President’s Column: Hadassah Action, Hadassah Accents
I’m breathless. What a remarkable Hadassah year this has been. As I write these words I’m attending meetings in London, where I’ve been brainstorming and strategizing with the Federation of Zionist Youth (FZY). You may not realize that many high school graduates of FZY join our Young Judaeans on Year Course in Israel. They add a distinct British flavor and are lively and intelligent. A high percentage of them attend prestigious universities, notably Oxford and Cambridge, when they complete what they call the “gap year.”
In some ways, England feels foreign to a New Jerseyite like me, but as soon as we get to discussing the future of our Jewish youth, I feel at home.
Our talks focus on the Young Judaea-FZY partnership, on future plans and—inevitably—fund-raising. As Young Judaea chair Judy Shereck and I listen to the young people glowing about the impact Year Course was having on their community, I feel a rush of pride in Hadassah.
“We’re doing this!” I think.
I’d had a similar feeling two weeks earlier, when immediately after 700 of us dedicated the Judy and Sidney Swartz Center for Emergency Medicine in Jerusalem, Hadassah International held its annual conference in Nice, France, responding to the invitation from that community, headed by Dr. Alain Salinpour.
Some eyebrows were raised at the mention of France but, frankly, we felt that our brothers and sisters deserved our solidarity. When we arrived we discovered a wonderfully warm and idealistic community of men and women who shared our values and love of Israel. They were superb hosts to delegates who came from all over Europe, Israel, North and South America and Australia. Hadassah had united them all, Jews and non-Jews, joined by belief in the healing and research of our own Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem. On the final night of the conference, Richard Gere received our “Citizen of the World Award” for his humanitarian work. “It’s an honor for me to be associated with Hadassah,” the Hollywood superstar said. He also lauded the “real tough women running this organization, who are only ready to accept success. Both when you’re investing in business and in compassion, this is important.”
As soon as I get home and unpack my bags from all this traveling, I’ll be helping my grandchildren pack their much larger ones to attend camps Tel Yehudah and Sprout Lake. I’m delighted to announce that our Young Judaea camps are enjoying unprecedented enrollment. Participation in Year Course in Israel has jumped from 300 this year to 400 next year. And by mid-2006, we’ll have the finishing touches on our magnificent new Judaean Youth Hostel in Jerusalem. We’re doing that, too!
And while the kids and grandkids are absorbing Zionism, it’s time for us to invest in self-renewal, networking and fellowship. A lot of Hadassah activity requires personal output—and attending a national convention is an opportunity for intensive input. I encourage every one of you to head to Washington, D.C., for our 91st national convention, which opens July 17.
We all know that in Washington numbers count. We need to follow up on our successful SOS march to support stem-cell research. Don’t miss out on being among the thousands of Hadassah women marching on Capitol Hill. At convention we’ll be examining our ongoing relationships with the two great democracies we love, Israel and the United States. We’ll discuss how we can best protect the constitutional rights and freedoms about which we’re concerned. We will affirm our unwavering support for groundbreaking medical research. And we will stand up for Israel, stressing our commitment as practical Zionists.
The convention theme is “What so proudly we hail…” We hail the United States of America, we hail the State of Israel, we hail the Jewish people wherever they may be, we hail the men and women of all faiths who support our work, we hail our Hadassah family in Israel and we hail the Hadassah spirit. See you in Washington.