Szold.

These were the chief fore-runners of a wide variety of home-and¬-school establishments which either expanded their facilities or sprang into being. Such closed institutions could accept younger children than those in the 15-17 category. They were permitted to apply for certi¬ficates directly - a favored status which kept the youth immigration stream flowing at times when the Mandatory's certificate grants dried up or were reduced to a sickly trickle.

During the early years the increase of educational institutions was the only ready remedy for the dearth of Orthodox placement oppor¬tunities. Until more religious kibbutzim like Rodges made their appear¬ance, Youth Aliyah placed its observant wards - about one-quarter of the total - in existing institutions. With the advent of the State of Israel and mass immigration, the large number of educational and special institutions became a determining factor in youth absorption. By the middle of 1958 they sheltered 7,360 children and youth out of a total of 13,200 wards in training.

Hadassah Weekly Briefing

Read the most recent edition of the Hadassah Weekly Briefing including Jewish News from around the world and Hadassah News from the Hospital, College, Hadassah International, and more

Get it in your Inbox!

Some of our most popular
National news stories

   |  Who We Are  |  What We Do  |  Where We Do It  |  Read About It  |  Join Now  |  Donate  |
  |  Login  |  Contact Us  |  Careers  |  Terms & Conditions  |  
Copyright ©2014 Hadassah is a registered trademark of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America