Chapters, Regions, Co-ops and Junior Hadassah Records in the Hadassah Archives
Scope and Content Note
This record group contains materials related to the local units of Hadassah—groups, chapters, regions, and co-ops, as well as Junior Hadassah—a youth organization that functioned as a group within the Hadassah chapter structure. The record group documents over one hundred years of Hadassah’s growth, and illuminates a century of Jewish communal life, particularly that of Jewish women, across the United States. The record group reflects the formation, administration, and activities of the individual groups, chapters, co-ops and regions. It also provides information on local events and programs organized around fundraising, Zionism, Jewish heritage, religious holidays celebrations, the study of Hebrew and Yiddish, women's issues, fashion, health, technology and many other topics. The national office in New York often provided programming materials to be used at local chapter and regional meetings. These kind of materials can be found in RG 15—Operations and Functions.
The types of materials in this record group include correspondence, memos, minutes, news clippings from local press, reports, directories, chapters and regions newsletters, brochures and other publications and programs. Of particular interest is a large volume of scrapbooks that cover decades of individual groups, chapters and regions activities. The books typically contain lists of officers and members, calendars, photographs, notes, clippings, artwork, awards, programs, and other ephemera.
- Creation: 1902-2015
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1950 - 2000
- Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America (Organization)
Language of Materials
This collection is in English.
The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to fragility or as required by the agreement between Hadassah and AJHS.
Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011
Historical Note<extptr actuate="onload" altrender="Image from the Hadassah Health Seal Campaign, New York Chapter of Hadassah." href="http://digital.cjh.org/webclient/DeliveryManager?pid=3713527" show="embed" title="Image from the Hadassah Health Seal Campaign, New York Chapter of Hadassah."/>
"The objects and purposes of the chapter shall be to implement those provided for in the National Constitution, as follows: 1. To assist Israel in the absorption and integration of all Jews who need or want to go there. 2. To provide and promote in Israel, including Jerusalem, a broad program of health activities, social services and youth welfare work. 3. To foster Jewish education and ideals in America.” - Model Hadassah Constitution for Chapters, 1949
Throughout the century of Hadassah’s existence, it enrolled more women and raised more funds than any other national women's volunteer organization. Aspiring to become a national organization, Hadassah modeled its structure on the National Council of Jewish Women. Local chapters recruited women regardless of their age, class, marital status, or country of origin, immigrant status or ethnicity. Many of these women worked, most frequently as shop assistants, garment workers, teachers, secretaries and stenographers. Various groups within the chapters reflected particular interests of their members. The chapters featured daytime and evening meetings, study and sewing circles, and English and Yiddish language groups.
Adapting aspects of women’s public activities, the chapters focused on women’s health issues, self-education, public speaking and issues related to Zionism. At the sewing circles meetings, Zionist literature was read aloud in English and Yiddish. Hadassah’s approach to Zionism was distinctly non-ideological and was understood as a movement for renewing Jewish practical idealism. The chapters actively recruited non-Zionists and rejected Zionist policy of creating institutions only for Jews in Palestine.
By the time the United States entered World War I, Hadassah had thirty-four chapters and 2,100 members. Despite an ideological split in the organization’s leadership, between the pacifists and the impassioned supporters of the Allies, the chapters united in their mission to raise thousands of dollars to fund the American Zionist Medical Unit (AZMU), consisting of forty-five physicians, dentists, and nurses, and tons of supplies.
In 1920, Hadassah’s Central Committee authorized the creation of Junior Hadassah—an organization for girls of eighteen years of age and older, with a motto suggested by Henrietta Szold: “A joyful mother of children.” Junior Hadassah’s initial focus was the care of war orphans, a continuation of an underfunded effort of the American Zionist Medical Unit.
By the late 1920s Hadassah’s membership increased to over thirty-seven thousand, with dozens of new chapters created nationwide. New projects, such as the Hadassah School of Nursing, a school lunch program, an urban recreation program, health and day care centers, and a children’s village, drew in new members with opportunities of supporting practical work for Palestine.
During the decade of 1935-1945, Hadassah achieved the status of a large national organization as its membership expanded from over 38,000 to over 142,000 women. During that era, the chapters largely focused on Youth Aliyah—the effort to rescue Jewish children from continental Europe and relocate them to Palestine. Youth Aliyah became the most popular practical project undertaken by Hadassah. Etta Rosensohn, the National President of Hadassah from 1952 to 1953, described Hadassah’s work of that period as “one of the most effective movements in human rehabilitation to emerge from an era of unprecedented cruelty and destruction.” The Hadassah Archives feature the Records of Youth Aliyah (I-578/RG 1) as a separate record group.
Hadassah became more than a household word in many American Jewish families. The daughters of the Hadassah pioneers inherited the love of Zionism and Palestine and were enthusiastically joining the chapters their mothers helped create. Many of the national leaders of Hadassah were daughters of mothers who had been local chapter activists. Most of Hadassah's national presidents were initially presidents of local chapters, mothers or daughters of chapter presidents.
After the establishment of Israel on May 14, 1948, Hadassah followed the great exodus of Jews into suburbia with many new chapters appearing on Long Island from Levittown to Hollis Hills, in New Jersey from Princeton to Deal, and in Maryland from Silver Spring to Chevy Chase. The recruitment efforts of that time emphasized the close ties of Zionist ideas with American democratic values.
By the 1950s, Hadassah membership drives reached every state and region. Many stay-at-home mothers and housewives of different backgrounds, often far removed from Jewish tradition, saw their local Hadassah chapters as a much welcomed outlet for social interaction, participation in Jewish life on a global scale, and an opportunity to learn and acquire new skills. For many, joining a local chapter served as an introduction to ideas of social feminism.
The number of new chapters and individual membership of Hadassah continued to increase steadily during the 1960s and 1970s, with a particularly sharp increase after the 1967 Arab–Israeli War. In 1973, Hadassah had over fifty chapters with over 1000 members in each, nine of those chapters had over 5000 members each. By 1977, Hadassah was 360,000 members strong.
The 1980s saw a significant decline in growth and a gradually aging membership. The marriage of practical Zionism and social feminism that attracted hundreds of thousands of new members in the previous decades did not appeal to the next generation of Jewish American women. The previously unfathomable levels of independence, education and career opportunities, in conjunction with a diminishing interest in Zionism, and with an increasing interest in radical modern Jewish feminism made many potential members view Hadassah as an archaic organization. Through the 1980s-2000s, Hadassah stepped up its efforts to attract young members with new series of educational programs, participation in international women’s conferences, and an increased identification with Israel.
Levin, M., and Kustanowitz, E. (1997). It takes a dream: The story of Hadassah. Jerusalem: Gefen Pub. House.
Simmons, E. B. (2006). Hadassah and the Zionist project. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
204 Linear Feet (246 manuscript boxes, 3 half manuscript boxes, 53 OS1 boxes, 1 OS6 box.)
This record group contains materials related to the local units of Hadassah—groups, chapters, regions, and co-ops—as well as Junior Hadassah, a youth organization that functioned as a group within the Hadassah Chapter structure. The record group documents over one hundred years of Hadassah’s growth, and illuminates a century of American Jewish communal life, particularly that of Jewish women, across the United States. The record group reflects the formation, administration and activities of the individual groups, chapters, co-ops and regions, and contains information on local events and programs organized around fundraising, Zionism, Jewish heritage, religion and holidays celebration, the study of Hebrew and Yiddish, women's issues, fashion, health, technology and many other topics.
Located in AJHS New York, NY
The Hadassah Archives, of which the Chapters, Regions, Co-ops and Junior Hadassah Records (I-578/RG 24) are part of, are on long-term deposit at the American Jewish Historical Society.
The Hadassah Archives include RG 19—Microforms. The record group includes the microfilmed materials pertaining to select chapters, regions and Junior Hadassah.
This record group was created in 2016 to distinguish the chapters, regions, co-ops and Junior Hadassah materials from the Operations and Functions record group (RG 15). It consists of the materials originally found in RG 15, individual chapter and region scrapbooks removed from RG 18—Photographs and the materials submitted to the Hadassah Archives by individual chapters and regions from mid-2000s to 2016.
Approximately one-half of the materials comprising the chapters, regions, co-ops and Junior Hadassah record group was partially processed during the 2000s by Susan Woodland and other archivists, as part of the RG 15—Operations and Functions and RG 18—Photographs. Word Document box lists were created for the processed materials.
During the period of mid-2000s to 2016 additional chapter and region materials were donated by the individual chapters and regions of Hadassah.
In December 1999, Hadassah and the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) entered into an agreement placing the Hadassah Archives on deposit at AJHS for its safekeeping and maintenance. In November 2000, the Hadassah Archives were moved to AJHS under the management of the Director of the Hadassah Archives, Susan Woodland. In 2014, under a new agreement between Hadassah and AJHS, the Hadassah Archives were placed on long-term deposit at AJHS.
Approximately 90 linear feet of previously unprocessed accretions were incorporated into this new record group. Previously existing box lists were reused and incorporated into the 2016 finding aid as much as possible. Series and description were added and collection-level notes pertaining to acquisition, processing, access and use, and related material were added as well. Most folder titles were revised.
The previously unprocessed materials were housed in acid-free folders and boxes. All boxes and folders were numbered to create uniform numbering across the entire record group. The scrapbooks were unbound and rehoused in acid-free expanding folders.
- Szold, Henrietta, 1860-1945 (Person)
- Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America (Organization)
Genre / Form
- Administrative records
- clippings (information artifacts)
- Financial records
- Minutes (administrative records)
- Press releases
- publications (documents)
- publications (documents)
- speeches (documents)
- Direct-mail fund raising
- Fund raising
- Human rights
- Jewish children
- Jewish diaspora
- Jewish women -- United States -- Societies and clubs
- Jews -- Education
- Judaism -- 20th century
- Nonprofit organizations--Public relations
- Vocational education
- Women -- Societies and clubs
- Women in nonprofit organizations
- Women in nonprofit organizations
- Women volunteers in social service
- Women's rights
- Women’s institutes
- Zionism -- United States
- Guide to the Records of Chapters, Regions, Co-ops and Junior Hadassah in the Hadassah Archives 1902-2015 I-578/RG 24
- The finding aid was prepared by Andrey Filimonov in 2016. It is partially based on a number of Word document box lists prepared by Susan Woodland in 1998-2008.
- and#xA9; 2016
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.
- as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation