Inside Hadassah: Young People Taking the Lead
September ushers in the Jewish New Year—a time to reflect and look toward the future. We focus on life journeys this month—from Year Course Olami, which explores Jewish history around the world, to winter and spring in Netanya adventures, to Young Hadassah International’s conference in Rome. Our understanding of where we have been and where we are going as we celebrate and remember is symbolized in Hadassah Magazine’s outstanding achievements at the American Jewish Press Association’s Rockower Awards this year. Kudos and shana tova to all.
Peacing It All Together
It’s not often that a common interest brings together young people from places as far flung as Argentina, Austria, Canada, China, Cuba, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. But at the first Young Hadassah International Conference in Rome in July, over 100 young professionals, ages 18 to 39, from these countries united in support of the important work of the Hadassah Medical Organization.
The conference—cochaired by Aimee Falchuk and Joslyn Crowe—opened with poolside cocktails and concluded with a Sunday morning brunch. The time in between featured lectures, workshops and interactive sessions.
The theme of the event was “A Lifeline to Peace,” and participants learned about HMO’s medical innovations and breakthroughs as well as its ongoing outreach to other countries in times of crisis.
After the conference’s gala dinner, delegates attended one of the largest parties of the year in Europe—with over 2,000 people, including participants in the European Maccabi Games—cosponsored by YHI.
Creating New Hope
Physicians at the Hadassah Medical Organization are giving the hope of fertility to young female chemotherapy patients. In early July, an HMO team announced its breakthrough success in harvesting and freezing eggs from children’s ovarian tissue. The method used was originally devised for adult cancer patients, but over the past three years, the researchers have proven that ova could be extracted from girls as young as 5, matured in a lab and then frozen.
“At any age,” said gynecologist Ariel Ravel, “when there is concern about any significant damage to the ovary, that’s the time to consider freezing it and freezing the ova.” After chemotherapy treatment and recovery, the eggs can be reimplanted in the body once the girl has matured.
Dr. Ravel worked with oncologist Miki Weintraub, pediatric surgeon Eitan Gross and pediatric anesthesiologist Avishag Kedari. The team published its results and presented its findings at the annual international conference of the European Society for Fertility.
Around the World
This month, 74 Young Judaeans are embarking on an adventure that will span several continents. They comprise the inaugural group of Year Course Olami, whose year in Israel will be augmented by journeys to various locations around the world.
The series of one-week trips—taken throughout the year—will give students the opportunity to intensively explore the Jewish history and culture of the chosen locations.
Students on Olami I, dubbed “The Zionist Revolution,” will travel to France, Eastern Europe, England, Morocco and Ethiopia.
Olami II participants will explore “Lost Jewish Communities,” traveling to Portugal, Uganda, South Africa and India.
Year Course offers “a class in both these subjects,” says Lymore Hauptman, director of Year Course in North America, “but this is taking it to a new level. [The students] are going out and actually seeing the people and places, connecting with them, and…when they return to Israel, incorporating it into their learning.”
We are expecting to get reports from these teenagers later in the year, so stay tuned.
Retelling Their Stories
When multimedia students at Hillside High School in New Jersey were given the assignment to create a documentary film, they looked to members of their own community for inspiration. The team of six students—Jessica Arguenta, Hussain Al-Khalil, Treya Bolin, Myron Attoh, Jovany Jean Louis and Yahmia Childs—under the guidance of teachers Curdken Worrell and Craig Hoek interviewed local Holocaust survivors for their film.
With the cameras rolling, Clara Kramer, Ulka Sommer, Sonya Oshman, Lisa Reibel, Sonya Samuels and Anitta Fox, who had all been members of the Elizabeth, New Jersey, chapter of Hadassah before it disbanded recently, shared their stories and experiences with the students.
The teenagers interspersed the interviews with clips of author Elie Wiesel and background perspectives from historians and experts at both their own high school and nearby Kean University.
“It was thrilling to see the students’ interest and the effort that they put into it,” said Fox. “The most important thing, I thought, was that these were teenagers talking to old folks like us, and they were very eager to hear what we had to say. It was something new that they evidently had not heard before.”
In the Spotlight
In June, Hadassah Magazine took home nine Rockower Awards, presented by the American Jewish Press Association.
- Toby Axelrod won first place in Arts & Criticism for “Behind the Master’s Canvas” (August/September 2006).
- In the category of photography, Jason Eskenazi and his young students were awarded first place for “An Idea That Clicked” (August/September 2006), and the photoessay “Memory in Many Forms” (April 2006) took second place.
- The March 2006 issue won first place for illustration, and the May 2006 issue was awarded third.
- Deborah Fineblum Raub received second place in feature writing for “Total Immersion” (May 2006), and Leora Eren Frucht’s “In Israel, Baby Steps” (October 2006) won third.
- Deborah Wechsler received third place for a single commentary for her “Pregnant on the Pulpit” (December 2006).
- Dina Kraft’s “South Side Story” (December 2006) won second place in Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Award for the Story of Aliyah.
Hadassah’s Helping Hands in Israel
Philip Silvernagel had already decided he wanted to return to Netanya the day after he arrived. “It was like he was reborn when he was there,” says his wife, Dorothy Silvernagel. The couple spent three winters there before Philip passed away; Dorothy plans to return this winter.
The couple was among the approximately 40 people who participate in Hadassah’s Winter in Netanya (WIN) program each year. They arrive in Israel for an extended stay, to experience the country firsthand and make a contribution to the society. (WIN will take place from January 16 to March 12, 2008, with the option available of shorter one-month stays; Spring in Netanya—SPIN—will run from May 1 to May 28, 2008.)
Participants—most of whom are retirees, though the age range has spanned mid-forties to early-nineties—stay at a hotel in Netanya and eat meals together. In the afternoons, they attend Hebrew lessons and classes in a variety of subjects, from political lectures to Israeli dance classes. But the main component of the program is volunteering.
Six mornings a week, the men and women lend their energy and skills around Netanya. For example, in past years they have worked at Netanya’s Library for the Blind, volunteered in nearby hospitals and taken part in local beautification projects. Particpants are placed based on their interests.
“People from all over the United States come,” says Elaine Senter, Hadassah’s WIN/SPIN chair. “Many enjoy [it] so much they come back year after year.” Sheldon and Gloria Moline (above) spent consecutive winters in Netanya from 1995 to 2006. Sheldon Moline says what kept them going back was simply that they “really enjoyed the program.
“We were able to make a contribution to Israel and it was very rewarding,” he continues. “And it was better than [going to] Florida, but it kept us away from the [New York] winter.”
Beverly and Andrew Blazar of Providence, Rhode Island, have been on WIN for the past two years and are enthusiastic about returning. The best part, according to Beverly Blazar, is “the interaction with ordinary Israelis.” She has tutored local high school students in English: “We got to talk about all kinds of things,” she explains. “It gives you such a different slant on the country.”
About six of the eight weeks are spent in Netanya, with the remaining two dedicated to touring and, of course, lending a hand in other parts of the country, including on a kibbutz.
The Silvernagels were not involved in Hadassah before their first WIN trip, but were directed to the organization when they expressed interest in visiting Israel in 2005. “We decided to go in mid-December and got everything ready to go in time for an early January departure,” says Silvernagel, who lives in Brooklyn. “Netanya is a gorgeous little town,” she says. “It’s just big enough and just small enough. People actually came over to thank us [for the work we did].
“But we definitely got more out of it than we gave,” she concludes. “We had wonderful experiences there.”
For Moline, being able to spend considerable time in Israel was exciting. “[WIN offers] a real feel for what Israel’s like,” he explains.
For more information about WIN or SPIN, call 800-363-2373 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.