Hadassah National Board member Hazel Greenwald (later Berkowitz) unofficially founded the Hadassah Film Department in January 1942 when she requested $300 to produce a film celebrating the Jewish women’s organization’s 30th birthday. This action inaugurated what became an annual output of one to two films documenting Hadassah’s philanthropic projects in Palestine and Israel. Under Greenwald’s volunteer leadership, the Film Department produced and distributed films to Hadassah chapters throughout the United States and overseas.
Henrietta Szold, as all Hadassah films, was made for an audience of American women as a fundraising tool. But the driving force behind this particular project was unique — the attachment the second generation of Hadassah leadership felt to Szold herself, and their desire to document her life and work. Henrietta Szold became an icon as an American woman in her lifetime, and remains so as we approach the 150th anniversary of her birth next year. Many people in the American Jewish community know her name today, and children, especially girls, write about her for class projects. The long-lasting importance of Szold’s accomplishments can be shown by, among other things, her 2007 induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She received numerous honors both in her lifetime and since her death.
It wasn’t until Szold was in her 60s, and had moved to Palestine, that film was shot of her. It shows her involved with Hadassah projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere throughout Palestine, performing her responsibilities as a leader in the early days of the government of pre-state Israel. The footage of Henrietta Szold in this film, although brief, is likely the only moving image of her in existence. The only words spoken in the film, outside of the voiceover narration, is one minute of a speech given by Szold in the 1930’s, a very rare recording of her voice.