Inside Hadassah: Unbinding the Ties and the Sound of Music
In Ecclesiastes it is written “To everything there is a season…. A time to sow and a time to reap….” And in January we celebrate Tu Bishvat, a time to sow for another harvest. In Hadassah, we plant seeds every day, seeds of healing, seeds of hope of Jewish continuity. We celebrate the nurturing of positive role models, the saving of lives and the ascent of a new generation of leaders. It is our compelling task to plant the seeds and to endow the tools to those who come after us so that our legacy of building lives can go on. Only then will it be time to reap.
Katie Did It
“Several weeks ago, my son-in-law Paul informed the family that he would be donating a kidney to his ailing brother,” wrote Rosalind Kent, who was not a member of Hadassah. “No one in our family had ever known anyone who’d been through this experience.”
Then along came a friend, who showed Kent the stunning story in the August/September issue of Hadassah Magazine about Hadassah member Katie Edelstein’s donation of her kidney to Belle Simon, a national board member. Kent contacted Edelstein.
Says Kent, “Here’s the conclusion of my story: Paul had his surgery; I’ve made a wonderful new friend in Katie and I am now becoming a member of Hadassah. What a mitzva!”
Although in the United States Hadassah educates its members and their communities about organ transplantation, it is not an organ-procurement organization and does not facilitate or act as a clearinghouse for specific organ donation requests.
But now a special fund has been set up and we can all do a mitzva: Any financial donations sent to the Katie-Belle Fund at Hadassah’s fund-raising department, 50 West 58 Street, New York, NY 10019 (866-229-2395; frser vices@Hadassah.org), will support the transplantation program at the Hadassah–Hebrew University Medical Center at Ein Karem.
Down’s Up at Mount Scopus
Israel’s first center for Down’s syndrome has opened as part of the new Center for Chronic Disease in the Hadassah–University Hospital on Mount Scopus. “There are very few Down’s centers in the world with a multidisciplinary approach,” said Dr. Eitan Kerem, the hospital’s head of pediatrics. “Patients include children and adults up to 120.”
Loosing the Chains
Tamar, 29, is among the thousands of Israeli women chained in a miserable marriage because her husband will not give her a get, a Jewish bill of divorce.
Tamar (above) was a student in Hadassah College Jerusalem, but soon after she was married her husband insisted she drop out of school. There were many more painful experiences, so after giving birth to her second child she escaped with both children to her parents’ home. For the last three and a half years she has been in rabbinical court trying to get a divorce.
Tamar’s ordeal is documented in Mekudeshet, Sentenced to Marriage, which won the 2004 Wolgin Prize for best documentary at the Jerusalem Film Festival. She has also been readmitted to the college on a Hadassah scholarship.
A Cup of Comfort, a Helping Hand
The 2,600 women of Hadassah Israel were on the march November 25, alongside women from all over Israel and figuratively shoulder to shoulder with women worldwide. On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, they took advantage of a listening world to speak out louder than ever for Israel’s estimated 200,000 victims of domestic abuse.
Inside malls and outside city halls and hospitals countrywide, Hadassah Israel members set up stalls, each with the backdrop of their red, life-size “silent witness” cutout, representing the dozens of Israeli women murdered by their partners. Along with leaflets of facts and figures, there was an appeal for legislation that will obligate abusive men to receive therapy. A Hadassah Israel initiative, the idea is supported by Knesset Member Gila Finkelstein, who will bring the plea before the Israeli parliament when the target 10,000 signatures is reached.
Some members staffed these stalls, others screened films and led workshops explaining the depth and degree of the problem and hundreds more joined with other women’s organizations for a mass walkathon.
The busy day, November 25, was a long one, but its championship of abused women stretches back almost 21 years to the organization’s founding. “Chapters simply took on projects they felt fell within Hadassah’s mission, and that’s the direction in which we’ve grown,” says Miriam Griver, president of Hadassah Israel.
“We saw a need,” says Yaffa Frank, former chair of the Prevention of Family Violence Committee. “There are others who provide legal help and who run shelters, but there was no one supplementing social workers to provide emotional and practical support when a woman leaves a shelter and returns home.”
Hadassah Israel members began and continue to pair with these women, meeting with them once, twice or three times a week—to talk to them, deal with officials on their behalf or just go to the supermarket together. The program has been so successful that it is now included in the city support services provided to victims of domestic violence.
Members have launched Café Hadassah in four towns, a coffee shop where women come for company, a hot drink and to pour out fears and hopes. In Netanya, Hadassah Israel is developing a pilot project with the prime minister’s office in which women threatened by their partners have been issued emergency electric alarms.
The fight against violence to women has been highlighted by the November 25 event, but it is only one of several Hadassah Israel programs. Among others are headstart outreach to 2- to 6-year- old Ethiopian youngsters and their parents, support and enrichment for children-at-risk, help to families of disabled and fallen soldiers, English-speaking “grandmas” who help schoolchildren with their English, and Hebrew-speakers who help immigrants with their Hebrew.
We’ve carved out a constituency,” says griver. “The Hadassah idea speaks as clearly to Israeli-born women as to American. We are known as people who care about health and education, without any political or religious ax to grind. There are very few other organizations like that in Israel. We may be a dual-language organization with a strong link to the U.S., but our character and modus operandi are wholly Israeli. The impact we have had in helping prevent violence against women is having a true impact on Israeli society.”
Pancakes for Breakfast
Imagine preparing breakfast for 15 children—12 of them teenagers! Revital (left) and Zion Kandaro, a couple at the Hadassah-Neurim Youth Aliyah Village for intractable youngsters, do that daily.
They live with their sons, Raveh, 11, Paz, 10, and Yurai, 4, in the Hadassah-Neurim dorms. A door that is almost always open separates the family unit from the teen quarters. “Like every mother, I can tell how each one’s day went just by looking at him,” says Revital, 40. “I never yell or punish, I believe in humor and discussion to diffuse crises.
“Knowing that these kids have put the violence that marked their previous home life behind them is all the satisfaction I could want.”
Grabbing the Prize
The Hadassah Career Counseling Institute is running leadership courses for women who work in government, hoping to provide tools for those who are already employed in high positions to shatter the glass ceiling. Michal Peleg, senior psychologist at the institute, says the message of the course is “Be proactive. Don’t wait until someone offers you something. Take the initiative yourself.” And that’s just what Gila Gamliel did.
In the 2003 Likud Party primaries, Gamliel, 31, won 11th place. However, when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon began making postelection appointments to ministries and other key positions, he skipped over her. So what did she do? She sent out her own press release thanking the prime minister for appointing her chairperson of the important Knesset Committee on the Advancement of Women’s Status. After hearing this news from the press, the surprised prime minister congratulated Gamliel on her new position and immediately confirmed her as chair. Talk about fast action.
Barb Watters is not only completing her term as mayor of Casper, the former police officer is the first Jew to have held that top spot in Wyoming’s largest city.
“In 1980 when I came here from Ohio, there was tumbleweed blowing down the middle of Center Street,” she recalls.
When Temple Beth El, the only synagogue in Casper, fell into disrepair some members wanted to shut it down, but Watters insisted on keeping it alive. She is now the synagogue president, and will soon finish a Sh’liah K’hilah course at Hebrew Union College and become a Reform movement-sanctioned emissary.
And what is the icing on the cake? Out of a population of maybe 50,000, there are only about 100 Jews in Casper. Five of them are in the brand new Hadassah group that Watters organized. She is now trying to morph it into an 15-member bona fide, certified chapter. Amen!
Bonnie Lipton Center Opens at Meir Shfeya
Welcoming visitors to the dedication of the Bonnie Lipton Center for the Performing Arts at the Meir Shfeya Youth Village was eloquent Youth Aliyah chair Leah Reicin.
“One of the major goals of the Zionist movement was not just to establish a homeland as a refuge for Jews, but to create a vibrant Jewish state in which the genius of the Jew would flourish and excel in art, music, science, literature, Jewish studies and even in sports,” said Reicin.
“Youth Aliyah has a strong music tradition,” she added. “When the first kids arrived from Germany in 1934, many of them carried their musical instruments.Those kids helped create the Israel of today, where music and the arts are appreciated, esteemed and loved.”