President’s Column: Creation and the Hadassah Story
It seems fitting to write my first column as Hadassah’s national president on the eve of Rosh Hashana, which commemorates the Creation of the world. At this time of spiritual renewal, I see what Hadassah has created since its founding 95 years ago.
In the Zionist beginning, many organizations promoted Jewish renaissance through discussion and debate. Hadassah’s brand of practical Zionism stressed building. Indeed, building became our way of writing the Zionist story. Building cemented our reputation and, I believe, will secure our future.
My first Hadassah memory is of the story my mother and her friends inscribed in my heart when they planned their chapter programs, showing me that love and resolve could change the world. As a young woman, Hadassah was the place where I could use my talents to learn, to create and to connect with women who shared my values.
It was my good fortune to meet leaders who communicated Hadassah’s history through the stories of their lives: Gisela Warburg Wyzanski, who told me of her work with Henrietta Szold in founding Youth Aliyah, and rescuing Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Europe; Bernice Tannenbaum, who encouraged me to use my experience as a nurse to help build Hadassah International. Women like these led me to my own work, my own story, in creating the National Center of Nurses Councils in America and the first clinical master’s program in nursing in Israel.
Nowhere is hadassah’s nexus of mutual inspi- ration more in evidence than at our national conventions. At this year’s gathering in New York, each of the 2,500 women in attendance was a creative force. I was struck by the large number of young women—absorbing everything, discovering, as I did, Hadassah’s path to self-growth—at the dozens of stimulating sessions. My thanks to Barbara Spack and Natalie Silverman for cochairing a fabulous convention. (A full convention report will appear in the October issue.)
Like all of you, I take great pride in Hadassah’s legacy. Our mothers and grandmothers built the medical and social welfare infrastructure of a new nation, and it is we, our daughters and granddaughters who will write new chapters in support for Israel, on relevant American issues, in education and in empowerment of women. At the same time, it is humbling that this organization in which I have always felt so at home has chosen me as its president.
Just as I have learned so much from my mentors and my peers, I see leadership as a team effort. That is why I asked that my installation as president be part of the same ceremony in which our eight national vice presidents and officers were installed. The ceremony may have been new, but I see it as very much a product of the Hadassah way.
And the Hadassah way is to write new stories. As prominent as our name is in Israel, I’d like to make it better known on the personal level through more Hadassah missions. I also want to globalize the Hadassah medical story through Hadassah International. Think of the countries where Jews face anti-Israel rancor on a daily basis. We can make a difference by building bridges to these nations and to peace through medicine.
Most of all, I want to continue building, to shape the skyline of Jerusalem at the same time we create jobs and businesses. You have surely heard of the groundbreaking for the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower—Hadassah’s largest hospital project in 50 years, for which we have already raised $164 million. The largest gift, from William and Karen Davidson, honors a Hadassah family connection, through Mr. Davidson’s mother, that goes back to 1917. But the larger Hadassah story also figured in Mr. Davidson’s decision to pledge $75 million. He told me he viewed Hadassah as one of the most credible and accountable Jewish organizations on the horizon.
We have overcome obstacles of war, terrorism and disease to build a nation and a people, and to write our story. As we begin a New Year and consider the Creation of the world, let us also embark on a new season of telling that story to the world through the things we create.