President’s Column: Mission Impeccable
Brooklyn was our bridge. That’s where members of the national board gathered to begin the 2007 Mid-Winter Mission. High on the agenda was the nomination of the next national president of Hadassah. I want to extend my warmest congratulations to Nancy Falchuk of Newton, Massachusetts, who was enthusiastically endorsed by the national board.
Then off we flew to Israel. Six tour buses whisked us from Ben-Gurion Airport to Hadassah College in downtown Jerusalem. We may have looked weary, but the eagerness of students and staff was contagious. They showed off their new departments and the many achievements under the leadership of HCJ President Nava Ben-Zvi. Soon we were dancing to the music of their student band and feasting on a gourmet dinner prepared by students in the Culinary Arts Department and alumni chefs.
Last month, in these pages, I kvelled about showing off the Israel I love to my children and grandchildren. Now my pride knew no bounds as my colleagues made site visits to each of our projects. At Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem, staff members guided us around the much-changed campus. We walked the halls of the new Center for Emergency Medicine, the new nursing school building and the newest floors of the Charlotte Bloomberg Mother and Child Center. Dr. Shomo Mor-Yosef, director general of the Hadassah Medical Organization, unveiled the model of the stunning 14-story Hadassah Tower of Healing, scheduled to rise on our Ein Kerem campus for our 100th anniversary. But impressive as the new buildings are, we know our real achievements aren’t bricks and mortar, but providing superb healing and research for the people of Israel and the world.
In the presence of the full national board, we honored several of our past national presidents. We unveiled a plaque in the Abbell Synagogue—with its resplendent Chagall Windows—in honor of my predecessor, Bonnie Lipton. A sudden winter storm didn’t deter us from traveling to Netanya to honor Marlene Edith Post, for whom a center for sports excellence was named at Hadassah-Neurim Youth Aliyah Village. Marlene’s extensive work with the physically challenged has taught her the importance of sports, not only for rehabilitation but for building learning skills and the motivation to succeed.
One of the mission highlights was visiting the Knesset, where Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Speaker and now Acting President Dalia Itzik and Knesset member Shai Hermesh saluted Hadassah on our 95th anniversary. Olmert spoke of Hadassah as the pride of the Jewish people around the world.
The praise from Israel’s leaders was gratifying but, to tell you the truth, I kept sneaking looks at a large group of the 450 teenagers taking part in the Young Judaea Year Course. They’re our future. Once we dreamt of reaching 400 participants for the program. Now, Year Course Director Keith Berman is talking about a thousand.
We also dedicated the first-ever Hadassah fire truck. Jewish National Fund Chair Deborah Kaplan handed over the keys to a shiny red vehicle designed to maneuver in the northern forests that were badly damaged by katyusha- ignited fires last summer.
No ceremony ended without us singing “Hatikva.” Once we sang the national anthem of hope three times in the same day. I know I speak for all the board when I say how fortunate we felt to be living at a time when we have a State of Israel and to witness the work of Hadassah’s hands.
On the last night of the mission, we erected a huppa and welcomed a new Torah into Beit Ar-El, the Judaean Youth Center in Israel. The last hundred letters were left unfinished so that we could take part in the mitzva of writing a Torah with the help of a ritual scribe. I had the honor of filling in the last letter of the Torah, the lamed (for learning and teaching) in the word “Yisrael,” in the phrase, “before the eyes of all Israel.”
Your elected national board members are indeed the eyes of Israel. As we celebrate 95 years, may we be blessed to continue to serve Hadassah and the Jewish people.