Beth Torah to host Hadassah Shabbat Friday, March 11
By Deb Silverthorn
Queen Esther set the stage for the life of Henrietta Szold, who modeled much of her efforts to help and save Jews through her founding and work with Hadassah. Szold will be celebrated along with Queen Esther and the holiday of Purim as the Dallas Chapter of Hadassah recognizes its 110 years.
“We’re excited to welcome our members back in person and to introduce all of the organization’s goodness to new friends, hoping they will join us in this important work,” said Dallas Hadassah Chapter Fundraising Vice-President Jo Reingold, who received a lifetime membership to the organization from her father when she graduated from college. “The original Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus is being renovated, medical research and treatments are ongoing and the children of the Youth Villages need our funding.”
The Dallas chapter’s celebration will benefit the Mount Scopus and Ein Kerem hospitals in the Hadassah Medical Organization, as well as Hadassah’s Youth Aliyah villages at Meir Shfeyah and Neurim. Over 300,000 students have graduated from Youth Aliyah villages, where young immigrants and at-risk native Israelis are provided with shelter, food, counseling, education and other supportive services.
A biblical mentor of social justice of her day, Queen Esther (Esther translates to Hadassah in Hebrew) was the inspiration for Szold’s founding of the namesake organization in 1912. A century-plus later, Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, is the United States’ largest Jewish women’s organization with more than 300,000 members and supporters and a professional staff of 200.
“I love Israel with every fiber of my being and it is an honor to represent this organization that at its core heals so many,” said Hadassah CEO Naomi Adler, who will be making her first in-person appearance since taking her post last September. She will also speak at Kabbalat Shabbat services, Hadassah Shabbat, at Congregation Beth Torah on Friday, March 11.
A Dallas native, and the daughter of Carol and Samuel Adler — Samuel was a music director at Temple Emanu-El — Naomi Adler moved to Ohio with her family when she was an infant, but still considers Dallas “home.” Naomi is a third-generation Hadassah devotee; her grandmother, aunts and cousins helped form her legacy.
“I’m with Hadassah’s National President Rhoda Smolow meeting with researchers, doctors, medical and political leaders and those who make our partnership happen,” said Adler, last week being interviewed while participating in the 2022 Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’ mission to Israel.
Joining Adler in Dallas will be Julie Snyder Levine, Hadassah’s regional director of Major Gifts (Northeast); Esther Friedman, area vice president, who is from Houston; and Sandra Smith, regional president. The program will also feature authors Dallas resident Nancy Churnin and Shreveport resident Randy Grigsby.
Churnin will share her children’s book, “A Queen to the Rescue, The Story of Henrietta Szold, Founder of Hadassah.” Published in 2021, it recently received the 2022 Sydney Taylor Notable Picture Book Award, presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries for outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.
“The women of Hadassah are keeping Henrietta’s flame going so that she, and her work, will never be forgotten,” said Churnin, who was introduced to Hadassah and gifted a life membership to the organization by her sister Sharon Churnin Nash. “My mother Flora, who was also a teacher, is very Henrietta-like — always a problem-solver, caring and sharing the power of teaching. That’s also how Henrietta lived.
“Henrietta was devoted to children and by supporting the Youth Aliyah villages, we support her dream,” said Churnin. “Each of my 10 books for young readers is about someone who inspires and makes the world better. Henrietta indeed inspired in her lifetime, and for always. I hope that my story will help a new generation get to know her and want to be like her.”
In 2014, Grigsby had a dream about the “Tehran Children,” whom he’d only then learned of on a trip to Israel; they were a group of Polish Jewish children, mainly orphans, who escaped the Nazi occupation of Poland. Ultimately sent to the Atlit Detention Center outside of Haifa, the children — including Josef Rosenbaum, whom Grigsby located and befriended — were interviewed by Henrietta Szold, and so began the Youth Aliyah villages. Rosenbaum’s story and others are told in Grigsby’s first book, “A Train to Palestine: The Tehran Children, Anders’ Army and their Escape from Stalin’s Siberia,” which was published in 2019.
Inspired by Szold, Grigsby follows his debut with his soon-to-be published “This Labyrinth of Darkness and Light,” drawing on Szold’s letters and diary entries, research and historical sources.
“I believe Henrietta Szold, whom I only ‘met’ a few years ago, is the most interesting person I’ve ever heard of,” Grisby said. “Rather than a ‘cradle-to-grave’ biography, I wanted to tell the story of the children she helped. There couldn’t be — there isn’t — a better role model.”
All guests must sign a COVID-19 waiver, be vaccinated and wear masks while inside Congregation Beth Torah. For additional details and to register, call 214-691-1948 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.