Home > Archive > December 2009/January 2010 Vol. 91 No. 3

December 2009/January 2010 Vol. 91 No. 3

Inside Hadassah: A Therapy of Salt; a Peppering of Yiddish

Ruth G. Cole
There is much to celebrate in this season. The Hanukka story expresses our Jewish courage and commitment; we light our menoras and rejoice in the miracle of the Maccabees. We can also celebrate Hanukka by lighting the virtual menora on Hadassah’s Web site, brightening the lives of many in Israel. And on December 10th, we present the Harold U. Ribalow Prize to author Peter Manseau at our annual event. We pay tribute, too, to Young Judaea’s 100th anniversary and recall its festive summer reunion. May these special milestones inspire us to further the noble goals of Zionism, Judaism and Jewish peoplehood through Hadassah. Happy 2010! —Ruth G. Cole

Happy Campers
In celebration of Young Judaea’s 100th anniversary this year, over 700 alumni, friends and family gathered at Camp Tel Yehudah, in Barryville, New York, on August 16. The daylong reunion attracted young and not-so-young participants, who traveled from as far as Illinois, Maryland and even Israel to join in the festivities.

“Today, 25 years after my own precious days at camp, I am happy to say that Tel Yehudah looks wonderful,” reported Joelle Schnaider from San Francisco, who attended the reunion with her two young daughters, her mother and brother. “The camp has been expanded and improved, yet maintains its original character. It is clearly a place that is loved and cared for and is aging gracefully.”

It was an exciting day filled with camp ruah (spirit), including shira (song), rikud (dance) and memories—from an exhibit of Young Judaea memrabilia to a ceremony highlighting the movement’s accomplishments over the past century.

“This is the place where we built our identities,” Schnaider added, “based on learning and practicing peer leadership, social action and pluralism while having boatloads of fun with...kids from all over the country.”

Popular Israeli singer David Broza gave a special concert, and the Israeli Scouts Friendship Caravan performed, as they have every summer at Tel Yehudah for the past 35 years.

Mel Reisfield, 81, traveled from Israel for the reunion, where he was honored for his longtime involvement with Young Judaea—since 1947—as an educator, leader and mentor.

The reunion also kicked off a $100,000 fund-raising campaign to honor both Reisfield and Young Judaea’s important milestone.

Light Up Online
Celebrate Hanukka this year with your Hadassah family. Join us in lighting our virtual menora at www.hadassah.org. The menora will be available December 7 to 23: You can light one candle with an $18 donation or kindle the entire menora for $136!

There will also be Hanukka e-cards, holiday recipes, prayers, advocacy information and family activities just a click away on Hadassah’s Hanukka Web page. While you celebrate at home with family and friends, our virtual menora will bring light and hope to so many people in Israel.

Sit Back, Relax and Breathe Easy
The Dead Sea area is known for its salt deposits and healing minerals, but, in fact, the largest salt room therapy clinic and R&D center in Israel is right on the campus of the Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem.

Derekh Hamelah, a network of 14 salt room treatment centers in Israel, launched its newest facility in September. It is operated by Breathewell (www.breathewell.com), which aims to work with Hadassah researchers to further advance the treatment of respiratory diseases.

The clinic takes up the entire first floor of the Jerusalem BioPark, a new facility on the Hadassah campus opened this past summer to house independent companies that develop therapeutic life science technologies. The BioPark is also home to Hadasit, Hadassah’s technology transfer company.

“We made a strategic decision to locate ourselves on the campus of Hadassah Ein Kerem,” said Jonathan Kestenbaum, who cofounded Breathewell together with Jonathan Bennett. “It offers a level of medical research and care unmatched by any other location in Israel.”

Salt room therapy—known as speleotherapy—allows patients to sit in rooms built of salt blocks (above) and breathe in microscopic salt particles that act as a natural disinfectant, accelerating mucus clearance and improving lung function, while killing harmful bacteria. Clinical research has shown that those undergoing treatment—especially children—feel significant relief from such ailments as asthma, bronchitis, lung disease, respiratory allergies, chronic ear infections and other respiratory tract disorders.

Last Chance...
To reach out to those who have been affected by the economic downturn, Hadassah is now offering its own stimulus package. Membership dues and Associate enrollment fees have been rolled back through December 31.

  • Lifetime membership dues are reduced from $360 to $250.
  • Annual membership dues are reduced from $36 to $25 (multiple-year membership is also available).
  • Associate enrollment fees are reduced from $300 to $200.

(Life membership and Associate enrollment payment plans are excluded from this promotion.) Act now—before it’s too late! Call 800-664-5646, or e-mail membership@hadassah.org.

A Generous Gift
The Hadassah Medical Center has announced a generous gift from the David and Fela Shapell Family Foundation of Beverly Hills, California, for the Entrance Atrium to the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower, currently under construction on Hadassah’s Ein Kerem campus in Jerusalem.

“The David and Fela Shapell Family Gateway to Health will welcome the more than 20,000 people that enter Hadassah’s Ein Kerem campus every day,” said Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, director-general of the Hadassah Medical Organization.

“Over the years, I have come to know David and Fela Shapell,” Dr. Mor-Yosef said, “and I am continually awed by the depth of their commitment to the Jewish people in the United States and Israel. We are honored that they have chosen to continue their decades of support for Hadassah with this significant gift.”

The Shapells’ children, Rochelle, Benjamin and Irvin, have chosen to contribute a special memorial (above) in the lobby of the main building honoring the memory of their grandparents, who perished in the Shoah.

Scheduled to be dedicated in March 2012 to coincide with Hadassah’s centennial, the 1-million-square-foot tower will enhance Hadassah’s and Jerusalem’s standing as a leader in medicine and a beacon of health in the Middle East.

Discovering the Mamaloshen

When Peter Manseau first discovered Yiddish literature as a recent college graduate, he felt a certain degree of camaraderie with the writers of the genre. “Most were raised with a traditional [religious] education and moved away from it—though they could never really get away,” he says. “This spoke to my own experience.”

The one difference between Manseau and those

Yiddish writers: His traditional education was Catholic.

Son of a Catholic priest and a former nun, Manseau (right) might seem an unlikely author to be showered with attention from the American Jewish community. Nonetheless, he is the winner of Hadassah Magazine’s 2009 Harold U. Ribalow Prize for his novel, Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter (Free Press). The novel also won the National Jewish Book Award for fiction, among other honors.

Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter (see excerpt, page 26) weaves together the “translator’s notes” of a young gentile who lands a job shelving Yiddish books at the warehouse of a Jewish cultural organization and the memoirs of Itsik Malpesh, the self-styled “greatest Yiddish poet in America.”

Manseau, 34, explains that his novel is “only autobiographical in that I worked for a similar place after college”—the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts—where he “fell in love with Yiddish.” And, like the translator in the novel, “At the Yiddish Book Center, I was always confused as being Jewish,” he says. “I learned not to overexplain myself.” Indeed, nothing about his thick dark hair or blue eyes gives indication of his Irish and French Canadian roots.

“I didn’t mind creating confusion between the translator and myself,” Manseau notes. “If readers believe he is real, then they could believe Malpesh was real, too.”

How did a lapsed Catholic raised in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, who says he can read Yiddish only “haltingly,” come to write a novel about Yiddish culture?

“I had written a memoir,” explains Manseau, referring to his first book, Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son (Free Press), “that didn’t mention Yiddish, though it was very formative for me. I wanted to write about the language...and I figured the best way to explore it would be in a novel.” One of his goals was to introduce Yiddish to readers who would never read it, even in translation.

“Language interests me because I feel hemmed in by having only one,” Manseau says. “It was great fun writing about another language—it makes the process of writing about writing more mysterious.”

“The novel required a fair amount of research,” admits the Washington, D.C., resident. “As I was writing, I realized all the things I didn’t know...mostly I was filling in the gaps.”

Manseau says he is “humbled and gratified” by the attention he has received within the Jewish community for his novel. He points out that, unlike Jewish writers of Jewish fiction, “I don’t have to deal with concerns of being pegged as an ethnically affiliated writer.”

Manseau has published three books of nonfiction, though Songs is his first novel. He says he enjoys both forms of writing, “so I’ve been switching back and forth.” Manseau is currently working on two books, one a non-Christian, religious history of the United States, and the other a novel, again with a religious theme, set in China in the 1970s.

He also teaches at Georgetown University, where he is a doctoral student. He and his wife, Gwen, a government lawyer, have two daughters, Annick, 4, and Jeanette, 18 months old. H

Books: Hanukka Is Also For Reading

Brief Reviews: Imagination, Sacred and Scary

Commentary: Firm Against the Current

Editor’s Wrapup: What’s New?

Family Matters: Anorexia: It's Not About Food

Guide to the Arts

Inside Hadassah: A Therapy of Salt; a Peppering of Yiddish

Interview: Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Life: The Carpetbagger Who Did Good

Letter from Jerusalem: Learning Curve

Letter from Modi'in: Hanukka With Two Genders

Letters to the Editor: A Debate on Settlements; Toronto for Jews

Medicine: Where the Wild Things Are Healed

Night and Day in Jewish Time

President's Column: Extraordinary as Normal

Profile: Milton Glaser

Songs for the Butcher's Daughter

The Arts: Timeless and Fresh Rituals

The Jewish Traveler: Phoenix

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