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1912: Zachor! Remember!

1912: Zachor! Remember!

by Leah S. Reicin, Jewish/Zionist Education Chair

Jews place great importance on memory. Zachor, remember! A Centennial is an opportunity to Zachor, to remember, and to walk down memory lane. When the first Hadassah meeting took place in New York City at Temple Emanu-El, what other great events were shaping Zionist history?

In 1912, Tel Aviv was three years old and there was an air of excitement and hope as people began building modern houses and establishing new neighborhoods. Built on clean white sand dunes, it was the first Jewish city established in almost 2000 years. Tel Aviv would be the antithesis of the shtetl or the ghetto.

In 1912 The Herzliah Gymnasium, Tel Aviv's first Hebrew high school offered the first physical education enrichment course. In 1912, a fifteen year old Jewish youth, spurred by the thrill of the Olympics, formulated the concept of a Maccabia to be held in Eretz Yisrael.

In 1912 Haifa, the Technion, a university dedicated to science was founded. During this period, a battle raged over Technion's teaching language. Should the institution teach in German, the linga franca of the scientific world, or in Hebrew, the language of the Jewish people? This war dubbed the "War of the Languages" finished with the victory of the Hebrew language. Hebrew's victory shaped the national identity of the Zionist settlement and was one of the milestones in the process of creating a new Hebrew culture.

In 1912 Zionist Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, who was at that time Chief Rabbi of Jaffa, and later rose to become Chief Rabbi of the yishuv, wrote a treatise in which he stated, "all religious rage, all intolerance for moral failings, is rooted in anger. While righteous indignation stems from sincere and pure intentions, the highest goals of holiness will only be achieved through calm spirits and mutual respect."

In 1912 Joseph Klausner, the Jewish historian visited Jerusalem. (His story is told in Amos Oz's autobiography, "A Tale of Love and Darkness") Eliezer BenYehuda, the revivalist of modern Hebrew was already strengthening Hebrew as the country's spoken language, even though a large percentage of the population was still speaking Yiddish. Jewish intellectuals were just beginning to see Jerusalem as a city with a future not just a past. Jerusalem could not boast of pristine new buildings or newly paved streets as did Tel Aviv. It had none of the sophistication of Haifa and its Technion. It was a primitive backwater city where disease, filth, malnutrition reigned. Yet to Jews the world over, Jerusalem was our eternal city. Jerusalem D.C. -Jerusalem, David's City.

Hadassah's founding in 1912 changed Israel and Jerusalem's history. When our two nurses stepped onto the landscape of Jerusalem and introduced modern medicine, they paved the way for other institutions and cultural organizations to view the city as a potential for Jewish growth and renaissance. Jerusalem, where 2000 years ago Titus of Rome blustered to the world "Judaea capta," (the Jewish people are finished), woke up and was reinvigorated. Today Jerusalem is no longer the little sleepy town. It boasts of a great university, a world class tertiary hospital, internationally acclaimed museums, etc.

Judaism has no particular celebration for a Centennial, a hundred year anniversary. In the Tanach (Hebrew Bible) it is the Jubilee year, the 50th which offers opportunities for festivities. Yet on this 100th year, in honor of Hadassah's Centennial we read from our sacred text and affirm, blast the trumpet and declare throughout the land when we come together October 2012: It shall be a Centennial year for you as we return to our ancestral home, the State of Israel, to celebrate, to give thanks and to remember with Hadassah!!

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