President’s Column: Behind the Scenes
My granddaughter Stacey turned Sweet 16 recently, and I was drafted as chief cook and hamburger flipper. Stacey was delighted that I accepted the appointment, but she also reminded me that the party was for teenagers only. Grandparents—and parents, for that matter—had behind-the-scenes roles.
Stacey needn’t have worried. Hadassah has given me an exquisite appreciation of behind-the-scenes roles. Any among us who has ever run an activity, from a raffle sale to a spring conference, knows that the really hard work takes place out of the limelight.
That was certainly true in the crisis around Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s health at Hadassah University Hospital. Every time Director General Shlomo Mor-Yosef stepped outside to speak, all of us realized that he represented everyone who works or volunteers in Hadassah’s name. We in the United States and in Hadassah International units around the world were praying for the prime minister’s complete recovery. Early in January I flew to Israel to express our solidarity in person.
The tent city that sheltered hundreds of reporters from the cold and rain is hard to describe. When I walked out of the hospital at Ein Kerem, dozens of microphones and cameras were thrust toward me. Why had I come? Had I seen the prime minister’s family? I told of my meeting with the Sharon family and of the messages of love and support that I conveyed from all of you. The prime minister’s son Omri expressed the family’s mixture of sadness and hope, and his thanks for all Hadassah was doing for his father. As I stood in line at the airport to leave, a stranger came up to me—he had seen me on television—to thank me as well. Weeks after the visit, I am still getting thank you letters from Israelis. I pass on those thanks to you, who work tirelessly behind the scenes both here and in Israel.
As i write, my upcoming itinerary includes a visit to the Jewish leadership of Baku, Azerbaijan. Although this will be my first time in the former Soviet republic, the Jewish community there is already connected to Hadassah. They recently mobilized their resources to bring David Mordvinstseia, a 5-year-old with a deteriorating heart defect, to Hadassah Medical Center, where I met David and his mother, Albina. David had spent his childhood as an invalid and his condition was getting worse. “I had read about Hadassah on the Internet and I knew that I could find the best medicine there,” Albina said. Cardiac surgeons Eli Milgalter and Bashir Marzouka were able to repair his heart. As Albina got ready to go home with her healthy little boy, she, too, asked me to thank all of you for making our life-saving work possible.
Speaking of work behind the scenes, for the past three years we’ve been watching the Judaean Youth Hostel rise on the Masua hillside in Jerusalem. So much work has gone into this project, from land acquisition to design to decorating. Back in the dark days of the intifada, when youth programs were shrinking and closing, groundbreaking for a tourism facility looked odd indeed to those who didn’t know of our deep commitment to Jewish continuity. With the revival of tourism in Israel, we see how we anticipated the future in opening a hostel for young people.
On January 18, the Young Judaeans packed their suitcases, guitars and book cartons and lowered the flags outside of Beit Riklis on Mount Scopus, which had been the home of Year Course for more than 30 years. The teens posed on the steps and experienced a poignant moment of parting, but if many were sad to leave the building, they got over it quickly. They literally danced through the front door into the spacious lobby of their new home, with its view of the Jerusalem hills. They marveled at the well-appointed rooms with private bathrooms.
On Mount Scopus, with our hospital next door, there was a cap on noisemaking. But from the first evening on the new campus, you could hear the tap of basketballs against asphalt in the new lighted courts. By the time we all arrive for the dedication mission in March, the few kinks and quirks of the breaking-in period should be worked out. I’ve even promised to flip a few hamburgers.