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Most Zionists who settled in Palestine during the period of the British Mandate (1922-1948) emigrated from Europe and western Asia, few from America. Yet, as Michael Brown points out, several individuals from the minimal number who came from the United States rose to key positions in the Yishuv. He cites Golda Meir, Judah Magnes, and Henrietta Szold. (1) For reasons that will soon become evident, Bessie Gotsfeld ought to be added. Today Gotsfeld's name is familiar to only one section of American Jewry, Amit Women, yet her work was instrumental in creating Israeli society and culture. Her activities were in many ways parallel to those of the more famous Szold, who, paradoxically, was both her partner and her nemesis. The two women not only helped to forge Israeli society but also enhanced the lives of their American followers, boosting their self-confidence, strengthening their Judaism, and deepening their attachment to Zion. For many years, the name Bessie Goldstein Gotsfeld was synonymous with the Mizrachi Women's Organization of America (MWOA), the Zionist organization for American Orthodox women. Gotsfeld (1888-1962), a native of Galicia who arrived in New York in 1905, and her stepmother, Adela Goldstein, were principal founders of MWOA in 1925. Goldstein was the organization's president during its early years, but Gotsfeld was, from the beginning, its driving force. To insure the proper administration of new projects, Goldstein settled in Palestine in 1931. She assumed the title "Palestinian Representative of MWOA," and was legally bound to execute organizational policy. From that time forward, she micromanaged every MWOA activity in Palestine, as well as most policies promulgated by the central office in New York.

June 1
American Jewish Historical Society
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