President’s Column: Hadassah Without Borders
Tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of repairing the world, begins at home, but it doesn’t end there. Each of us tries to become a better person through good deeds and by giving of our time and money. Afterward, we reach out to our communities and our nation. That’s what we’re doing on March 2, when Hadassah marches on state capitals to impress on our legislators the importance of supporting stem cell research at the state level—and the importance of allowing unfettered scientific inquiry.
Our Zionism is a paramount expression of tikkun olam because we see the building of Israel as a fulfillment of our destiny to become a light among the nations. I’m sure you feel enormous pride when Hadassah doctors are among the first to extend a hand to countries in distress, as they did recently in Sri Lanka after the tsunami. You might think Israelis have enough to cope with, but somehow they always find time and energy to share their hard-earned expertise. International rescue is a complex operation run by the Israel Defense Forces or the foreign ministry. They know they can count on Hadassah doctors because they’re schooled in quick, professional response.
Take, for example, infectious-disease expert dr. Dan Englehard, the soft-spoken head of pediatrics on our Ein Kerem campus. He had already served on international missions in Rwanda, Kosovo, Turkey and Cambodia. On December 26, the day the tsunami hit, he was in the emergency room, fighting for the life of a boy with a flesh-eating bacterial infection. When he stabilized the youngster, there was just enough time to stop home for a suitcase on the way to the airport, where he joined anesthesiologist Dr. Yoel Donchin, a veteran of numerous mobile hospitals, and Dr. Avi Rivkind, chief of surgery and trauma, who has treated more terror victims than any surgeon on the planet.
Two weeks later, the need for psychological help became apparent in Sri Lanka—a country of 20 million with only 32 adult psychiatrists and three child psychiatrists. Hadassah’s head of child and adolescent psychiatry, Dr. Esti Galili, went to guide medical students, residents and mental-health professionals on treating bereaved, frightened and traumatized children. We picked up the bill through Hadassah’s Tsunami Relief Fund.
Hadassah is also quietly reaching out to its closest neighbors. On April 1, Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem will become the first Palestinian medical center to open a pediatric oncology unit. Even in the darkest days of the intifada, our physicians, under the leadership of Dr. Michael Weintraub, were training the hospital’s staff to save the lives of children with cancer.
Men and women from all over the world continue to find their way to Jerusalem for treatment. Last month alone, patients from six countries were in our bone marrow transplantation unit. And Hadassah researchers gained worldwide recognition when they announced in January the development of a vaccine to supplement the cocktail of drugs used to treat AIDS.
This month, after the festive dedication of the Center for Emergency Medicine in Jerusalem, our global units will convene at Hadassah-International’s conference in Nice, France, home to a particularly devoted group of supporters. These women and men, Jews and non-Jews, have raised the profile of Hadassah’s research and care around the world. We salute their steadfastness and generosity.
March also marks Hadassah’s 93rd birthday, and I know that Henrietta Szold would be delighted at our international reach. I can’t think of a nicer way to celebrate our founding than to announce that the Hadassah Medical Organization has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. (The nominations have come from at least four different countries.) One of the nominating petitions said, “Awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Hadassah Medical Organization would be recognition of [its] work and an example to the world that hatred and suspicion can be overcome by people of goodwill.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!