Page 109 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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F
i n e m a n
— H
e n r i e t t a
S
z o l d
a s
W
r it e r
9 7
Ethics of Judaism ,
Slouschz’s
Hebrew Renaissance,
Ginzberg’s
Legends of the Jews
. . . These arduous and unremitting labors
necessarily limited her output of self-expressive writing, the
abundant talent for which was evidenced even in her extensive
correspondence. She could easily have turned that talent to a
successful career as writer; and there is evidence that she seri-
ously contemplated doing so at one point in her life.
In the summer of 1910, after she had returned from her first
visit to Palestine, Henrietta Szold wrote in her journal of her
plan to devote herself to writing a number of books she had in
mind, one of which she had actually started. A month later,
however, she recorded her regret at having to set aside that plan
when she felt obliged to accept the position of Honorary (mean-
ing unpaid) Secretary of the American Zionist Federation, which
came to her from its Pittsburgh convention. What persuaded
her to abandon her cherished plan was the disorderly mess those
male Zionists had made of their financial proceedings; and being
a fine woman and housekeeper as well as a fine writer, she set
about putting that office to rights. By the time this was done she
was so involved in Zionist activity that she never got around to
writing those books, a circumstance rendering it all the more
curious that Zionism, which is so greatly indebted to her for that
sacrifice, has ignored what she did write.
Early in life she showed that she possessed the imaginative
and linguistic equipment for writing. At fourteen she published
“A Dialogue,” a fantastic sketch in which she recounts a con-
versation with the shade of George Washington who “always
resurrects on his birthday . . . He wore a radiant crown, with
the most precious stones to be found, on his snow white hair
. . . As I looked closer 1 found that each stone denoted some
virtue that had ennobled his character. But my attention was
riveted by two, which shone brighter than the rest, and repre-
sented Disinterestedness and Love of Justice. His disinterested-
ness, had he possessed no other good qualities, would have been
sufficient to render his name immortal. It was the chief trait
of his character . . . He, unlike the most prominent of his
contemporaries, Napoleon, did not usurp a crown, he even re-
fused a third term. . . . The other named gem, his love of right-
eousness, shone lustrous. I was struck with the thought, as I
looked at this jewel, of seeing before me the first and only states-
man who erected the structure of state on the solid basis of
righteousness for all denominations, for all bearing the stamp of
divinity. He indeed, in his glorious constitution, verified the
words of the psalmist, ‘The heavens belong to the Lord, and
the earth he gave to the children of man.’ . . . ” In this pre-
cocious expression of the fourteen-year-old girl are to be found
the characteristics of the voluminous writing of her next seventy
years: rich vocabulary and vivid imagery, informed by a well-