Inside Hadassah: On Vision and Visionaries
April heralds spring and Passover, when we celebrate freedom. At our Seders we read our history and sing Passover songs. a On a recent trip to Israel, I noted with delight how many radio and television programs featured Israeli music. The poet Nathan Yonathan believed that “the Hebrew song is the added spirit of our existence” in Israel. We sing the praises of new adventures in learning and travel; the Hadassah MorningStar Commission, which promotes positive media images of Jewish women; and our founder, Henrietta Szold. So much to celebrate and sing about. Happy Passover!
Hadassah College Jerusalem received accreditation from the Council of Higher Education for its new master’s degree in vision and optometry sciences. This program is the only one of its kind offered in Israel, and it is also the first graduate degree to be offered at HCJ.
Courses began last month and the curriculum is designed to broaden the interdisciplinary approach to vision science and the clinical aspects of the field.
The new program is headed by Ariela Gordon-Shaag, a molecular biologist and electrophysiologist with experience in the operation of electrooptical systems.
HCJ is known and respected In Israel for its undergraduate training in optometry and has a reputation for excellent professional equipment and facilities.
A Leader Among Leaders
This year, Hadassah’s founder, Henrietta Szold, will join a select group of accomplished women. She has been chosen for induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame (www.greatwomen.org).
Since it was founded in 1969, the NWHF has inducted 217 women, celebrating accomplishments in all fields, from science to philanthropy to the arts. Sixty-two years after her death, Szold will be one of nine women inducted in 2007 at a ceremony in October at the NWHF’s home in Seneca Falls, New York—considered the birthplace of the American women’s movement.
Szold (1860-1945) created a model of immigrant absorption in the United States through her innovative idea of teaching evening classes in English and civics in her native Baltimore. She opened her school in 1889, and by the time the city took it over in 1898, it boasted over 5,000 graduates.
After a trip to Palestine in 1912, Szold founded Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, to serve a dual purpose: to build self- and community-empowerment for American Jewish women and provide medical and social services to pre-state Israel. She moved to Mandate Palestine in the mid-1930’s, where she directed Youth Aliyah, the operation that brought thousands of Jewish children from Europe on the eve of World War II.
Five of this year’s other inductees are also being recognized posthumously, including chef Julia Child and suffragist Martha Coffin Wright.
Adventures in Learning
Ever wish you could revisit your student days? It’s not too late with Hadassah’s Adventures in Learning trip to Israel this summer, from August 19 through 27. This will be a unique and exciting opportunity to combine study and travel as participants take classes taught by faculty members at Hadassah College Jerusalem on diverse subjects, from ecology and environment to photography.
Members of the program will stay at the Jerusalem Dan hotel, within steps of the Old City—a perfect location for learning about the cultures of Jerusalem through the eye of a camera as well as the history of photography in Israel. Expand your knowledge and your palate learning about—and tasting samples from—Israel’s ethnic kitchens and wines.
Your learning will also extend beyond the classroom when you visit sites such as the new Yad Vashem: The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority museum, the Supreme Court, the Western Wall tunnels and the new winery at Meir Shfeya Youth Aliyah Village.
For further information, call Adventures in Learning Chair Ruth Grossberg at 212-303-8274 or e-mail email@example.com.
Clarifying the Exodus
Are you finding it hard to read the Haggada—let alone visualize yourself as if you left Egypt? It might be time to take advantage of the JBI Library’s large-print Haggada. These Seder companions are available free of charge for the visually impaired.
For information about this as well as the audio version of Hadassah Magazine, call The JBI Library at 800-433-1531 or visitwww.jbilibrary.org. Next year in large print!
When in Rome…
All roads lead to Rome, especially this summer. Young Hadassah International will be meeting for its first-ever conference, from July 5 to 8, in the eternal city.
Coinciding with the XII European Maccabi Games, this will be a unique meeting of a diverse group of dynamic professional men and women, ages 18 to 39, from all corners of the world who share a passion for Hadassah Medical Organization’s important work in Israel.
Participants will have the opportunity to explore the beautiful and historic city while networking with colleagues and corporate representatives from around the globe. For more information about the “Lifeline to Peace” Conference, please firstname.lastname@example.org.
One Doctor’s Lasting Legacy
The Michaelson Symposium, a triennial event that attracts and honors prominent doctors and scientists all over the world in the field of ophthalmology, will take place next month, from May 1 to 4, at Johns Hopkins medical center in Baltimore—the first time it is being hosted in the United States.
The symposium, which will focus on the topic of ocular circulation and neovascularization, is named in memory of Dr. Isaac C. Michaelson (left), a world-renowned physician at the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem who is credited with helping to establish the ophthalmology department there. He was also involved in projects to bring eye care to Africa.
After his death in 1982, his widow and friends established a fund in his memory. Over the years the fund has grown, and since 1997, it has made the conference possible as well as a $25,000 prize awarded to a worthy recipient who has made an outstanding contribution to clinical ophthalmology or the ophthalmic sciences. Additionally, the fund includes a stipend for eight young researchers in the field to attend the conference.
Recasting Stereotypes of Jewish Women
When Dr. Cristina Yang (played by Sandra Oh) matter-of-factly explains shiva on ABC’s prime-time hit, Grey’s Anatomy, it’s clear that Jews have come a long way. The complexity of Yang’s Jewish identity—as an Asian-American who considers herself a Jew—is a far cry from the stereotypes of Jewish women who have appeared onscreen in the past.
The portrayal of Jews, and specifically Jewish women, in the media has long been a topic of discussion at dinner parties, but only in the past 10 years has a group stepped up to do something about it.
The MorningStar Commission, founded by Hadassah in 1998, was charged with the mission of promoting positive and diverse images of Jewish women in the media through education, research and mentoring.The portrayal of Jews, and specifically Jewish women, in the media has long been a topic of discussion at dinner parties, but only in the past 10 years has a group stepped up to do something about it.
The presentation of Jewish women in the media is key, according to the commission’s chair, Olivia Cohen-Cutler. “We are a tiny fraction of the United States population—not even 2 percent—and the vast majority live in urban centers,” she explains. “Most people in this country will never meet a Jew. Their idea of a Jewish woman comes from the media.”
And since so many people base their opinions on what they see onscreen, no Jewish character is innocuous. “Every single Jewish woman on the screen is a role model, whether she knows it or not,” Cohen-Cutler adds.
The commission, made up of professionals in the entertainment industry, runs programs to influence the creation of characters rather than filing complaints after the fact. The commission speaks to showbiz executives about how they can incorporate Jewish characters. It also hosts events and panel discussions at colleges with major film and television schools, such as the University of California in Los Angeles, to educate the next generation of screenwriters, directors and producers.
“It’s all about talking, informing and entering the consciousness of the people producing these things,” says Cohen-Cutler, senior vice president of broadcast standards for the ABC Network in Los Angeles.
“It’s about adding the human elements that people can relate to so it’s not all about stereotypes,” explains Cohen-Cutler, who cites Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders as an example of a successful group with a similar mission, albeit with greater funding and a staff. (MorningStar is sponsored by Hadassah; donations may be sent to Hadassah Southern California, earmarked for the MorningStar Commission; www.hadassahsc.org.)
One of the catalysts for the original 1998 study that led to the formation of the commission was the character portrayed by Fran Drescher on the sitcom The Nanny. At the time, many felt her nasal voice and garish clothing amounted to an unfortunate caricature. The study found that there were very few realistic images of Jewish women onscreen. In fact, the only positive Jewish television character at the time was Dharma Finkelstein on Dharma & Greg.
The commission borrowed its name from the 1958 movie Marjorie Morningstar. The film made waves when it came out, with two of the biggest stars of the generation, Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly, playing Jewish characters.
Now, thanks to commission members’ tireless efforts, viewers hardly bat an eyelash when Nora Walker (Sally Field) grapples with her Jewish identity in the ABC series Brothers & Sisters, for example.
“It has been a fascinating journey,” says Cohen-Cutler, who has been involved with MorningStar since 1999. “I think we’re succeeding when it’s not remarkable to see these things on the air.”