President’s Column: Rhythm and Blues
Suddenly everything was different. We had planned for many months for Hadassah’s 92nd national convention in Nashville. The theme, “Step to the Rhythm of Our Lives,” reflected an upbeat Israel returning to itself after the years of the intifada. But as we deplaned in Music City in July, the mood was somber. Israel was fighting on two fronts.
But the timing also offered an opportunity. With 2,000 members gathered to hear updates from the Israelis in our Hadassah family and experts on the Middle East, we had a chance to pledge our solidarity with Israel in words, in deeds and with a million-dollar emergency fund that will help defray the financial burden of the crisis. We also announced an Israel solidarity mission for early August. (A full report on the convention will appear in the October issue of Hadassah Magazine.)
One example of unplanned expenses: Our Youth Aliyah villages of Hadassah-Neurim and Meir Shfeya—both out of range of Hezbollah’s missiles—were converted into refuges for people who had to leave their homes in northern Israel, which was under daily rocket attack.
The first busloads came from an absorption center in Safed, where children had been crowded into a sweltering bomb shelter. A rumor spread that a village near Netanya was offering room, board and recreation. Some parents, afraid to part with their children, refused at first. But the kids—teens and pre-teens, some only two months in the country—had already become Israeli enough to insist. They simply ran to fill up the buses, coming with only the shirts on their backs. They arrived at Hadassah-Neurim and headed straight for the swimming pool. But they did not have bathing suits. We quickly dispatched the village’s housemothers to go shopping. Village director Nachum Katz ordered double portions of food for the hungry kids.
Hadassah, he knew, was good for it.
At Meir Shfeya, whole families moved in. One man told us how his father and uncles, orphaned and alone in Israel, had grown up in that very village. “You’ve closed the golden circle by taking us in in the time of our distress,” he said.
As the crisis continued, Hadassah’s Jerusalem hospitals began receiving patients from the north. Hadassah doctors also went to support colleagues in border hospitals or to serve in their Army reserve units. Students from colleges in the north began arriving at Hadassah College Jerusalem to take advantage of the library and computer center so they could complete their academic year.
Our thousand Young Judaeans on the Machon Summer Programs, including my granddaughter Rebecca, remained in Israel. Young Judaea staff pulled them away from the areas affected by the bombing. Some went to Hadassah’s Kibbutz Ketura near Eilat. Reporters from television and newspapers, including The New York Times, tried unsuccessfully to get me to say that I was afraid for Rebecca. I knew she was safe. I told them that I was more concerned for my granddaughter Stacy, who often takes the train from New York’s Penn Station at night.
In nashville, our convention had a large contingent of young women who continue to take a lead in our campaign for stem cell research at Hadassah Medical Organization. With so many young women taking active roles, we must be doing something right.
And it’s always good to meet people doing something right well beyond Hadassah. A special convention guest was Linda Hooper, principal of the Whitwell (Tennessee) Middle School, where students collected six million paper clips in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The paper clip, one of the kids discovered, was invented by a Norwegian Jew; during World War II, it became a symbol of anti-Nazi protest for Norwegians. Hooper teaches students that they don’t have to like everyone, but they do have to love them—and respect them. She was full of praise for Hadassah. “I believe the women of Hadassah link their hearts to our students to create a world where acceptance, tolerance and love are the rule and not the exception,” she said. We couldn’t agree more.