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Henrietta Szold - Health Pioneer (Part 2)

The Founder’s Role in Hadassah’s Medical Program
Tamar de Sola Pool and Minnie W. Halpern

At the end of its first year, Hadassah counted 156 members and 37 associate members.

On January 18, 1913, with the generous support and personal par¬ticipation of Nathan and Lina Straus, those Daughters of Zion dis¬patched the first two Hadassah nurses "ready at such short notice [two weeks] to leave home and friends and comfort for difficult pioneer work under strange conditions."

They established the first Child Welfare Center in Jerusalem. Un¬der the medical direction of Dr. Helena Kagan, pediatrician, and Dr. Albert Ticho, ophthalmologist, the humble cottage by the side of the road lead¬ing from the poor district of Tzrifim - shelters made of flattened kero¬sene tins - to the heights of Scopus, the "pioneer work" was initi¬ated humbly but with standards held high. (A fig tree was planted in the courtyard of the little clinic, even as Rabbi Benjamin Szold had done in Baltimore in the garden in Lombard Street. In 1936, Hadassah chapters planted 1500 trees in honor of Miss Szold's 75th birthday along the proposed "Henrietta Szold Boulevard" leading to Mt. Scopus. There the gardens of the Rothschild Hadassah University Hospital were a radiance of color and beauty. The landscaping of the Medical Center at Ein Kerem aims to keep promise with the matchless splendor of the historic site.)

One of the first two nurses, Rose Kaplan, died during World War I, ministering to the Palestinian War Refugee camps in Alexandria. Rachel Landy lived to serve the U.S. Army in World War II and later became Chief Nurse in our Armed Forces.
Before the war's end, in the summer of 1918 as part of a great medical unit, a Nurses' School was established in Jerusalem, "training young women for one of the most important professions" in an immi¬grant country. "They are giving an opportunity to others," Miss Szold pointed out, "to exercise their professions as physicians, druggists, chemists, bacteriologists, pathologists, nurses, midwives, housekeep¬ers, cooks, seamstresses, clerks, stenographers, accountants, to the number of four hundred. They are working according to a definite plan towards a definite end. There is no talk - there is action, action, ac¬tion. They have, it seems to me, grasped the opportunity offered by the Balfour Declaration and the San Remo decision, and aimed at by the Basle Platform. They are normalizing conditions. They are, in one department at least, making a contribution towards the building up of the land."

Time came for the first commencement in 1921. Miss Szold sent Hadassah a Boswellian report of the momentous event. Two announce¬ments, she writes, "stood out by reason of their importance ... the es¬tablishment of scholarships by Hadassah in America, to enable two of the members of the first class to take a post-graduate course in the United States. The Fund now amounts to $6,700 ... The other ... the Text Book Fund for the heroic effort to provide such instruction for the first time, in Hebrew."

Her address to the students was brimming over with emotion. This woman who had learned self-containment the hard way, whose feelings all too often were too deep for words, spoke with fire. She made no ref¬erence to the fact that all matters concerning the development of the Nurses School were her special responsibility. What she sought was to express the communion between the "thousands" of Hadassah women in America whose spokesman she was. "During all the days of preparation for this evening's exercises my thoughts, my emotions, my very steps hither and thither were attuned
to one constant rhythm. The pregnant phrase of our liturgical poet who celebrates the Sabbath, kept running through my mind: 'In execution the last, in thought the first.' For this day you have waited three years, and across the ocean there are thousands of women who have waited for it nearly ten years. When they sent two pioneer nurses over here, to inaugurate District Visiting Nursing, they thought of this evening. When the summons came to enlarge the number of nurses from two to twenty, they rejoiced for the sake of this evening. When the summons required the addition of physicians to nurses, they thought that this circumstance would hasten the coming of this evening. When they had to wait for two years, until the passions of war permitted their expedition to enter the land, they consoled themselves with the thought that the complete preparation gave greater hope for the perfection of this evening ... When the electric spark, three years ago today, flashed the news to America that the Rothschild Hospital had been reopened in Jerusalem under the auspices of the American Zionist Medical Unit, they felt that this evening was already a reality. Though this evening in a sense is 'the last in execution,' it has always been 'the first in thought.' And tonight these thousands of women are thinking of you, my dear girls, with rejoicing in their hearts. They are full of envy of me that I am privileged to speak to you, face to face, within the boundaries of the land of hope, within the confines of the Holy City. I can almost hear their voices, thrilled with gratitude, say, as I now say with fervor, 'Praised be God who has kept us alive and maintained us and permitted us to reach this day.'"

It is not easy to pass on to other chapters of Hadassah's work without pausing at some of the highlights of the Nursing School. It adopted the name of The Henrietta Szold-Hadassah School of Nursing and became a special project for Junior Hadassah in cooperation with the seniors. In 1936, when the School celebrated its eighteenth anni¬versary, the title of Nurse, Honoris Causa, was conferred upon Miss Szold. Eighteen in Hebrew folk numerology symbolizes life. The School felt sure of its future because of the foundations upon which it was built. One of its first graduates was later its principal. One of its early staff members, Shulamith Cantor, after directing the School toward new heights, became Chief Nurse of the Israel Army and later of the Minis¬try of Health in Israel.

The nursing department of the Red Cross Societies used the cur¬riculum of the School as a model for the Red Cross in other parts of the world, especially in underprivileged countries. The nurses trained in that School went to heal body and spirit in the sorrowful human pens on the island of Cyprus. They helped establish other nursing schools in Israel. They organized an Alumnae Association, they extended the scope of their work into the areas of social service, occupational ther¬apy and mental health. More than 800 graduates of the Henrietta Szold Nurses School have kept faith with the dream of the founder. Most re¬cently, in this centennial year, its circle of human service made a complete swing. At the last graduation exercises, two Liberian stu¬dents, the first foreign nurses who had come to Hadassah for special¬ized post-graduate training, received their certification for ophthalmological work. What Hadassah's first two nurses did in Jerusalem more than forty years ago, these two nurses will now do in their African home¬land. As they speed homeward on their mission of health, the words of Henrietta Szold at the first graduation come back like a living echo: "Last in execution - first in thought."

Date: 12/22/2010 12:00:00 AM

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