|President's Column: Impact Statement|
President Harry Truman saw to it that the United States was the first nation to recognize Israel’s independence. If Truman’s message of support, sent just minutes after the state was proclaimed in 1948, had been an isolated sign of friendship, we might still say—in the words of the Hagadda—“Dayenu.” But for 65 years, the American-Israeli relationship has gone from strength to greater strength.
Bipartisan support for Israel in Washington is cited so often in speeches, news reports and private discussions that it has become a cliché. Members of Congress routinely visit the Jewish state, meeting with Israeli leaders, connecting with the Israeli people and frequently stopping at Hadassah’s hospitals. Hallmarks of the relationship include a mutual interest in Middle East peace and steadily increasing military and security cooperation. And as Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador in Washington, has noted, Israel and the United States are members of a very exclusive club of nations “that have never known a second of nondemocratic rule.”
The past year has highlighted the strength and underpinnings of the Israeli-American partnership. Rarely have the two nations held national elections so close to one another, putting a spotlight on our common democratic traditions. The deepening turmoil in the Middle East, especially in Egypt, and most tragically in Syria, has brought into sharper relief Israel’s status as an oasis of freedom and stability in the region. And President Obama’s visit to Israel in March was not only an expression of solidarity from one leader to another, but also a confirmation of the depth of American friendship.
Despite support that stretches back to Truman, a good indicator of progress in relations can be seen in the history of presidential visits. From 1948 to 1973, no sitting American president visited Israel. From 1973 to 1993, two of the four presidents (Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter) made the trip. In the last 20 years, all three presidents (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama) have gone.
All of which brings me to Hadassah. We are more than a pillar of the American-Israeli partnership. Given our record of building in the Land of Israel and organizing in America since 1912, we are also one of its strongest roots. Israel’s medical infrastructure and a portion of its educational foundation were built by Jewish women inspired by the Zionist movement, nurtured by American freedom, and empowered by themselves and each other.
Hadassah’s institutions in Israel have a unique ethos based on intertwined American and Israeli values, talents and attitudes. Hadassah is recognized and respected in the corridors of power in Washington and wherever like-minded people advocate on behalf of Israel, women’s rights, health care and research, education and disaster relief. We are always at the table when America’s leaders want to consult with the Jewish community. Since 1976, USAID has provided the Hadassah Medical Organization with more than $50 million in funding, including contributions of advanced equipment for our new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower.
Just as the bonds of American-Israeli friendship started strong with Truman and grew stronger, so does Hadassah have to keep reaching for new heights. The way we fulfill our mission is constantly changing. A year into our second century, we are working to identify the best ways to continue our role of strengthening Israel and the Jewish people. To cite one example, we are working with consultants from PricewaterhouseCoopers to set priorities for the Hadassah Medical Organization. Even as we maintain our ideals and build on our reputation, some things may change—as they always have.
The future is at the center of our agenda for Hadassah’s National Business Meeting, to be held July 30 to 31 in Baltimore—Henrietta Szold’s hometown. The theme for the meeting is “Make Your Impact!” I invite all of you to come to the meeting and help us chart our impact on Israel, the Jewish people and on an American-Israeli partnership that stretches beyond the horizon.