Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization, sent out a press release earlier today announcing the death of Charlotte Jacobson, who chaired the group during the Six Day War. Though 97, Jacobson’s death came as a surprise: As recently as two weeks ago, Jacobson was at a conference with Hadassah’s current president, Nancy Falchuk, and in good form. “Her mind was sharp as a tack—she was educated and updated on everything that was going on,” Falchuk told Tablet Magazine this afternoon.
Jacobson, who held Hadassah’s presidency from 1964 to 1968, also chaired the American section of the World Zionist Organization from 1971 to 1982 and in 1981 was the first woman elected president of the Jewish National Fund. Her first trip to Israel was in 1951; she wasted no time making herself known to the leadership of the fledgling Jewish state. On a trip in the late 1950s, she was part of a delegation that met with David Ben-Gurion. “He was laying out the problems he was facing, and most of us just listened—but Charlotte interrupted the prime minister to say, ‘I’m not so sure I agree with you,’ ” recalled Bernice Tannenbaum, another former Hadassah head who was with Jacobson on the trip. “It didn’t matter that it was the prime minister of Israel. She just asked her questions.”
Jacobson was born Charlotte Stone in 1914 in the Bronx, where she was raised in an Orthodox family. In a 1967 interview with Morris Kurtzer, she recalled that she and her two sisters had been known in their youth not as the Stones, but as “the three pebbles.”
Jacobson was active in the Soviet Jewry movement in the 1970s, but within Hadassah she is famous for moving to reclaim the group’s hospital on Mount Scopus, in East Jerusalem, following the 1967 war. “She was a smart lady,” Falchuk said. “She knew that taking back the hospital put a claim on that part of Jerusalem.”