Inside Hadassah: Movers and Shakers
November is a month of remembrances: the anniversary of the 1947 United Nations vote to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states and, this year, the 70th anniversary ofKristallnacht.
On a happier note, we celebrate Thanksgiving and salute the achievements of Hadassah’s national fund-raising award winners for 2007-2008. Check out the regions, big chapters and chapters whose volunteers created outstanding fund-raisers on our Web site: www.hadassah.org/conventionawards. The people of Israel and the recipients of your efforts appreciate your accomplishments!
—Ruth G. Cole
Rehov Sumsum Stars Visit Hadassah
This year marks the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht. On November 9 and 10, 1938, more than 90 German Jews were murdered, over 25,000 were arrested and hundreds of synagogues were destroyed. To commemorate the occasion, the New York Region’s annual Jewish Book Month event will feature Ruth Zimbler, national board member and a past president of the New York chapter of Hadassah, who will speak of her experiences as a child in Vienna at the time of this coordinated Nazi pogrom. Authors Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein will read from their book, Identical Strangers: Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited (Random House), and they will be available for book signings. This important event will take place on Monday, November 10, at Park East Synagogue (164 East 68th Street). For more information, call 212-303-7433.
In the Know
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To the Rescue
When an Israeli journalist was injured in the fighting between Georgia and Russia in August, Hadassah was called in to help out.
Zadok Yehezkeli, a senior reporter for Israel’s daily Yedioth Ahronoth, was seriously wounded while covering the war in Gori. He was operated on twice at a hospital in Tbilisi and in critical condition.
Yedioth Ahronoth asked Hadassah Hospital to send doctors to check on Yehezkeli. Dr. Avi Rivkind, head of the Department of General Surgery and the Shock Trauma Unit at Hadassah–Ein Kerem, and anesthesiologist Micha Shamir, boarded a plane with some basic equipment and a Magen David Adom paramedic and headed to Tbilisi. They arrived at midnight and went directly to the hospital. The doctors arranged to fly the injured man back to Israel immediately; just 12 hours after they had left, they returned to Hadassah Hospital with Yehezkeli.
At press time, Yehezkeli was out of the ICU, weak but in stable condition.
Making the Move
Hadassah-WUJS—an Israel-experience program for people between 21 and 35—has moved from its long-time home in the Negev Desert to the center of the country.
Hadassah took over WUJS in 2006 at the request of the institution’s board of trustees and the Jewish Agency, which owned the absorption center in Arad where the institution was based for 40 years. When the Jewish Agency announced last summer that it was closing the building, Hadassah began looking for a new venue for the program.
The fall semester—increased from five to six months—began in the new locations, with branches in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. None of the 50 participants cancelled after learning of the relocation.
“Hadassah has tremendous resources in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,” said Keith Berman, director of long-term programs for Young Judaea and himself a WUJS graduate. “On a regular basis we can put participants face-to-face with the most dynamic people in every field.”
While WUJS participants enjoyed the warmth of Arad’s small community, organizers are optimistic that the move will bring with it significant growth potential.
HCJ Opens Doors
A partnership between Hadassah College Jerusalem and the Haredi College has proven successful, as the first all-haredi graduating class received diplomas this past summer.
Twenty-eight women were presented with bachelor of science degrees in laboratory science at a graduation ceremony at HCJ before an assembly of government ministers and prominent rabbis.
To provide an environment where the women would feel comfortable, classes were held at the Haredi College and taught by HCJ professors; the laboratory work was completed at HCJ’s campus during the summer months when the school’s usual mix of students—men and women, religious and secular, Arab and Jewish—were not around.
The three-year program trains women in both the theoretical background and the practical skills required for careers in medical and hospital labs, though graduates in the field are frequently recruited to work at pharmaceutical companies, academic research departments and biotech start-ups.
In “Inside Hadassah: Crime-Stoppers” (August/September issue), Mayor A.C. Wharton was misidentified. He is the mayor of Shelby County.
Aliya—More Than a Change of Address
Rape counseling, ecological sustainability and Israeli-Palestinian coexistence are very different causes, but in Israel they have a key connection: At the forefront of each is a Young Judaea graduate.
“Young Judaea taught us that moving to Israel had to be a qualitative shift, not simply a change of address,” says Gershon (formerly Gary) Baskin, 52, who heads the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. “I came here primed to contribute to Israel and the Jewish people.”
As YJ celebrates its centenary this year, an estimated 1,000 graduates are currently living in Israel and making a difference.
“Young Judaea’s impact on my life has been huge,” says Miriam Schler, 41, who, like Baskin, grew up on Long Island. “For one, it introduced me to my husband [at] Camp Tel Yehudah. But beyond that, it taught me I must be active in tikkun olam.”
Schler began volunteering at the Tel Aviv Sexual Assault Crisis Center shortly after she made aliya in 1989. “But I was always far more passionate about my volunteer work than my profession,” she says. After 14 years volunteering and 5 stints on the center’s board, Schler, a lawyer, became its full-time executive director.
Tel Aviv has the largest rape crisis center in Israel, fielding an annual 12,000 hotline calls. “We have over 200 volunteers,” says Schler. “We accompany victims through the courts and hospitals. We deliver 1,000-plus lectures annually to raise public awareness.”
The arena chosen by former Young Judaean Jeremy Benstein, 47, is the building of an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable future for Israel. A leading researcher on environmental issues and deputy director of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership in Tel Aviv, Benstein’s path began in a traditional Jewish home in Toledo, Ohio. “I grew up firm in my Jewish identity,” he says. “But it was [YJ] that… made me commit my life to working for a better world.”
Benstein says “it was Year Course that showed me compelling reasons for living in Israel.” He first lived on Kibbutz Ketura, but left in the mid-1990s to join another former Young Judaean, Eilon Schwartz, to create the Heschel Center.
“Our purpose,” he says, “is to help Israel become a society that defines growth progress in terms of ecological health and social justice, and in which community, common destiny and compassion are the basis for our actions.”
Baskin, too, dreams of an improved society. “Israel’s number one problem is neighborhood relations,” he explains. “My goal is to help to build a safe neighborhood for the Jewish people.”
As program coordinator between Jewish and Arab schools for the Education Ministry, Baskin was Israel’s first civil servant responsible for Jewish-Arab relations. This evolved into an educational institute for coexistence, which he founded and directed for six years. In 1988, he created IPCRI, an Israeli-Palestinian public policy think tank.
“My approach to everything… has been through a Zionism prism,” Baskin says. “This is what Young Judaea taught me and all its graduates through this past century.”