Inside Hadassah: Beautifying, Celebrating and Partnering
April is a time of commemorations. On Passover, we celebrate our freedom from Egyptian slavery, and a women’s Seder adds a different spin on an ancient tradition. On Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, we recall the tragedies of the Shoah; one Hadassah chapter’s Holocaust education program has inspired hundreds of students’ artistic expression.
Let’s raise a glass—perhaps filled with a vintage from our Meir Shfeya winery—to these achievements and opportunities that provide a rich continuum of experiences to educate ourselves and others about our heritage and our future.
—Ruth G. Cole
Hiddur Mitzvah: Aesthetics in Jewish Ritual Art
A unique exhibit on display through May 11 at the Harold and Mickey Smith Gallery for Arts and Culture at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts has a special Hadassah twist. Not only are the gallery’s benefactors, Harold and Mickey Smith, longtime supporters of Hadassah, but Paige Dansinger, who cocurated the show with Cori Wegener, is also a life member of the organization.
“Hiddur Mitzvah: Aesthetics in Jewish Ritual Art” features silver Judaica from the collection of the institute, local synagogues and private collections. Also included are contemporary synagogue textiles by Galya Rosenfeld, a professor of design at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem.
The theme of hiddur mitzva, beautifying the commandments, is explored throughout the exhibit, giving visitors a better understanding of aesthetic and practical applications of Jewish ritual art, according to Dansinger (left, at the exhibit).
“As the intern of assistant curator Cori Wegener since 2006,” said Dansinger, “I was encouraged to work independently on the entire exhibition, from its conception to the final details….”
An Olympic Hopeful
A graduate of Hadassah-Neurim Youth Aliyah Village was selected to participate in Israel’s training program for the 2012 Olympics in London.
Gadi Ohayon, 19, a native of the economically depressed port town of Akko, has ranked as National Youth Champion for both the 100-meter sprint and the long jump in his age category.
Ohayon has been serving in the Israel Defense Forces since his graduation from high school last year, but he is based in nearby Netanya, and his status as an athletic talent allows him to continue living at Hadassah-Neurim’s Graduates’ House and to train with his mentor and coach, Pavel Alterman.
“Representing Israel in the Olympics is indeed a dream come true,” said Ohayon of his selection. “It’s such a great honor to represent my country and Hadassah-Neurim.”
He is now working toward meeting the Olympic minimum for the long jump: 26 feet, 3 inches. Both he and his coach are confident he will reach this goal in time to qualify.
A Celebration of Life
The Glen Falls, New York, chapter of Hadassah (518-694-9941) has certainly proven that a little motivation can go a long way.
The chapter created a Holocaust education program last year—dubbed “A Celebration of Life”—for middle and high school students, spearheaded by education chair Sunny Buchman; it is being used in 18 school districts in 5 counties in upstate New York. The yearlong project culminates this month with a juried exhibition of students’ artwork at the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council in Glen Falls, from April 2 to 26, cosponsored by the local Temple Beth El and Congregation Shaaray Tefila.
New York State mandates Holocaust study in 10th-grade history, and it is often taught as part of English studies in 8th grade. Buchman presented teachers and principals with her idea and many incorporated it into their lessons. Students are assigned the book Bitter Freedom: Memoirs of a Holocaust Survivor (iUniverse), coauthored by Jafa Wallach and her daughter, Rena Bernstein (both life members of Hadassah). Bernstein then visits the schools to speak about her experiences as a child survivor.
“The enthusiasm of the teachers is awesome,” says Buchman. “They are excited to be able to have Ms. Bernstein come to speak to their students…and in joining with other districts for a follow-up to the experience.”
After hearing Bernstein’s presentation, the students are asked to work on transferring what they learned about the Holocaust into a form of artistic expression. The works of art on display are a selection of these efforts, ranging from paintings (detail of one, at left) to poetry and music and even a play.
A New Tradition
The New York Region of Hadassah is hosting its first Women’s Seder to Benefit Youth at the Minskoff Cultural Center in New York. An innovative Haggada has been created especially for this April 1st event; it tells the age-old Passover story from a woman’s perspective and honors our courageous foremothers who helped redeem the Jewish people.
Ruth Gursky, who initiated and cochairs the event, hopes that women will take ideas from this model Seder home to their own family Seders.
The Seder is dedicating its four cups of wine—and its proceeds—to Hadassah’s youth projects: Young Judaea, Youth Aliyah/ Children-at-Risk, Hadassah College Jerusalem and Pediatric Research and Services at the Hadassah Medical Organization.
Our Pride in Israel
This summer, YJ Impact is offering the first-ever trip to Israel for young professionals who wish to explore the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in the Jewish state. The 10-day Pride in Israel trip is open to people in their twenties and thirties, individuals or couples, who are looking for a fun, meaningful and unique vacation in Israel. Choose one of two trips available—June 16 to 26 or August 11 to 20—and stay at four-star hotels, enjoy beautiful beaches, relax at a Dead Sea spa and check out Tel Aviv’s exciting nightlife and meet with GLBT leaders and activists. For more information, visit www.yjimpact.org or call 212-303-7462.
Partners in Healing
Hadassah Medical Organization’s technology-transfer company, Hadasit, has joined with Harvard Medical School and its teaching affiliate Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston in a venture to develop a new orally administered therapeutic treatment for autoimmune diseases. This is the first official cooperation between the three institutions.
“This joint venture is especially exciting because it establishes a wonderful and important precedent,” said HMO Director General Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef.
The new product is a combination therapy of monoclonal antibody (Anti-CD3), in development at HMS, and a line of glycolipid compounds, currently in development at Hadasit. Clinical data shows that the glycolipid compounds, which activate specific cells in the immune system when given orally, can be used without adverse side effects.
“Monoclonal antibodies are widely used in medicine intravenously, but they have never been given orally to humans,” explained Dr. Howard L. Weiner, Robert L. Kroc Professor of Neurology at HMS and director of the Partners Multiple Sclerosis Center at BWH. “It now appears possible to correct the imbalances in the immune system and subsequently treat a wide number of human diseases with an oral, nontoxic therapy.”
A Good Year at Meir Shfeya
The Carmel Hills region, near Zikhron Yaakov, is known for its vineyards and wineries. In fact, it is the largest grape-growing area in Israel, home of the historic Carmel Winery and, more recently, the winery at the village of Meir Shfeya.
Both vineyards are planted on lands purchased in the 1880s by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, who designated them for the growing of grapes and the production of wine—an industry that had once thrived in the region but had long been neglected. Among the quality wines that come from the area, that of Meir Shfeya is unusual, however: It is produced by a dedicated team of high school students.
Meir Shfeya is a Hadassah Youth Aliyah village and comprehensive agricultural high school, home to 300 residential students, ages 12 to 18, and another 300 students who commute to the junior and senior high schools on the campus. All students are required to work in various parts of the village—the dairy, chicken farm, orchards, organic experimental farm or, since its opening in September 2005, the winery. The goal of the village is to provide an educational environment that enables teens to feel part of and to participate in the life of the community while acquiring skills, knowledge and values necessary to succeed after high school graduation as contributing members of Israeli society.
The students in the village come from diverse backgrounds, including new immigrants and native Israeli youth who need special educational and support services, beyond that which regular public school can provide.
The small team of about 15 to 20 11th and 12th graders work at the winery under the supervision of the village’s agricultural director, Micki Lipshitz, with the help and expertise of Sasson Ben Aharon, the chief winemaker at the nearby Binyamina Winery. (“They adopted us,” Lipshitz explains.) The students are responsible for every step of the winemaking process: pruning and picking, destemming and crushing the grapes, pressing and filtering the juice, fermentation and aging and bottling the wine.
“They are very enthusiastic about it,” says Lipshitz. “They have classes and learn about winemaking and tasting, and travel to wineries around the country.”
The students’ work is more labor-intensive in some seasons than others, of course, and on the busiest days they arrive at 8 A.M. and stay until midnight. But, according to Lipshitz, the students enjoy their work. “There is a special spirit in the team,” he says. “They are very proud of what they are doing.”
Meir Shfeya produces about 5,000 bottles of a Cabernet-Sauvignon-Merlot blend annually. The first vintage (2005) was available for sale last spring and it was rated by experts in the field as top quality. The 2006 bottles will be available in the next few months. The wine is marketed by the Avi Ben Wine Shop in Jerusalem (Rivlin Street 22). It is not certified kosher, due to the requirement that kosher wine be handled only by Sabbath-observant Jews from the time the grapes are harvested.
Plans are under way to construct a visitors’ center at the winery, which will also be run by students, and to renovate and landscape the winery courtyard.