President's Column: Days of Future Past

Columns & Departments

President's Column: Days of Future Past

Marcie Natan

Look under “Who we are” on Hadassah’s Web site and you’ll find a chronology, laying out our accomplishments in neat paragraphs, year by year. Looking back is both easy and satisfying.

But working in the real world involves looking into a future full of uncertainty. When Hadassah’s first two nurses, Rose Kaplan and Rachel Landy, observed Rosh Hashana in Jerusalem 100 years ago, their clinic had been open for only six months. Much toil and millions of patients later, Hadassah is a fixture on the Jerusalem landscape and in the hearts of all Israelis. But those nurses didn’t know what was to come. They certainly knew what struggles they faced on a day-to-day basis, but they could not have imagined what Jerusalem, or the Jewish world, would look like 100 years later.

Hadassah has played a central role in a century of Jewish achievement amid great challenges. The birth, defense and flourishing of Israel, the American experience and a cultural renaissance have been part of the most extraordinary 100-year span in Jewish history since biblical times.

But neither Hadassah’s success nor jewish progress is a one-way story of forward movement. If you compare our project structure at various moments in our history, you’ll never see the same picture twice. Our mission doesn’t change, but the way we approach it—considering resources, the needs of the people we serve and the conditions in the world around us—changes constantly.

While Hadassah’s reputation for service is well deserved, one of our underappreciated talents is for re-engineering. And the impulse for re-engineering is reflected in the New Year season.

As the holidays approach, renewal is very much on my mind. This is a time of spiritual reflection, but it also informs the way we work. Just as we renew our commitment to our value system, we also adapt our efforts to promote those values in a changing world.

Will our medical work be more effective with a broad network of hospitals and clinics across the Israeli map, or with two pacesetting hospitals in Jerusalem that set treatment and research standards for a growing nation? Do we need to run vocational or technical schools to fill gaps in the Israeli educational system or does the society have a mature educational marketplace that fills gaps on its own?

The answers to these questions depend on when they were asked. Throughout our history we have had to ask such questions and reshape our institutions.

At many points in our history, Hadassah has found itself at a moment of renewal and re-engineering. In fact, given the constant change in our project structure, you might say we are in perpetual renewal. Fortunately, we have always had the energy and talent to identify and make the changes needed to advance our mission of building Israel and strengthening the Jewish people. We also remain a magnet for Jewish women who want to improve the world.

Hadassah is still the place where each member can choose how to make her impact—through our programs and partnerships, through our medical and educational work, through advocacy, through empowering women.

In 1913, those two Hadassah nurses observed Rosh Hashana far from their families in America. A century later, time and distance are no longer serious barriers between family and our dedication to causes larger than ourselves. Our values are not only strong, we also have much more power to make an impact.

Years from now, women of Hadassah will look back on what we did and see our achievements described in neat paragraphs, without the uncertainty that we see today. Like Rose Kaplan, Rachel Landy and the women of their generation, our job is to do the hard work and overcome the challenges, so that our daughters and granddaughters will have a bigger base to build on, and a great mission to renew.

To all of you, my best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year. May this season strengthen our determination and inspire us to meet the challenges of our time.

Shana Tova.

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