President’s Column: Advanced Zionism
The sight of sick and suffering children in Tiberias, Jerusalem and Jaffa moved Henrietta Szold to establish Hadassah. Later, in her seventies, she took upon herself the mission of Youth Aliyah, meeting the boatloads of children fleeing Hitler’s Europe and helping them settle in youth villages and kibbutzim. Ninety-four years have passed since Ms. Szold established Hadassah, but I can feel her looking over my shoulder whenever I visit the children in our youth villages, where we’re still engaged in child rescue. And I profoundly felt her spirit and approval when, recently in Jerusalem, Hadassah handed out a million shekels to bolster projects from all over Israel as part of our Children at Risk program.
For all Israel’s achievements, some children still need help and protection. Children at Risk lends support to indigenous Israeli projects that need start-up funds or a critical boost to carry through their plans. One new project addresses the children uprooted by the disengagement from Gaza; some of these kids have had to move a second time since last August because their new, supposedly safe homes became the targets of Kassam rockets. We’re enabling the Arnon Community Center to offer after-school sports and art activities, and coaching teachers and parents on how to get their kids through a crisis. At the same time, we’re contributing to the Warm House program, which provides tutoring and hot food in the Israeli Arab village of Mazra’a, where the children of single mothers face the social stigma of divorce and poverty.
We’d like to think that all ethiopian kids have been successfully absorbed into Israeli society, but that’s not the case. Until we provided the cash for the Taspatzchin clubhouse in Yavne, with its books, recreation and art materials, some of the teens there were literally on the streets. One of the clubhouse volunteers—a pilot who flew Ethiopian immigrants to Israel—sees helping these kids as a completion of his sacred work.
Several of the projects we support relate to the darkest side of any society and to things we’d like to think do not exist in Israel. We’re helping a boarding school for abused girls in the sheltering community of a religious kibbutz; families served by the Battered Women’s Hotline in Haifa; and we are paying the expenses of law-student volunteers who accompany young victims of violent crimes to court when they testify.
On the other hand, in a project called Birthday Angels, volunteers make parties for kids whose families lack the resources to celebrate their big days. I like the idea of providing cakes and balloons—not the largest project Hadassah has ever backed, but a particularly satisfying one.
We are also celebrating five years of Hadassah Foundation grants. This arm of Hadassah reaches out to initiatives that provide economic empowerment for women and girls in the United States and Israel. We’re helping mothers in the beleaguered development town of Sderot, in religious Bnei Brak, in the Bedouin townships of the Negev and in the cities and small towns of the north to get job training, gain confidence and start cottage industries.
Israel is an extraordinary country, and we have much to be proud of. But the work of Zionism is far from over. We in Hadassah are privileged to be able to help in so many ways to make a difference. To the Russian, Ethiopian and sabra children in our Meir Shfeya Youth Village who are learning agronomy and how to run a business while fermenting grapes into fine wine, to the children in Yavne who have become closer to their parents by producing an Ethiopian cookbook, to the disadvantaged kids who are themselves helping physically challenged children ride horses at Hadassah-Neurim, I offer a special blessing: May you become adults who don’t need help and who can help others.
And to Am Yisrael, the people of Israel, a happy 58th birthday. Hadassah wishes you a future of unprecedented prosperity and peace, and pledges to stand by your side. A happy Yom Ha’atzma’ut and a Hag Sameah!
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