US educator, reformer, and Zionist leader. She was editor of the Jewish Publication Society (1893–1916) and the most active editor of the American Jewish Year Book (1904–08). She became the first woman member of the Palestine Zionist executive of the World Zionist Organization in 1927. Many of the years between 1920–45 she spent in Palestine or in travelling to Europe to facilitate the immigration of Jews, especially those faced with the growing menace of the Nazis. Although an ardent Zionist, she always hoped to foster friendly relations between Jews and Arabs in Palestine.
Szold was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and was the daughter of Benjamin Szold. Raised by her father to speak several languages, she graduated from a Baltimore high school and then taught for almost 15 years at a private academy for girls in that city while also teaching in her father's synagogue. She also became active in assisting the integration of Jewish immigrants into the USA and organized a night school to help them become ‘Americanized’ (1889–98).
After her father died in 1903 she and her mother moved to New York City where she contributed articles to the Jewish Messenger using the pen-name ‘Sulamith’. Disappointed in love, she took a trip abroad and visited Palestine in 1910 and from then on was devoted to Zionism in general – the settling of Jews in Palestine – and in particular to improving the health of the inhabitants of Palestine. She had been a member of a Zionist society in Baltimore since 1893, but now she organized and became first president of the national Hadassah (1912–26). She continued her activities into her eighties; the recipient of countless honours, none was more significant than ‘mother of the Yishuv’, referring to the Jewish settlement of Palestine.