President’s Column: My Hanukka Gift
My family is lighting Hanukka candles in Israel this year. For me, this is a fulfillment of a lifetime dream. There will be about 30 of us—my husband Barry and I, children and grandchildren, my sister, nieces, nephews and friends who are as close as family. Call it Grandma June’s Magical Hadassah Entourage. I’ll get the opportunity to show off what I love to the people I love.
I owe them. Thousands of dinners never cooked because I wasn’t home, essays not checked for spelling mistakes, sympathy extended over a phone line. Hadassah meetings, speeches and conferences, dedications and installations took me away. I want my family—particularly my grandchildren, Becka, Stacey, Lauren, Benny, Jonathan and Kimmie—to understand why I care so much about Hadassah and Israel.
Kids today have so many choices. I can’t say I’m sorry they were not initiated into Zionism the way I was. I can still hear my grandmothers’ inconsolable weeping as the news of their families came from Hitler’s Europe. My mother wouldn’t have understood modern terms like “burnout” or “maintaining boundaries.” We didn’t see our dining room table for months as she and her friends strove to make their Hadassah donor quotas.
My parents’ thrill of a lifetime was their single trip to Israel in 1957. Back then we were raising the money to build Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem, having lost Mount Scopus in 1948. Kids don’t like to be swamped with history, but I do picture myself at our rebuilt Mount Scopus hospital telling my grandchildren about Titus’s destruction of Jerusalem and his gloating over his defeat of the Jews. (At the Israel Museum we’ll see the “Judaea Capta” coins he minted.) When I quote to them from the prophet Jeremiah (who lived near Mount Scopus) asking “if there’s a physician for the healing of my people,” I’ll edit; I remember being puzzled as a kid about what “balm in Gilead” meant.
Inside the hospital, I’m sure my grandchildren will like the bright cartoons that take away the hospital feeling in the Center for Children with Chronic Diseases. We’ll stop for hot chocolate and croissants at Mendelsohn’s Café, named for the architect who designed the building. We’ll peek at the newborns in our renovated neonatal unit.
At Ein Kerem, I’ll point out the showers that pop out of the sidewalk (in case of a chemical attack). We’ll ride the glass elevators to the three new floors of the Charlotte Bloomberg Mother and Child Center, and I’ll show everyone the IV units that pull down out of the acoustic ceilings. I’d like my entourage to join me in my favorite Hadassah job: passing out ice cream to the sick kids.
At Hadassah College, I’ll show them the industrial design studio, the computer lab, the optometry and speech therapy clinics and, of course, the teaching kitchen. They’ll see designs for 22nd-century inventions and meet students whose lives were revolutionized by Hadassah.
At Hadassah-Neurim they can run off extra energy and sufganiot—Hanukka jelly donuts—on the Olympic-grade track that’s part of the Marlene Post Athletic Center. Maybe tuba-playing Benny will serenade us at the Bonnie Lipton Center for the Performing Arts at our Meir Shfeya Youth Village. They’ve met my predecessors, Marlene and Bonnie, which should add intimacy as they marvel at these villages of hope for kids from the toughest backgrounds.
When we get to the Judaean Youth Hostel and the Beit Ar-El Education Center in Jerusalem, I’ll let Becka, 18, take over. She was there during the war last summer with Young Judaea, among the first teen tourists to use the magnificent classrooms, dorm rooms and pool.
At Masada, Grandma will take the cable car, but the kids may climb to the top of this symbol of Jewish defiance. With the desert spread in every direction, each one will read from the Torah. It doesn’t get better than that.
How will I fit it all in? I’ll need a Hanukka miracle. But when we light our candles in the evening, I’m hoping to see in everyone’s eyes the glow of Zionism—an inner flame that will warm them forever.