Inside Hadassah: Stem Cell Sensation and Tidal Waves
Hadassah is almost 93 years young, and it still reflects the vibrancy and vision that founder Henrietta Szold instilled in its mission back in 1912. Fulfilling that mission depends on individual effort as well as teamwork. Thus, this month we recognize the sparks that ignite our medical milestones, our Youth Aliyah efforts, Hadassah Foundation and Hadassah International ties and our family simchas.
We know that each individual act of vision and creativity can light the way in another branch of our Hadassah family. Let’s keep kindling these sparks.
Dr. Alvin W. Hecker, a retired Baltimore physician, was inspired by Hadassah’s Check It Out® program for women and teens: He saw the opportunity to save men’s lives. Using the women’s health awareness model, he helped organize and program medical seminars on prostate- and testicular-cancer awareness and brought medical experts to high schools and corporations.
Hadassah is grateful for his efforts and devotion to its ideals, his commitment to the Jewish people and to tikkun olam, repairing the world. Last year Dr. Hecker was named Baltimore’s No. 1 volunteer, this year he was honored as the National Outstanding Hadassah Associate for 2003-2004.
Bright New Frontiers
While the issue of stem cell research in the United States has evoked bitter controversy, Dr. Benjamin Reubinoff (above left), director of amniotic stem cell research at the Hadassah–Hebrew University Medical Center at Ein Kerem, and Dr. Tamir Ben-Hur (above right), senior physician in the Department of Neurology, have announced results of the first study in which rats with Parkinson’s disease showed improvement after the use of human embryonic stem cell technology. The findings were published in the scientific journal Stem Cells.
“What Israel has done in the laboratory and in their oversight mechanisms is a model for other nations to emulate,” said bioethicist LeRoy Walters of Georgetown University, an expert in the global dimensions of stem cell research.
Embryonic stem cells, the main focus of dispute in America, can develop into almost any type of cell in the body. These cells appear to hold promise for curing incompliant diseases. Once multiplied, the cells can potentially be transplanted to replace damaged cells, curing diseases from cancer to heart disease to diabetes.
Eighty Youth Aliyah kids at Hadassah Neurim have become volunteers at the Therapeutic Riding Association of Israel. Located on the grounds of the residential village, the association teaches equine skills and horseback riding to the disabled, challenged learners and terrorism victims. They also gain patience and understanding of themselves and others.
Making a Splash
On a romantic sunset-backed setting at Kibbutz Ketura overlooking the Arava Valley and the Jordanian mountains, Daniella Topol was married to Joe Slott in October 2004.
The couple—daughter of national board member Barbara Topol and husband Allan, and son of national board member Lois Slott and husband Irv—will live in New York.
The reception was held on a lawn near the kibbutz pool, the buffet dinner served in the library. Music for dancing was provided by a member of the kibbutz. The finale? All the guests changed into bathing suits and jumped into the pool.
On December 26,2004, four Hadassah doctors left for Colombo, Sri Lanka, one of 12 countries in South Asia devastated by the tsunami created by an earthquake off the shore of Indonesia. By early January, about 150,000 people had died. Dr. Avi Rivkind, head of general surgery and the trauma unit, Dr. Dan Engelhardt, head of pediatrics, and anesthesiologists Drs. Yoel Donchin and Yuval Meroz will be extending medical care to disaster victims. Donations can be sent to the Tsunami Relief Fund, Hadassah, 50 West 58 Street, New York, NY 10019, or go to www.hadassah.org.
Pride, Not Pressure
In October 2004, Hadassah of Greater Baltimore’s Beyond the Mirror program presented “Proud To Be Me: A Symposium for Middle and High School Girls and Those Who Care About Them.”
The hallmark event was aimed at educating young women and their parents about issues plaguing adolescents today, including poor self-image, body dissatisfaction, peer pressure, media influence, nutrition and physical and mental health.
Afterward, a mother wrote, “This was an exciting program. My daughter was not happy about coming tonight, but thanked me during the dinner break. We were both moved by the speakers.”
Her daughter’s comment?
“Amazing,” she said. “This is truly amazing.”
Designing Women: Old Skills and New Techniques
The Hadassah Foundation, a leader in promoting programs that help women break the cycle of financial dependence, recently announced eight new grants to Israeli enterprises:
Step Forward helps Bedouin women start businesses that combine traditional sewing and embroidery skills with modern techniques;Itach, another startup, provides legal assistance and advocacy.
Community of Learning Women is a two-year curriculum offering computer literacy and English, and Yedid (left) provides budget-management skills. Community Advocacy develops cooperatives for women, and the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Developmentprovides skills training and encourages Jewish and Palestinian Israeli women to work together on business initiatives.
Another program, at Tel Aviv University Law School, empowers women in Bnei Brak and trains law students, and Economic Empowerment for Women assists in improving design, marketing and delivery of homemade products.
Keeping Heads—and Values—High
When Simone and David Waterman volunteered to host a youth weekend at their London synagogue, they didn’t anticipate problems more serious than kids fooling around during services. After Friday night prayers, they ladled out bowls of steaming chicken soup to 45 youngsters.
That’s when they smelled smoke—someone had set off firecrackers. While security guards escorted the kids out of the synagogue from a side exit, David Waterman stood at the front to divert the attackers who were hurling both bottles and anti-Semitic epithets at him. The gang also threatened him with a gun.
Across the channel in Paris, Rollante Seboun was facing the worst problems she had known since emigrating from Algeria 30 years ago. “Until now we felt as if we fit in,” she said. “Not anymore. Imagine me begging my grandchildren not to wear kippot on the street and in the Metro.” Seboun isn’t being paranoid. A teenager with a kippa was recently beaten and no one stopped to help him.
And Argentina-born Guy Azubel decided to forgo graduate studies in Spain because the university was so unbearably anti-Israel.
Anti-semitism is a fact of life in Europe,” said Aaron Meir, a student in the Netherlands. “Today there are vile writings on walls and Jew-hating articles in newspapers and magazines. And there’s a lot of violence.”
Last April in Amsterdam, three violent incidents took place at an anti-Israel demonstration and there were many Hitler salutes.
Remarkably, despite escalating problems at home, for the 250 delegates from 18 countries at the Hadassah International Medical Relief Association’s Solidarity Conference in Jerusalem last year, European anti-Semitism took a back seat to the participants’ united concerns about the impact of terror on Israel.
Delegates heard Dr. Esti Galili, head of Hadassah’s Child and Adult Psychiatric Department at the Orion Center, give an update on posttraumatic stress disorder in Israeli children, three times the worldwide average. Dr. Meir Liebergall, head of orthopedics, explained how computer techniques used to fix bones of terror victims were being utilized in the first computerized hip replacements in the world. Radiologist Moshe Gamory explained how new MRI and angiography techniques treat complex injuries such as removing poison-soaked nails embedded in vital organs.
Hadassah France president Sydney Ohana, a prominent Paris plastic surgeon, headed the largest delegation with over 100 Jews and non-Jews including several Muslims.
“The Europeans are facing anti-Semitism and we’re facing terror, but we don’t dwell on it,” said Josh Schroeder, a Hadassah medical student. “We create strong ties uniting us around meaningful fund-raising projects for Hadassah Hospital.”
Back in London, the Watermans have increased both their caution and their hard work for Hadassah International. “You have to hold on to your values,” David said. “Hadassah has kept on building bridges across faiths, regardless of how many times the bridges were knocked down. I always use the good work of the Hadassah Medical Center to promote the understanding that despite what they see and hear in the media, there’s a place where coexistence is a beacon of hope.”
To drive home that message, the Watermans (above) celebrated daughter Lauren’s bat mitzva in the Abbell Synagogue in the Hadassah–Hebrew University Medical Center at Ein Kerem. Afterward, they shared the cake with Jewish and Arab patients in the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Mother and Child Center.