President’s Column: The Men in Hadassah’s Life
My father stared, bewildered, into the closet, looking for his new suit. After searching fruitlessly, he asked my mother if she knew where it might be. My mother got that funny but familiar look on her face. It was thrift-shop season for her Hadassah chapter in Queens, and she knew the suit would bring a good price. Hadassah needed funds for projects in Israel. He wouldn’t want to deny Hadassah, would he?
I can remember my father’s sigh of resignation. When my mother said “Hadassah,” it was like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roofshouting “Tradition!” A wise man, my father knew he could either live his life like a jealous husband or join in Hadassah activities. Not only did he accept my mother’s generosity with family clothing—she once gave her own coat off her back and came home in the snow wearing a sweater—but he and my uncle found themselves renting a truck and transporting two garages-full of used clothing to a big rummage sale. He was wise in other ways, too: He put a lock on his closet door.
My father was as devoted to the Jewish people as my mother, even if he thought he could be a good Zionist and keep his suit. He admired Hadassah’s practical Zionism that turned dollars into saving lives. And most of all, he loved supporting the organization that meant everything to the women in his life. Somewhere in heaven, I know my Pop doesn’t care about that suit, but that’s he’s proud of his daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters who carry on the Hadassah tradition.
In 1966 we decided to formalize the ties that our grandfathers, fathers, uncles, brothers, sons, sons-in-law, grandsons and great-grandsons have with Hadassah, and out of our rib we created Hadassah Associates. True, the boys and men in our lives aren’t full-fledged members, but at 26,000 strong they are a brawny boost to our organization. Since their beginning, Associates groups have funded a variety of projects for the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem, including an intensive coronary care unit, a trauma unit, a cardiac surgical suite and research, care and treatment of prostate and testicular cancer. They fund-raise and run programs in the United States on men’s health issues. The Associates also have a special affinity for those Hadassah projects that help to develop the Israeli economy. They support the efforts of Hadassah College Jerusalem in preparing young people through job-oriented higher education, as well as the work of the Hadassah Career Counseling Institute in helping women enter or return to the work force. The Associates’ latest project is the fitness center at the new home for Young Judaea in Jerusalem.
When we share Hadassah with our husbands and significant others, all members of the family see Hadassah as an expression of their Judaism and Zionism. To do this, we have to educate those we love about what we love. We can’t take for granted that they understand what our movement means. I often hear from men on our Renaissance Missions that they had no idea how much we contribute to the life and health of Israel. Making the men in our lives Associates ($200 for life) can jump-start this process. We’re all pretty good about making daughters and granddaughters life members, but we often forget the boys. Until the end of May, there’s an irresistible Hadassah bargain: For $360, an adult can become a life member or Associate and also bring a child under a year—boy or girl—into the Hadassah family for life as well.
The Jewish people, like Hadassah, are ultimately a family business. As your president, I’ve visited Jewish communities in remote places. As a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, I recently toured Romania and Bulgaria. I am always struck by how Jewish communities everywhere are united by our history, tradition and love of Israel.
As we prepare for Passover, the ultimate family holiday, we renew our appreciation for the gift of freedom—which has not always been ours. Women and men, from Bucharest to Boca Raton, let us pledge “Next Year in Jerusalem” and make it happen. Hag Sameah!