Lost Love: The Untold Story of Henrietta Szold

Lost Love: The Untold Story of Henrietta Szold
by Baila Round Shargel Jewish Publication Society, $34.95

One almost feels guilty reading Lost Love: The Untold Story of Hennrietta Szold. Szold’s journal entries are so personal in the intensity of their grief, so pitiful in their dazed heartache, that the reader wishes to apologize for trespassing and throw her arms around the woman who, when describing her unrequited passion for the great scholar Louis Ginzberg, says, “my body lives on, but my soul and my heart and my brain are dead.” Coming from the square-shouldered, bespectacled, schoolmarmish figure for which history has always mistaken Henrietta Szold, this raw emotion is as unexpected as it is touching.

In addition, Shargel captures the social and intellectual spirit of the times in vibrant anecdote. The iron gates of the Seminary swing open to reveal Solomon Schecter proferring romantic advice and Louis Ginzburg frequenting prostitutes. Szold herself, outwardly a model of Victorian restraint, strains in her journals against the confines of her corset: “I apparently could never convey to anyone by word or manner that I am a dependent woman with a keen emotional nature, a distinctly feminine woman, not an intellectual abstraction.”

It is all too easy for the reader to come away from this book with contempt for Ginzburg and pity for Szold, who never married or had the children she desperately wanted. However, Shargel does not allow us to forget that Szold’s later accomplishments, founding Hadassah among them, were fired by the reserves of strength, courage, and emotion that she discovered while healing from her lost love.

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