President’s Column: Watching Miracles Unfold
Light filters through the Chagall Windows in the Abell Synagogue at our Hadassah Medical Center. What an auspicious date. It is the 14th of Adar, Purim, the day when Jewish history turned from sadness to joy—and when Hadassah was founded. Even the secular date, March 4, seems to bode well. And march forth we do. a Members of the Cornerstone Mission have boarded helicopters to view Hadassah projects in Jerusalem from above.
Back on the ground, we take our seats in the synagogue. We are about to mark the beginning of a new inpatient tower, a step as historic as the building of our hospitals on Mount Scopus, opened in 1939, and at Ein Kerem, opened in 1961. One by one, our most generous donors unveil the Jerusalem stones that will make up the tower’s cornerstone. Donors have pledged between $1 million and $25 million. But even after mission chairs Judy and Sidney Swartz reveal their plaque, one remains covered.
A handsome young man named jonathan aaron steps up to the microphone. He’s been sent to Israel by his father-in-law, William Davidson. Davidson’s mother, Sarah, was a founder and president of the Hadassah’s Detroit chapter. Hearing about Hadassah, Sarah Wetsman and her mother, Bessie, had invited Henrietta Szold to Detroit and hosted her there in 1917. The following year, Sarah audaciously borrowed $1,000 from her father to help send an ambulance from the Motor City to the medical unit heading for Jerusalem. Now, through the Davidsons’ successful glass company, Guardian Industries, comes a contribution of $75 million.
When Jonathan Aaron made the pledge on William Davidson’s behalf, tears filled my eyes. I thought back to the first meeting of Detroit Hadassah. But in my mind I could see the future: the citadel of healing rising in Ein Kerem. Half of all Israel’s clinical hospital research already takes place at Hadassah’s hospitals. The new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower will enable our researchers to go so much further in their mission to conquer the most intractable diseases. What a gift to the world.
Ninety-five years ago, out of the hearts and minds of Henrietta Szold’s Daughters of Zion study group, Hadassah arose. With only a few hundred dollars in the bank, the women of Hadassah set revolutionary projects in motion. From dispensing the first drop of milk to children, we became the health care delivery system of Israel. Because of Hadassah, when Israel was born it already had the infrastructure of a modern health system.
We’ve all seen the photographs: the first nurses in 1913; the American Zionist medical unit arriving in 1918; that first ambulance; the dedication of the hospital on Mount Scopus; Henrietta Szold with Judah Magnes and Chaim Weizmann; David Ben-Gurion at Ein Kerem.
I have always looked at those photographs with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I felt proud of our history. But on the other hand, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be present at one of those historic moments, too?
March 4 was one of those days.
It was an audacious new beginning, as when Nahshon ben Aminadav became the first Israelite to step into the Red Sea. The water didn’t split until it was up to his neck. The bottom was muddy. But looking back, how joyous he must have felt. Most of the Israelites were singing the “Song of the Sea.” Some were probably so busy looking down that all they saw was mud; it reminded them of the bricks in Egypt and made them gloomy and pessimistic.
They missed the miracle. Let’s not miss ours.
As I write, we are about to celebrate the miracle of Israel’s 59th birthday. How proud we are that Hadassah College Jerusalem President Nava Ben-Zvi was chosen to light one of the 12 torches that illuminate the traditional Independence Day ceremony. Dr. Yosef Shenkar, esteemed HMO obstetrician and pioneer in women’s health, is to light another one. Our cup runs over with joy at being part of the great Hadassah enterprise, privileged to be so intimately connected to the building of the Jewish state. We will, indeed, march forth.