Have you ever heard of a Jewish women’s volunteer organization called Hadassah? It’s one of the largest Jewish international organizations in the world. Here’s how it started and what it has to do with Purim.

In 1912, before the modern state of Israel existed, Henrietta Szold founded a volunteer women’s organization called Hadassah to work in support of a Jewish homeland. Hadassah’s first mission was to send two nurses to what was then called Palestine. They came to distribute pasteurized milk to infants and new mothers, and to treat an easily cured eye disease that was affecting thousands.

By 1918, Hadassah had sent a medical unit – including 45 doctors, nurses, dentists and sanitary workers – to bring medical care to serve all, regardless of race, creed or ethnicity. Their efforts became the foundation of the Israeli healthcare system, which now includes world-class research, treatment and medical training.

The founders of Hadassah first met on the Jewish holiday of Purim; they chose to be called by the Hebrew name of the biblical heroine commonly known as Queen Esther.