Hadassah: The Women's Zionist Organization

From its founding in 1912, Hadassah advocated a program of social feminism that addresses women of all backgrounds.

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Gaining Prominence

By 1921, Hadassah began its steady rise to prominence. By mid-1926, Hadassah had achieved virtual autonomy in its program. Growth registered in numbers--by 1928 membership reached a peak of over thirty-seven thousand--while activities demonstrated a commitment for practical work in Palestine infused with Zionist idealism.

Each project's specificity enabled members to identify with the individual undertakings. These included the Hadassah School of Nursing (1919), an urban recreation program (1928), a school lunch program (1923), as well as health and day care centers and a children's village.

Patterns established during the formative years were subsequently strengthened. Hadassah maintained its social feminism, progressive political commitments, and understanding of Zionism as a movement to renew Jewish practical idealism. It also remained staunchly protective of its autonomy, its focus on specific projects helping women and children, and its openness to women of all backgrounds. Its leaders continued to include an elite of educated women who drew young women into their ranks. Hadassah fostered close personal ties with the land of Israel and many early leaders spent years living in Palestine, while a significant number of Hadassah's presidents settled there.

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Deborah Dash Moore

Deborah Dash Moore is the Director of the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies and a Frederick G.L. Huetwell Professor of History at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.