President’s Column: Four Amazing Years
Remember the book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, by Dr. Seuss? It promises that the future holds wonderful heights and sights, but urges the reader “to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.” The sneakers, Dr. Seuss points out, sometimes leak. a The title refrain goes through my mind as I look back at my four amazing years as Hadassah’s national president. I want to thank you for enabling me to have the experience of my life. Sure, it was hard work—16-hour workdays crammed with meetings, papers, speaking engagements and travel. But every day included intellectual challenges, fascinating and inspiring people and, most of all, the energizing mission of building the Jewish people and Israel.
Oh, the places I’ve gone! Take Baku, Azerbaijan. Before I got there, I didn’t know much about the 1,500-year-old Jewish community of the Caucasus Mountains. But representing Hadassah, I could offer expertise in organizing health and educational institutions.
When I began my term, Israel was in the midst of the second intifada. I remember standing in the pediatric intensive care unit of Hadassah Hospital by the bedside of unconscious 6-year-old Esther Zargari, who had sustained a lung injury from a terrorist bomb. What joy it was when Esther, for whom one of our physicians came up with an innovative treatment, woke up. Ten days later, she began first grade. I was in Israel when 60 Minutes, the television news program, lauded our medical center as an “island of peace.” And I was at the opening of the Sidney and Judy Swartz Center for Emergency Medicine and the cornerstone ceremony for the new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower (see story, page 83). And you were with me.
This year, on Independence Day in Israel, Hadassah College Jerusalem President Nava Ben-Zvi earned tremendous applause when she lit one of the 12 torches at the national ceremony on Mount Herzl. In the last four years, the college has doubled in size and its reputation for excellence has spread. What delights me most is having the school recognized for its democratization of higher education, making top schooling available to students of great potential who otherwise might not have gone to college.
I’ve watched runners at Hadassah-Neurim Youth Aliyah Village try out the new Olympic-caliber track at the Marlene E. Post Sports Center. I’ve heard new immigrant teens performing Mozart in the Bonnie Lipton Center for Performing Arts at Meir Shfeya Youth Village and lifted my glass to Youth Aliyah and its work at the village’s winery.
Four years ago, Young Judaea’s Israel programs were constrained because we had outgrown our physical plant. In the darkest days of the intifada, we broke ground for the Judaean Youth Hostel and the Beit Ar-El educational center. As the psalmist wrote, “Those who plant with tears will reap with joy.” Our new building is filling with young, committed Jews who are our future.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, we sent aid to Hadassah members in New Orleans and the community at large. Because of our commitment to health and freedom of inquiry, we pushed for stem cell research. In this effort, we could point with pride to the groundbreaking work in that field being done at the Hadassah Medical Center.
Many of my goals reflect what I have heard from you, at town meetings and over late-night cups of coffee. The national board has helped nurture Hadassah into an organization that is truly “national”—in energetic small communities like Wichita Falls, Texas, and in fast-growing areas in Florida and Arizona. Our incoming leader, Nancy Falchuk, will be the first national president from Boston, and we have vice presidents from various regions.
Hadassah’s president gets to call the Israeli prime minister’s cell phone and goes to the White House Hanukka party. I always knew this wasn’t about me but about Hadassah, a movement that continues to earn so much respect. No job can ever surpass the one I’ve had for the last four years. I wish Nancy great success as she walks in the footsteps of Henrietta Szold. I know she’s already got her sneakers tied on. Oh, the places you’ll go!