Inside Hadassah: Celebration and Service, From Haiti to Ein Kerem
Spring at last, and time to celebrate Yom Ha’atzma’ut (Israel Independence Day), Yom Yerushalayim and Shavuot. Time, too, to take pride in Hadassah’s medical rescue team in Haiti, which saved lives this winter. Time to recognize the Young Judaeans on winter break who served the needy in Miami and a Hadassah physician whose research is saving children with liver disease. In addition, our Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower in Jerusalem is surging upward. And there is more to discover, so come to our July convention in Florida and celebrate Hadassah’s achievements! —Ruth G. Cole
Instead of spending their winter vacations lounging on the beach or hitting the slopes, 43 high-school students chose to give back. From across the country, they converged on South Florida for Young Judaea’s third-annual Alternative Winter Break, experiencing Jewish learning through volunteerism as they served Miami residents, approximately 27 percent of whom live below the poverty line.
Young Judaeans danced the day away with residents at the Hebrew Home in North Miami Beach, sang holiday songs to patients at the Aventura Hospital and decorated cookies with sick children at the local Ronald McDonald House. Maya Yair, a 17-year-old from East Brunswick, New Jersey—also a member of YJ’s National Mazkirut—served meals at a Salvation Army shelter in Miami.
“[It] was definitely my favorite part of the trip,” Yair said. “We were there for Christmas Eve and day, and we threw everyone there a party.” The group bought decorations and gifts for the kids. “It was amazing to see their faces.”
The group spent Shabbat with Young Judaea’s Director of Education Rabbi Jordie Gerson, who helped connect the values of tikkum olam with their work in Miami.
The experience made Yair (above right) enthusiastic to contribute even more. “Even in places like Miami, there are still so many people in need,” she said. “I want to dedicate more of my time to people who don’t have anything.”
Convention Early Bird Specials
Get a head start on the 2010 Hadassah convention in Hollywood, Florida, and save money. Early bird full package specials have been announced, but you can only get these deals if your reservation is postmarked by May 21.
Full packages include all sessions, banquet, closing breakfast, registration bag and program guide for convention, July 25 to 28.
•Delegates Full Package—$550
•Couples Full Package—$1,000, if an associate and delegate from the same household register together by early bird deadline
•Young Women’s Full Package—$450, for women 45 years and younger who register and pay for the Young Women’s Event taking place on Sunday, July 25.
For more information, or for pricing after the May 21 deadline,
call 877-790-2676, visit www.hadassah.org/convention or e-mail
Dr. Orly Elpeleg, head of the pediatric metabolic disease unit at the Hadassah–Hebrew University Medical Center in Ein Kerem, has identified a deadly mutant gene responsible for fatal liver insufficiency in infants.
The gene, carried by 1 in 40 Yemenite Jews, inhibits children from correctly metabolizing sulfur and results in jaundice, clotting difficulties, hemorrhaging and loss of consciousness. During the research, the Hadassah team found that other mutations of the same gene led to illness in children from Ashkenazic, French-Algerian and Arab families.
Dr. Elpeleg (right)—whose team at Hadassah has identified more than 10 mutant genes in the last two years—discovered the gene after focusing on a group of infants at Israel’s Schneider Children’s Medical Center, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Rambam Medical Center and several hospitals in France. Liver cell and DNA samples were taken from the children to pinpoint the cause. Dr. Elpeleg determined that treating the children with sulfur early in life would save the majority of those carrying the mutant gene. When the theory was tested, most of the children were saved.
Dr. Elpeleg’s research on Yemenite Jews was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.
International Breast Cancer Awareness
Hadassah Mexico sponsored a Breast Cancer Awareness Week February 22 to 26, including workshops for medical and nursing professionals and public seminars to raise awareness and promote early detection.
Topics included the role of nurses in counseling breast cancer patients, clinical case studies, patient education and prevention. Presenters and attendees included Ilana Kadmon, breast cancer clinical nurse specialist at Hadassah–Hebrew University Medical Center; Margarita Zavala de Calderon, first lady of Mexico; Dr. Maki Ortiz, Mexican vice minister of health and a cancer survivor; Dr. Felicia Knaul, breast cancer survivor and author of Tomatelo a Pecho (Take It to Heart), a survivor’s tale, who is also director of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, which aims to expand cancer care and control to developing countries.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly when it happened, but the construction site of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower in the heart of Hadassah’s Ein Kerem campus has turned into a recognizable building. The site (right) now boasts nine stories—four of them aboveground. When the tower is completed, in time for Hadassah’s centennial in October 2012, the building will be 19 stories in total.
The five underground levels—a service tunnel, operating rooms, the administration and education floor, storage and the kitchen and sterile supply—are already accessible by stairway. They are continuing to take shape, with walls in place delineating operating rooms, sterile supply areas, kitchens and loading docks. These floors have been fortified to withstand conventional and biological weapons and, in case of attack, will be used as the emergency hospital. Aboveground, the entrance floor, technical floor, surgical intensive-care unit and heart centers stand tall, projecting the tower’s signature triangular shape.
With the structural walls in place, one can envision the central entrance atrium; the airy, tranquil healing gardens; and the passageways that will connect the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Mother and Child Center, Judy and Sidney Swartz Center for Emergency Medicine, commercial center and other facilities in the medical center.
Across our national regions and chapters and throughout Hadassah International, we are committed to raising $100 million toward the successful completion of the next phase of the Tower Campaign and our gift to Israel: We’re not waiting for the future, we’re building it.
Hadassah Medicine in Ravaged Port-au-Prince
She was 9 years old when the earthquake that took her home and family shattered her jaw. Untreated and unable to eat for six days, it was an even bet whether starvation or infection would claim her first.
“We operated, and 24 hours later she was eating bread and jam,”
says dental rehabilitation expert Dr. Revital Hilbert of the Hadassah–Hebrew University School of Dental Medicine founded by Alpha Omega. One of 120 Israeli medical personnel who went to Haiti following the January 12 catastrophe, Dr. Hilbert is a forensic dentist who signed up primarily to identify the dead.
“I put names to the bodies of several Dutch nationals caught in the quake,” Dr. Hilbert says. “But I found myself working more to save the living. I helped set jaws, stitched them when we didn’t have wiring, and did whatever else needed doing. As a forensic dentist, I’ve seen more than my share of critically wounded and dead. But I’ve never seen anything like Haiti after the earthquake.”
The Israeli field hospital set up in the town’s soccer stadium was a bubble amid the devastation, she says: “It was clean, efficient and well-equipped. We worked on a prolonged adrenaline high.”
“I think every one of us knew this would be with us for the rest of our lives,” says Dr. Shir Dar of Hadassah’s gynecology department.
For Drs. Dar, Hilbert and the other Israelis, the rescue began late January 13 with a call from the Israel Defense Forces. “Thursday was a flurry of getting [immunizations] and assembling equipment,” Dr. Dar says. “By Thursday night, 250 medical and rescue personnel were aboard one plane and our equipment on a second.”
As a gynecologist, Dr. Dar hadn’t expected his specialty to be in demand, but the quake sent many women into labor. “We had 16 births, three of them C-sections and 11 premature,” he says. “We’d only brought two cribs, so we lined buckets with blankets for the newborns.”
Reuven Gelfond is head nurse of the OR at Hadassah in Jerusalem, and he moved seamlessly into the same task in Haiti. “The conditions were extreme and the workload dire,” he recalls, “but we were infused with the knowledge we were doing something very important, not only for the patients but also for ourselves.”
Despite his experience with the aftermath of terror attacks in Israel, Gelfond found many of the earthquake injuries hard to look at, “but there was no time to stop and think about it,” he says. “We were there to heal, as far as possible up to the standards we keep at home, from sterilization facilities on.” The three autoclaves the team brought from Israel, and for which Gelfond was responsible, sterilize equipment with 15 minutes of high-pressure steam. They were, he believes, a key factor in the high rate of survival at Hadassah’s field hospital.
Dr. Taras Shirov, an anesthesiologist and orthopedic surgeon at Hadassah, knew exactly what would be waiting for him in Haiti. “About four in every five we treated were orthopedic patients,” he says. “I operated on some 320 people during the 12 days we were there. Many were young children, so shocked they didn’t even cry.”
“Their world had been destroyed, but they’re still little kids,” says Hadassah medical clown Dudi Barashi (above in white hat), who was sent to Haiti by Israel Flying Aid and the Dream Doctors Group. “They look at the man in funny clothes. I smile. They smile. I make a funny face. They smile wider. For them, I’m someone who doesn’t know about the earthquake, who sings and dances, and, for a while, they can leave their fear and pain.”
While the medical team scarcely left the field hospital, Barashi went into the city with the Israeli rescue team. “I have no words to describe the chaos and ruin,” he says. “I thought of life extinguished in each of those crushed buildings. I saw a blackboard with a half-written sentence and thought of the doomed teacher who was writing it and the children who were watching when the earthquake struck and probably killed them all…. I’ve been a medical clown for many years, but this time I encountered a tragedy too vast to grasp.” —Wendy Elliman