A Queen to the Res­cue: The Sto­ry of Hen­ri­et­ta Szold, Founder of Hadassah

Nan­cy Churnin, Yev­ge­nia Nay­berg (Illus­tra­tor)

  • Review
By – December 14, 2021

As a young girl in Bal­ti­more in the late 1800s, Hen­ri­et­ta Szold was inspired by the sto­ry of Queen Esther read dur­ing the Jew­ish hol­i­day of Purim. She became a teacher in 1877 and opened a night school to help Jew­ish immi­grants from Rus­sia and Poland learn Eng­lish. She also start­ed the Jew­ish Pub­li­ca­tion Soci­ety and was the first woman to attend the Jew­ish The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary in New York. She is per­haps best known as the founder of Hadas­sah, a Jew­ish women’s orga­ni­za­tion start­ed on Purim in 1912 to com­bat dis­ease and hunger in Palestine.

In 1933, when Hitler came to pow­er, Hen­ri­et­ta trav­eled to Ger­many to try to bring as many Jew­ish chil­dren as pos­si­ble to safe­ty. Through­out the war years, Hen­ri­et­ta worked to bring more than 11,000 chil­dren to Pales­tine through Hadassah’s Youth Aliyah program.

Churnin’s com­pre­hen­sive and inspir­ing text, paired with Nayberg’s rich mul­ti-lay­ered, expres­sive, and art­ful mixed-media illus­tra­tions, bring to life this remark­able woman who was long over­due for a pic­ture book biog­ra­phy. Par­tic­u­lar­ly impres­sive is the way Churnin con­nects the lessons of the Purim sto­ry to Henrietta’s life and accom­plish­ments, and how she pro­vides a con­cise, con­crete, age-appro­pri­ate expla­na­tion of Hitler’s rise to pow­er and the plight of the Jew­ish peo­ple in Europe. Exten­sive back mat­ter pro­vides addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion about Hen­ri­et­ta Szold’s life and lega­cy, a fur­ther expla­na­tion of Purim, a time­line, and a bib­li­og­ra­phy. Pair with oth­er biogra­phies of Amer­i­can Jew­ish women lead­ers like Goldie Takes a Stand by Bar­bara Kras­ner (Kar-Ben, 2014) and Han­nah G. Solomon Dared to Make a Dif­fer­ence by Bon­nie Lin­dauer (Kar-Ben, 2021) to help bring Hen­ri­et­ta Szold’s words to life for young read­ers: Dare to dream and when you dream, dream big.”

Rachel Kamin has been a syn­a­gogue librar­i­an and Jew­ish edu­ca­tor for over twen­ty-five years and has worked at North Sub­ur­ban Syn­a­gogue Beth El in High­land Park, IL since 2008, cur­rent­ly serv­ing as the Direc­tor of Life­long Learn­ing. A past chair of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Com­mit­tee and past edi­tor of Book Reviews for Chil­dren & Teens for the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries News & Reviews, her arti­cles and book reviews appear in numer­ous pub­li­ca­tions. She has been a mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Library Association’s Sophie Brody Book Award Com­mit­tee since 2021.

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