Inside Hadassah: Jewish Visionaries and Missions That Empower
Hadassah was founded on Purim, a time when we remember our namesake, Esther. Together with her Uncle Mordecai, she bravely persuaded King Ahasuerus to spare the Jews of Persia. Today we, too, recognize the power of teamwork and the support systems needed to carry out Hadassah’s mission. This month, we highlight the Hadassah Foundation, another life-changing arm of Hadassah, now in its 6th year. Through its work, women and girls are empowered to be all they can be. So this Purim let’s celebrate the vision and power of Esther and Hadassah. Hag Sameah!
Israeli Environmentalist Gets High Honors
Alon Tal, Ph.D. (below), a former Young Judaean, was given the prestigious Charles Bronfman Prize in Jerusalem in January. The $100,000 humanitarian award was bestowed on this “outstanding environmental visionary, who set out to change the world and has actually done so,” according to prize administrators. “Tal’s actions have forever changed the face of environmental policy in Israel.”
Tal, 45, is the founder of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies on Kibbutz Ketura, which functions under the auspices of Tel Aviv University and recruits students from throughout the Middle East. He also established the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, long considered Israel’s most effective environmental advocacy organization. Tal is the chair of the organizing committee for the United Nations’ November 2006 conference on “Deserts and Desertification: Challenges and Opportunities,” which will be the first United Nations-sponsored convention to be held in Israel.
A native of North Carolina, Tal (formerly Alon Rosenthal) has a long history of involvement in Young Judaea. As a teenager, he was the national programming vice president, and he attended Year Course and later taught there as well. He also served as the director of Young Judaea’s Camp Tel Yehudah.
Tal is the second recipient of the Charles Bronfman Prize, established in 2004 by Bronfman’s children in honor of the philanthropist’s 70th birthday and intended to celebrate the vision and talent of an individual or team whose humanitarian work has contributed significantly to the betterment of the world.
Spring in Netanya
It’s not too late to add an exciting SPIN to your life.
Spend a month in Israel, from April 27 to May 23, volunteering in the charming seaside town of Netanya. While contributing your talents to Israeli society—tutoring English, working in a hospital or in an experimental garden—you’ll also have the opportunity to enrich your own knowledge through touring, attending lectures and taking Hebrew and folk-dancing classes. Spring for a change: call 800-363-2373 or e-mail win.spin@ hadassah.org.
Young Judaeans See Hadassah in Action
Hadassah’s seminar for Year Course participants was redesigned this year to accommodate the largest group of students ever. In the past, the seminar was a three-day event where all Year Coursers got together to learn about Hadassah’s important projects in Israel. But with over 400 teenagers on the program, in different locations across the country, it was decided that the seminar would be spread throughout the year.
So, one day last November, the Young Judaeans in Jerusalem visited the grave of Henrietta Szold and the Hadassah convoy memorial, as well as toured parts of the Hadassah– Hebrew University Medical Center at Ein Kerem. The highlight of the day was a mural-painting project undertaken by the students to brighten up the construction fences that cut across the campus as buildings are added and improved.
At the same time, Year Course participants volunteering in Bat Yam visited the Meir Shfeya Youth Aliyah Village; Shalem students in Tiberias went to Ben Yakir, a religious Youth Aliyah village; and the 102 Young Judaeans volunteering in Tel Aviv spent an afternoon at Hadassah Neurim near Netanya. The American and Israeli teens performed for each other and played sports together.
Later this year, Year Coursers will have the opportunity to see the Hadassah projects they missed this time around, giving them a full perspective on the organization’s contributions to Israel.
Five American Veterans Honored by Israel
Five World War II veterans were commended for their participation in the fight against the Nazis, with awards signed by Israel’s Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, in a ceremony in New York on Veteran’s Day last year.
Maynard Hanson, Ray Callanan, Robert Patton, Mickey Dorsey (left, receiving his award from Israeli Consul Amir Ofek) and the late Lynn LaBarre were nominated for the award by Miriam Meisels Griver, president of Hadassah Israel. She met the group last spring on a trip to Germany, at a ceremony at the concentration camp at Waldstadt where her father had been an inmate. The soldiers had passed through the camp during the war and saved his life, demanding medical attention for him after he had been left for dead.
Griver contacted the Israeli government and suggested these veterans deserved recognition. She personally carried the medals from Israel to New York.
“Really, it’s quite an honor,” Hanson told the Aberdeen News in his South Dakota hometown. “We’re the only five Americans that have ever been decorated by the Israelis.”
Come Along to Visit Hadassah College Jerusalem
Join with donors and supporters of Hadassah College Jerusalem on the prestigious, first-of-its-kind Bridge the Future Mission to Israel, June 8 to 16. This exclusive group will meet with the mayor of Jerusalem to engage in dialogue about issues that are critical to the young people of the city. Time will be spent exploring the professional fields of the college with instructors and students. There will be a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Bridge for Education that will connect the two HCJ campuses. Participants will attend the HCJ graduation as well as celebrate at a festive dedication ceremony honoring major donors. And, of course, they will savor the gourmet food prepared and served by students in the culinary arts department.
Mission participants will explore Jerusalem through its architecture and history, including tours of Hadassah institutions and projects and an in-depth experience at the new museum at Yad Vashem. Home hospitality will offer visitors a taste of Israeli life.
To join this mission or for more information, contact 212-303-8031 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paving the Way for Women
In Israel today, virtually all government employees associated with religious facilities are men. This year, the newly created Israel Religious Action Center has undertaken to research and prepare the groundwork for enabling women to enter this workforce in the fields of kashrut supervision and maintenance of religious facilities such as mikves, cemeteries and synagogues.
In most cases, Jewish law does not prevent women from overseeing these sites. This is but one example of the pioneering projects made possible by funds provided by the Hadassah Foundation.
Now entering its 6th year, the foundation brings women’s issues from the margins to the center of Jewish concern, both in Israel and in the United States.
Established in 1998 under the guidance of then-National President Marlene Post, the foundation’s endowment has now reached more than $13 million, making it the largest Jewish women’s foundation in the United States and one of the largest women’s funds in the world. The first grants were awarded in 2000.
“When we first met, we knew we wanted to do social change,” explains Barbara Dobkin, Hadassah Foundation chair. “Since then, our board has coalesced around the issue and in the process honed our mission. We fund programs we’re really proud of.”
The foundation’s goals are two- fold. In Israel, the focus is on economic empowerment for women. Several of the grant recipients are microenterprise programs that help women understand household and business budgeting, obtain loans to establish small businesses and understand tax ramifications as well as their legal rights.
Through cottage industries, classes and even enhanced public transportation in small villages, the projects aim to give women the tools for greater financial self-sufficiency. “We’re bringing a more holistic approach to an issue,” says Dobkin. “We bring to it not only our thinking but our resources.”
The grantees work with women across the spectrum of Israeli society: Jews of all backgrounds and religious affiliations, Arabs, Bedouin and Druze.
“We’re not telling [the grantees] what we want,” Dobkin explains, “they’re telling us what they need.” Last year, the foundation brought together its grant recipients in Israel to share ideas and to compare notes.
In the United States, the foundation seeks to refocus the priorities of the Jewish community by funding innovative programs for women and girls, aimed at building self-confidence and leadership skills.
According to director Linda Altshuler, the foundation is addressing issues in both a proactive and preventive way. The grantees use programming to teach young Jewish women about developing healthy bodies, self-esteem, relationships and Jewish identities. Stronger Jewish women are a step toward a stronger Jewish community, Altshuler says.
The Hadassah Foundation is a trendsetter in the growing field of women’s philanthropy. “We’re the first funders for these programs,” says Dobkin. “We’re paving the way. The foundation helps to leverage money from other sources.” In 2006, the foundation is awarding grants to 12 organizations in Israel and five in the United States.