The authoritative biography of Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah, introduces a new generation to a remarkable leader who fought for women’s rights and the poor.
Born in Baltimore in 1860, Henrietta Szold was driven from a young age by the mission captured in the concept of tikkun olam, “repair of the world.” Herself the child of immigrants, she established a night school, open to all faiths, to teach English to Russian Jews in her hometown. She became the first woman to study at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and was the first editor for the Jewish Publication Society. In 1912 she founded Hadassah, the international women’s organization dedicated to humanitarian work and community building. A passionate Zionist, Szold was troubled by the Jewish–Arab conflict in Palestine, to which she sought a peaceful and equitable solution for all.
Noted Israeli historian Dvora Hacohen captures the dramatic life of this remarkable woman. Long before anyone had heard of intersectionality, Szold maintained that her many political commitments were inseparable. She fought relentlessly for women’s place in Judaism and for health and educational networks in Mandate Palestine. As a global citizen, she championed American pacifism. Hacohen also offers a penetrating look into Szold’s personal world, revealing for the first time the psychogenic blindness that afflicted her as the result of a harrowing breakup with a famous Talmudic scholar.
Based on letters and personal diaries, many previously unpublished, as well as thousands of archival documents scattered across three continents, To Repair a Broken World provides a wide-ranging portrait of a woman who devoted herself to helping the disadvantaged and building a future free of need.
[A] commanding account of Henrietta Szold…Renders [Szold] a full-bodied personality rather than a figurehead.
Hacohen’s biography teaches Americans about Szold’s essential contributions to the Yishuv beyond her work with Hadassah…This inspirational and sweeping story of Henrietta Szold will appeal to interested lay readers as well as scholars.
A fascinating, wide-ranging biography of Henrietta Szold…The author deserves much praise for undertaking the task of solving the hard riddle of such an accomplished, diverse, and complex figure during so long and significant a period of Jewish history. In addition, Hacohen’s fascinating narrative style makes this a book of interest not only for historians but for much larger audiences as well.
Hacohen beautifully captures the arc of Henrietta Szold’s life in a book that rests on deep scholarship and is exceedingly well written. This compelling work will stand as the definitive biography of one of the most important figures in modern Jewish history.
The life and work of Henrietta Szold remain both historically significant and deeply inspiring. This first-ever scholarly biography rests upon a mountain of research, filling in many missing details concerning Szold’s life in the United States and providing an unprecedented account of her remarkable and still underappreciated work in the Land of Israel. Hacohen’s invaluable book introduces a new generation to one of American Jewry’s greatest twentieth-century women.
Henrietta Szold deserves to be more widely known for her enormous achievements in and impact on American Jewish intellectual life, Jewish women’s empowerment, and the history of modern Zionism. We are indebted to Hacohen for her comprehensive and gripping biography that brings together a wealth of information never before found in one volume about an extraordinary woman who has so deservedly achieved iconic status.
Hacohen’s deeply researched and powerfully empathic biography of Henrietta Szold is a landmark study of an extraordinary leader who responded to some of the greatest challenges confronting Jews in America and pre-state Israel in the first half of the twentieth century. This highly readable book will endure as a classic in the canon of works on modern Jewish history.
- 2022, Winner of the National Jewish Book Awards
- 400 pages
- 1-3/8 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
- Foreword by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
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