Excerpt from Henrietta Szold's speech at Hadassah Covention, 1937
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DESCRIPTION: Excerpt from the speech by Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah, at Hadassah Convention, Hotel Chelsea, Atlantic City, October 27, 1937. For further information on Henrietta Szold, see Jewish Women's Archive "Women of Valor" exhibit at http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/szold TRANSCRIPT: The Arab-Jewish relation is the acid test of the Zionist movement. The result of the negotiations now in progress, as authorized by the Zionist Congress, may be the partition of our land, resulting in a sovereign Jewish State. Such a result makes the search for the road to mutual understanding between Jew and Arab doubly imperative. Such a result may or may not relieve Great Britain of an unwanted burden, the dilemma with which the Balfour Declaration and the acceptance of the Mandate over Palestine confronted it. But it leaves our problem in the Near East unresolved. It leaves the Arab question, so far as we Jews are concerned, where it was, with all its ethical implications – ethical implications which go to the heart of our Jewish being, which is the product of our origins, our fates, our ideals. Only a chosen few sit at the council table in London, Jerusalem, and Geneva. The rest of us have to hold ourselves in readiness with our minds, our hearts, and hands and substance, with our Jewish national and our human will to do what the outcome of their deliberations will demand. The power to deliberate and negotiate was put by us into their hands in the best way approved by a democratic view of political life. It is for us to prepare ourselves for action loyal to our constituted authorities. If our consciences do not proceed on lines parallel with the action outlined by our representatives, we must continue to think, think hard, what our Jewish spiritual heritage demands as well as the need of the Jewries everywhere, in Palestine and in the Diaspora (Dispersion). In the meantime, some will ask, can we, especially those of us who question the possibility of applying Zionist principles efficaciously to a reduced, miniature, divided Palestine, can we carry on? Can we continue to develop our chosen undertakings within the frame of the Palestine upbuilding work? Is it not degenerating into petty patchwork that has no relation to the large pattern? Such questions should recall the discussions that preceded the formulation of the Balfour Declaration. One of the cogent arguments in its favor was the continuity of Jewish endeavor in Palestine – not the continuity of prayer, hope, and wish, but the continuity of action for and in Palestine. What the early Zionists had accomplished on the spot, and the fact that the old Yishub (Jewish community in Palestine) held the fort-through thick and thin-these manifestations furnished the best, the effective documentation of the vitality of our historic claim in the eyes of the statesmen who created and endorsed the Declaration. And note what happened recently in our own day : What did the authors of the partition idea allot to us? Is it not those parts and practically only those parts which we have acquired through toil and devotion? The positions we have won we must maintain. We maintain only if we add. The possessions that became ours through our sweat and blood, they give us a foothold. Our achievements fortified and kept vitalized are our liens upon the future. Through them the justice of our ways must ceaselessly be made manifest, must remain our guiding principle forever.
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Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. How does this 1937 speech anticipate the problems Israel has had with its Arab residents and neighbors since 1948?

2. How does Szold incorporate democracy and Judaism into her vision for the future of Palestine?

3. What does Szold mean by the phrase “ethical implications,” which appears at the end of the first paragraph?

4. For Szold, what is the connection between the ideals of Zionism and one’s daily life in Palestine?

5. According to Szold, how have Jewish efforts in Palestine, up to this point, established the foundation for the future state?

6. Szold died before the creation of the modern state of Israel. How might she have viewed its current circumstances?

For more on Henrietta Szold, see the Jewish Women's Archive "Woman of Valor" exhibit at http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/szold

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Time Period: Modern (Spinoza through post-WWII)