Inside Hadassah: Tikkun Olam for All Ages
The season is changing and the New Year is right around the corner. And so is the time for setting new paths and purposes. As a people, we rely on our traditions, but also maps and even GPS devices to reach our destinations. Inside Hadassah offers guidance, too, by highlighting inspiring projects here and in Israel—from afternoon tea with hospital patients to a fund-raiser by young children and teens working with African refugees. Don’t miss the chapter membership and fund-raising winners online and Hadassah Magazine’s awards to gain new perspectives and feel pride in achievements. Then set your Hadassah “GPS” for a great New Year! —Ruth G. Cole
Service With a Smile
The Stamford, Connecticut, chapter of Hadassah has found just its cup of tea. Every other Tuesday at 2 P.M., a crew of volunteers can be found in a family lounge of the oncology ward at the Stamford Hospital, serving afternoon tea to patients, their family members and hospital staff.
“It’s something the nurses look forward to,” said nurse Jenna Toscana at a recent tea, “and the patients and their families absolutely love it.”
The program, dubbed Tea@2, welcomes an average of 70 people at each event; since its inception last November, cochairs Connie Freeman, Rhonna Rogol and Hadassah Associate Paul Bashan estimate that they have served over 1,200 guests. The spread always includes tea in silver teapots and homemade goodies such as cranberry lemon scones, ginger pumpkin bread and brownie cheesecake. Everything is served on china, to maintain a certain elegance, and there is either live guitar or classical music playing. “When you’re in the hospital, you are being served institutional food,” said Freeman, Connecticut Region president. “There’s a sameness and dullness to it. We wanted to make something really special.”
Tea@2 is organized and staged by a team of about 35 volunteers. There are bakers to prepare the desserts and tea sandwiches; “shleppers” to set up the event; and servers—who must complete the hospital’s volunteer orientation process—to serve the tea and treats and clean up afterward. All the baked goods and supplies are either donated or loaned to Tea@2 by members, businesses and even a local synagogue. The program raises awareness of Hadassah in the community and has attracted several new members to the Stamford chapter.
“For a patient to get well you need the right attitude and this does it,” said Sally Tyrrell, a hospital volunteer for 18 years whose husband is now a patient there. “Every little bit helps and most important is to know that someone cares. That’s the best medicine.”
Little Tikes Make Big Waves
The children of the Vancouver, Washington, chapter of Hadassah might be little, but they know how to think big.
The chapter’s Al Galgalim group, made up of four children, ages 2 to 5, decided that they wanted to plant trees in Israel in honor of Earth Day last April. In less than three months, the group—Noah Graven, Lizzy Ronzio and Jayden and Joshua Moore—sold 105 trees, surpassing their goal of 100. Not only did the preschoolers raise $1,050 for the Jewish National Fund but they sold so many trees that JNF created a new forest for them.
“People responded and were really excited when they received the gorgeous certificates (above) [made by the children],” said Rachel Frankel-Moore, Jayden and Joshua’s mother, who facilitates the group. “The children were excited, too. They would tell people about the trees and the ‘little’ forest that would be planted in honor of their efforts.”
The Al Galgalim group meets monthly in the Moores’ home. In addition to learning about holidays and customs, each year the children work on a service project. This year’s initiative was so successful that the chapter has decided to continue it, to add to their new forest in Israel.
Uniting for a Cure
Hadassah is partnering with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest grass-roots network of breast cancer survivors and activists, to enhance advocacy, screening and treatment of breast cancer in Israel. The Israel Breast Cancer Collaborative will be launched by a week of events, October 25 to 29, cosponsored by the city of Jerusalem.
“Like the grass-roots troops of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the women of Hadassah will harness the power of individuals who want to make a difference, and multiply it,” said Hadassah National President Nancy Falchuk at the press conference announcing the collaboration in April. “I don’t know another organization with which we share so many values.”
The events will include a mission of delegates and a concurrent think-tank designed to jump-start new initiatives on breast cancer screening and risk-assessment methodologies. The centerpiece of the week will be the first Susan G. Komen Israel Race for the Cure, around Jerusalem’s Old City walls on October 28. (For more information, visit www.info-komen .org/israelrace.)
“Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s very first international research grant went to Israel 16 years ago, and we have enjoyed longstanding friendships and productive collaborations in Israel ever since,” said Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, the organization’s founder and CEO.
In Israel, about 4,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
A Real Simha
On a recent Taglit-Birthright Israel trip run by YJ Impact, six young adults shared a special experience: celebrating their bar and bat mitzvas in Jerusalem.
The participants approached Russell Heller, the American counselor traveling with the group, asking if it would be possible to celebrate this Jewish milestone while in Israel, since none of them had had one before.
The ceremony was held on a Thursday morning in May at the Southern Wall excavations near the Western Wall. Heller called the young people by their Hebrew names and asked them to join him under a talit to recite the blessings customarily said upon being called up to the Torah. He read the day’s Torah portion, and the participants recited the concluding blessing. When the ceremony was over, the crowd broke into spontaneous song and dance.
“Having the ceremony and experiencing everything that was around me those two weeks [of Birthright]…is just…indescribable,” said Lauren Levine, 23, from West Palm Beach, Florida. “I didn’t know there was a part of me missing before going on the trip, but I discovered and found that part…. I will cherish [what that trip and ceremony meant to me] forever.”
“It was great to see that all of these participants had come on Birthright not only to connect to the land and people of Israel, but to also reconnect with their own personal Jewish identities,” said Heller.
Planting the Seeds of Community
Young Judaea has proven itself, time and again, to be an incubator for innovative ideas. The most recent, known as Garin Tzedek, grew from a handful of ambitious Judaeans to a group of over 50 young people in its first year.
The members of the garin—Hebrew for seed—collectively decided to use their volunteer time on Year Course to help Sudanese refugees in Israel. The idea fermented at Young Judaea’s national midwinter convention in 2009; by the end of the 2010 school year, the group had tangible accomplishments to take pride in and had inspired others to follow its lead.
“What makes Garin Tzedek unique is that they committed to furthering social justice…as a group,” says Andrew Fretwell, education director at Camp Tel Yehudah in Barryville, New York, who worked with the garin as an adviser. “It is reminiscent of garinimof generations past, where a handful of dedicated youths would together move to Israel and found a kibbutz. I would think in today’s evermore customizable and individualized world, this is what makes Garin Tzedek stand out so much.”
While on Year Course, the garin members did most of their volunteer work in Tel Aviv and Arad. They tutored Darfuri refugees and their children in English and helped renovate a nursery school for them in a local community center. They also organized a weekly sports night for children and raised money for the refugees and for organizations that work with the Sudanese community in Israel.
“Garin Tzedek differs from any specialty track or anything seen in recent years on Year Course. It is a group of Judaeans who come together for two main reasons: tikkun olam andkehilla,” says Laura Maschler, a New Yorker who was one of the founders of the garin. “The first huge aspect of Garin Tzedek is obviously our passion to make a difference, but an equally important element is the sense of community built in the garin, be it through evening activities we plan for ourselves or tiyulim [hikes] on the weekend.”
Ittai Eres agrees. “What truly makes it a garin is the community and family atmosphere that is created from the activities it planned for itself and the programming it did within the Year Course community and from the bond that we all share in our volunteering work,” said the Lexington, Kentucky, native. “The garin consists of dedicated, passionate people with vibrant ideas and a headstrong desire to be innovative and work toward the bettering of the group.”
The members of Garin Tzedek—who maintain a blog at www.seedtheplow.blogspot.com—hope to carry their mission and unity beyond their Year Course experience. Some were counselors at Young Judaea camps in the United States in the summer and ran relevant programs for campers there; they also hope to bring the garin’s calling to their American college campuses this year.
“Garin Tzedek has been so powerful that many Judaeans in the United States have noticed and are following their lead,” says Fretwell. Garin Tzedek will be continued on Year Course this year, and Fretwell worked over the summer with other Judaeans on forming other garinim based on the same model. Plans are under way for Garin Kayamut, to focus on environmental sustainability, and Garin Arevim, to help terror victims and their families in Israel.
Hadassah Magazine won nine Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism in 2009. The prizes were presented at the American Jewish Press Association’s annual banquet in Scottsdale, Arizona, in June.
The publication won first-place prizes in excellence in illustration and excellence in photography (Lucy Schaeffer). Other first-place awards were for excellence in personality profiles (Leora Eren Frucht), excellence in a personal essay (Elin Schoen Brockman) and excellence in feature writing (Leora Eren Frucht).
Second-place awards were given in the categories of excellence in feature writing (Rahel Musleah); excellence in photography (Yossi Gutmann); excellence in special sections or supplements (Tel Aviv theme issue); and excellence in overall graphic design, for the January, February and June/July 2009 issues.