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Jessie Ethel Sampter

SAMPTER, JESSIE ETHEL (1883–1938), U.S. poet and Zionist writer. Although she grew up in a highly assimilated home, her father being one of the pioneers of *Ethical Culture, Jessie Sampter became a staunch Jewess, partly under the influence of an elder sister of the poet Emma *Lazarus and of Henrietta *Szold. Her first book, The Great Adventurer (1908), was dedicated to Josephine Lazarus. Henrietta Szold, whom she first met in about 1912, persuaded her to write educational material for *Hadassah, notably the popular manual, the first edition of which was entitled A Course in Zionism (1915, reissued as A Guide to Zionism, 1920, and Modern Palestine, 1933). Although a childhood attack of infantile paralysis had left her a semi-invalid, Jessie Sampter emigrated to Palestine in 1919 and at first lived in Jerusalem, where she established evening classes for Yemenite working girls, one of whom she adopted. In 1920 she helped to organize the country's first camp for Jewish scouts at Reḥovot. Four years later she herself moved to Reḥovot and continued to do social work among the Yemenite Jews there. Her tour of the Jewish pioneering settlements in the Jezreel Valley inspired a series of 15 prose poems, published in 1927 as The Emek. These vivid sketches of kibbutz life had an important influence on U.S. Zionist circles before World War II. In 1933 she joined kibbutz Givat Brenner and used the proceeds of the sale of her Reḥovot house to build a convalescent home at the kibbutz.

Jessie Sampter's writing – which she sometimes published under the pen name Hashunamit – include Brand Plucked from the Fire (1937), a collection of poems on her attitude to Judaism and Zionism, which was translated into Hebrew by Pinḥas Lander in a specially vocalized text (Ud Muẓal me-Esh, 1944–45). Like The Emek, her last poem, "Palestinian Portrait," described the harsh realities of Jewish immigrant life in her day. Her prose works include The Seekers (1910); The Book of the Nations (1917); and "Testimony," a documentary account of the Arab riots and Hebron massacre of 1929 (published in The New Palestine, Sept. 27 / Oct. 4, 1929). She also wrote a volume of poems entitled The Coming of Peace (1919); Around the Year in Rhymes for the Jewish Child (1920); Far Over the Sea (1939), translations of *Bialik's poems for children; and two essays on Ecclesiastes, which appeared posthumously in Hebrew and English. The Speaking Heart and In the Beginning, two works of autobiography, were not published.


B. Badt-Strauss, White Fire (1956).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.