President’s Column: Mission Impassionable
We live in a time of extraordinary challenge. Along with most of the world, Hadassah is swept up in an economic tidal wave. Financial markets have plunged, bankruptcies and unemployment are surging and talk of trillion-dollar rescue measures is as casual a part of our conversation today as the latest achievements of our children.
To put the question bluntly: How can Hadassah get through this crisis intact? In all honesty, it won’t be easy. But the first step is to look at our compass of Jewish values.
Our values are the foundation of our success. They have seen us through 97 years, including times more difficult than those we face today—the Great Depression, two world wars, the Holocaust, Middle East wars and terrorism. Every time we have been knocked down, we have focused on those values: Love of the Jewish people, the building and support of Israel as an ethical society and strengthening the relationship between Jews around the world.
On occasion the best of times have come together with the worst. One month before Israel’s declaration of independence—the event we waited 2,000 years to celebrate—terrorists attacked a Hadassah convoy on its way to Mount Scopus, killing 78 of our medical personnel.
When Hadassah was founded in 1912, Henrietta Szold called for a program of practical Zionism, but it was not ordained that we would go into medicine or education. Our priority was to build a Jewish state—a byproduct of which was building ourselves. Hospitals and schools were expressions of that priority.
Our plan today is twofold—to restructure and reconnect. We are starting to do things differently, becoming leaner, separating the essential from the merely desirable, so we can protect the sustainability of our mission.
At the same time, we are reconnecting. In the coming weeks, the Hadassah executive committee and national board will attend seminars on Jewish values for Jewish leaders. We’ll look to the examples of the Hadassah pioneers on whose shoulders we stand. We’ll study the zeal and drive that have always characterized the graduates of the Hadassah Leadership Academy and the kids of Young Judaea. We’ll explore who we were so we can better prepare for who we need to be. Our aim is to capture the passion that has always been crucial to our success.
Zionism built the Jewish state and empowered the Jewish people. It inspired a vision in our grandmothers that allowed them to contribute to the building of institutions, and a state, many would never see up close. Now, we must harness the same inspiration to see beyond the current economic obstacles. And once again, our decisions must be an expression of our values.
This is why Zionism is so relevant today. Just as Judaism connects us to God, the unity of purpose Zionism provided—and continues to provide—enabled us to reclaim sovereignty. It has given Hadassah a century of resilience, consistency and accomplishment.
After the attack on our convoy in 1948, we were cut off from Mount Scopus and dedicated ourselves to building a new Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem, which we inaugurated in 1961. Today, the foundation of a new Hadassah tower is taking root deep in the precious soil of Jerusalem. It will be one of the structural pillars of Israeli medicine and also a light unto the world.
We are also about to nominate new members to Hadassah’s national board, some of whom will likely be the leaders of our second century. Those who step forward will be among the most dynamic volunteers we have ever seen, combining impressive résumés with the Hadassah passion that has moved mountains and saved lives. They will take us from good to great.
The women who went before us gave us the values and set the example we need to address the challenges we now face. I am confident that today’s talented Hadassah volunteers are up to the task. H
To respond to Nancy Falchuk’s column or view her monthly podcast, go to www.hadassah.org/podcast.