Where Have All the Nurses Gone?

Jews Flocked to Every Helping Profession But One

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Published July 06, 2012, issue of July 13, 2012.
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Szold was equally sensitive to how student nurses spent their leisure time of an evening, noting how they made do with a “cracked” piano, prepared tea from a samovar, cooked up highly spiced meals (“They want highly spiced food all the time. Is it a Jewish characteristic?”) and fiercely debated the issues of the day. The dining room, she related, “is the scene of hot word battles…. There is hope that in the future the discussions will be less hot, the criticism less acrid.”

However intimately detailed, each of these accounts pales in comparison with her remarkable description of a nurse she met while traveling the Galilee. There’s no point paraphrasing; I couldn’t possibly hold a candle to the glories of Szold’s prose. Here, for you to relish and savor, are her words:

As I write, I have in my mind’s eye a particular nurse… I must describe her for you. She is a typical Haluzah — tall, strong, pliant of limb, lithe of motion, elastic of step… her head with its short-cropped hair sitting high on firm shoulders, her voice resonant, her masculine high boots, bloomers, smock and rubber cap trying vainly to annihilate her quick, solicitous femininity as she stalks and leaps through the ineffable mud from the clinic on to the hospital barracks…. That’s Tania — that’s the typical Haluzah…. If a poster were wanted to advertise the A.Z.M.U., I’d have a picture of Tania made by an artist with a soul as well as a brush. May her kind increase in the land.

I don’t suppose that such a poster was ever made. But Szold’s words live on, recalling a moment in time when nursing was deemed the most ennobling and liberating of callings.


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