Henrietta Szold & Hadassah

By Mel Wacks

Henrietta Szold was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1860, a little more than a year after her parents arrived from Hungary. Her father, a prominent rabbi, gave Henrietta the attention and education usually reserved for an eldest son. She learned German, English, French and Hebrew. Her high school academic record has never been surpassed. In 1899, she took on the lion's share of producing the first American Jewish Year Book, for which Szold was the sole editor from 1904 to 1908.

Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener      Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener

Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener, issued by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame in 1976, portrays her early career as a writer and editor, and later as head of Youth Aliyah.

In 1909, Ms. Szold first visited Palestine. During her tour she was impressed both by the beauty of the land and the misery and disease among the people. And so, with the support of Rabbi Judah L. Magnes, she formed Hadassah in 1912. Within a year, the fledgling organization had two American nurses in Jerusalem. Today, Hadassah's great hospitals in Jerusalem are world famous, treating over 25,000 patients and handling over 1.5 million medical tests annually ... Jews and Arabs alike. The Henrietta Szold-Hadassah School of Nursing has trained over 1,500 nurses, and the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School has graduated more than 1,300 doctors.

On June 19, 1914 Hadassah held the first national convention in Rochester, New York where it officially adopted the name Hadassah and its purpose "…to promote Jewish institutions and enterprises in Palestine and to foster Zionist ideals in America." Hadassah had already chosen a motto, suggested by Israel Friedlander, from Jer. 8:19-23, Aruchat Bat Ami, translated as "The Healing of the Daughter of My People," and a seal, designed by Victor Brenner (who had designed the Lincoln Cent 5 years earlier), of myrtle branches around a Jewish star.

Hadassah seal

Hadassah seal, designed by Victor David Brenner, on small undated medal.

Picture source: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Israel-Private-Medal-Bronze-Hadassah-Hospital-1975-/320487055668

In 1933, at the age of 73, Szold embarked on a major new project ... rescuing Jewish children from the oncoming Holocaust. Despite obstacles in dealing with the British Mandate government in Palestine, by 1948 her Youth Aliyah program brought 30,000 children from troubled Europe to Palestine. Even at the age of 81, Henrietta Szold accepted a new challenge ... planning the Fund for Child and Youth Care.

Today, Hadassah's third of a million members and 1,350 chapters around the world make it one of the largest philanthropic organizations and a living tribute to the hard work and vision of its founder, Henrietta Szold.

Numismatic commemoratives honoring Henrietta Szold and Hadassah have been issued over the years by Israel. First was a 1960 (5721) 1 lira Chanukah coin, issued on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Henrietta Szold. The obverse features the Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem; the reverse pictures a shepherdess holding a newborn lamb, symbolizing the rescue of child survivors of the Holocaust by the Youth Aliyah program.

Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener      Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener

The reverse design features the name of Henrietta Szold in Hebrew; below is the year of her birth and the year of the issue and "Haddassah - Youth Aliyah" in Hebrew. Obverse designs by Rothschild  and Lippman, reverse by Jacob Zim .


An Israel State Medal was also issued in 1960, commemorating the dedication of the new Hadassah Medical Centre.  About a month before the Declaration of Independence on the 13th April, 1 948, a convoy making its way to Mount Scopus was attacked as it crossed the Sheik Jerach quarters in East Jerusalem and 78 people in the convoy were brutally murdered. It became obvious that the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus was not safe and the medical staff decided to abandon it and establish themselves in rented quarters in the western part of the city. Hadassah immediately mounted a fund raising effort to establish a new medical centre at Ein Kerem. In August 1960, the new, spacious and well equipped medical centre on a hill overlooking Beit Hakerem, was inaugurated in western Jerusalem.

Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener      Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener

State medals, designed by Miriam Karoli, were issued by the Israel Government Coins and Medals Corporation in bronze, tombac and silver.

Another State Medal was issued in 1975, commemorating a new Hadassah hospital building on Mount Scopus. The Hadassah University Hospital on Mount Scopus was dedicated in 1939 and rapidly acquired a reputation for being the best equipped in the Middle East. With the increasing attacks on the Jewish community, intending to frustrate the establishment of a Jewish State, access to Mount Scopus became more and more dangerous. On May 8, 1948, it became necessary to evacuate the last of the medical staff from Mount Scopus. Soldiers of "Haganah" were left behind to maintain Jewish sovereignty and to guard the installation. Jerusalem was reunited on June 8, 1967, after the Six Day War. Hadassah leaders raised their ensign on Mount Scopus and declared: “This is the banner of a war against ignorance, disease - the banner of Peace. On raising it we hereby vow - this hospital shall come back to life again.”

Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener      Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener

SThe obverse features the new hospital building on Mount Scopus. In the center above the entrance, the three domes memorialize the old building. The inscription reads: "Greater the latter glory than the former" (Hagai 2:9) in Hebrew and English. Medals were issued in bronze and silver. Designed by the Shamir Brothers.

The Hadassah Convention held in Jerusalem in 1978 inspired a 1 9/16” Israel State Medal that was presented to all participants by the City of Jerusalem. The design features the sculpture "Tree of Life" by Jacques Lipshitz which was erected on Mt. Scopus in the same year.

Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener      Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener
Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener

Lipchitz's last work, The Tree of Life, a six-meter-high bronze, was unveiled posthumously on Sept. 21, 1978, outside the Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus. The sculpture consists of the interwoven formalized expressionist figures of Noah, Abraham and Isaac at the Akedah, with the angel restraining the patriarch Moses in front of the Burning Bush, and rising from it a phoenix supporting the Two Tablets. Lipchitz referred to it as "the dynamics of our religion."

Israel State Medals marked the jubilee (50th anniversary) of Youth Aliyah in 1983/4. Youth Aliyah activities began in 1933 in Germany, when Recha Freier devoted herself to saving Jewish children from the hands of the Nazis. In 1934, the first group of children was welcomed to Israel by Henrietta Szold and sent to Kibbutz Ein Harod. Since then, over 200,000 children from all over the world have received their education in Youth Aliyah institutions. Today,18,000 children study in kibbutzim, youth villages, boarding schools and centers for youth - among these, some 2,000 new immigrants, and youngsters are spending a year of their high school studies in Israel.
Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener      Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener

The medal’s obverse features the emblem of the Jubilee, combined with Youth Aliyah's regular logo--a sawed off tree-trunk from which a new branch sprouts, symbolizing renewed growth. On the reverse, a boy and a girl are reading a book; the verse: "Start a child on the right road" (Proverbs 22) appears in Hebrew and English. Designed by Izzy Kahana.

The Diamond Jubilee of Hadassah, in 1987, inspired yet another Israel State Medal. According to www.israelmint.com, “For 75 years, Hadassah The Women's Zionist Organization of America, has brought to Israel the first and best in modem medicine, youth rescue, career education and land development. These have been invaluable to Israel's rebirth and survival.”

Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener      Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener

The medal’s reverse features the Hadassah emblem and official motto: "the healing of the daughter of my people" (Jeremiah 8.22) in Hebrew and English.

In addition to a coin and official State Medals, Israel honored Henrietta Szold on its paper money in 1973.

Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener

In spite of the “1973” date on this 5 lirot note, these were issued beginning on March 11, 1976, and ceased to be legal tender on March 31, 1984. Designed by Paul Kor and printed by Johan Enschedé en Zonen in Haarlem, Netherlands.

As far as the author knows, no numismatic items have been issued by Israel to commemorate Hadassahs 100th Anniversary, celebrated by a convention in Jerusalem. However Israel did issue stamps in honor of the occasion. Hadassah members and the general public in Israel were invited to submit design ideas. The winning design came from Israeli artist Zvika Roitman, who has created several previous Israeli stamps. The new stamp features a Magen David-shaped complex of religious, cultural, and medical images — all elements related to Hadassah’s support of medicine, education, and Zionism. “The challenge was putting this together in a stamp that was going to be small,” said Roitman.

Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener      

Below the stamp itself is a black-and-white tab—a photo of the 1918 American Zionist Medical Unit that Hadassah dispatched to Eretz Israel.

There are undoubtedly great numbers of Hadassah tsatskes produced over the last 100 years, and I will present two examples that I find particularly interesting.

The first appeared in a Goldberg auction, described as “Filigreed silver pin has a design made up of a large Star of David with Hebrew inscription ‘For your continued support of Hadassah,’ surrounded by Star of David shaped flowers, and the addition of ‘VVV’ below.” It looks like it may have been produced in the 1940s. I would love to know if any reader knows more about this piece, in particular what “VVV” signifies.

Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener

Photo courtesy of Goldberg Auctions.

In 1972, a privately issued looped medal was produced with “Hadassah” in Hebrew plus the English inscription “50 YEARS OF PROGRESS.”

Henrietta Szold medal by Gerta Ries Wiener

Photo courtesy of Goldberg Auctions.

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