SUMMONED TO JERUSALEM: The Life of Henrietta Szold by Joan Dash

SUMMONED TO JERUSALEM: The Life of Henrietta Szold

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

With an emotional life as bound as Chinese ladies' feet, Henrietta Szold made her way--like a hero--across continents. This balanced, well-integrated biography focuses on the struggles of an imperious, clerical mind against passions threatening to unbind her. Within the limitations of Victorian womanhood and a self-imposed role (into middle-age) as her father's secretary-disciple, Szold develops, inchingly, into a Zionist leader. Her life turns to Palestine only after years of editorial ""slavery"" at the Jewish Publication Society and an outrageous unrequited love affair--which Dash skillfully narrates, utilizing all of the exquisite self-deprecation of Szold's diaries. To call this mighty spinster the ""founder of Hadassah"" or ""mother of social services"" in Israel is to describe conventionally a vision which always seemed to perceive problems in the country before they arose, including the Arab-Israeli conflict and the need to integrate Western and Oriental Jews. Szold's late-blooming career culminates during World War II in a European child-rescue mission called Youth Aliyah, with upright Miss Szold holding out for abiding by British immigration rules to the very end. The freshness of Dash's narrative comes from the unremitting critical eye which she turns on Henrietta Szold, even as Szold turned it on herself; and in this it surpasses previous biographies. Thus we see Szold at a public celebration wolfing down (in most unladylike fashion for an octogenarian) a piece of cake iced with ""To Our Mother"" in front of her rival for Youth Aliyah motherhood, Recha Freier. So, too, the account of her connection with the Hadassah Medical Unit in Palestine reveals the early bare cupboard of Zionism and its subsequent intrigue and clutter. Here Miss Szold sat dead-center of the debate between European and American (i.e., socialist and capitalist-philanthropic) Zionism which raged well beyond her life. A judicious, yet vivid account of a clearly eccentric personal life and its public ramifications.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row