President’s Column: The Tough Get Going
On many occasions in the past 99 years, Hadassah has found itself in a tough position. As all of you know, we have been through two years of financial crisis and we are going through another round of belt tightening. a But there is a fundamental difference between where we are today and where we were when the crisis began. In this new year, we know that a painful chapter in our history is behind us. The markets are rising, fundraising is recovering and we have launched a new membership drive.
This is not to say that everything is back to normal. If recent times have taught us anything, it is that “normal” has lost its meaning. But I want to emphasize, as I have over the past two years, that our core mission is alive and well.
Hadassah’s mission is to build the Jewish homeland and strengthen the ties between American Jews and the State of Israel. This mission is rooted not in bricks and mortar, not in dollars and cents, but in dedication and values. It is based on the strength of our numbers, our common action and our collective wisdom. Hard times can take material things away from us, but they cannot take away what is inside of us.
Throughout our history, challenging circumstances have brought out the best in the women of Hadassah. Our mothers and grandmothers met the Great Depression and other downturns with agility and creativity. As regions and chapters feel the impact of our reduced spending now, I am confident that they will respond with rising motivation.
On many occasions since I became Hadassah’s national president, I have been inspired by our history. When our founders raised $5,000 to send the first two nurses to Jerusalem in 1913, all the money went to the mission. There were no funds left over to support an organizational structure in America. In 1948, Hadassah leaders in Israel sent telegrams to the chapters inAmerica to inform them of the Declaration of Independence. They sent the telegrams collect.
The Forward recently published a story on the highest paid professionals in 75 leading Jewish organizations. The report cited a single exception of unpaid volunteer leadership. That “anomaly,” as the article called it, is Hadassah.
After sending billions of dollars to build and sustain the Jewish state, clearly we are not going back to the resource model of 1913. Even so, the newspaper’s report does indicate that Hadassah is closer to its founding model than any other Jewish organization.
If Hadassah launched its life-giving work with virtually no treasury to support its organizational structure, we can certainly thrive today by being leaner. As we redouble our fundraising efforts, we must remain focused on the mission, even if that means spending less. After all, what makes Hadassah unique is its army of volunteers.
As our Zionist mission approaches its 100th anniversary, we have a long string of success stories to tell. Completion of our work remains on the far horizon, but fulfillment is something we accomplish, and feel, every day. We feel it every time our medical center saves a life or brings a new life into the world. We feel it every time a teacher in one of our institutions educates a student and every time a young person in a Young Judaea program gets enthusiastic about Israel. We feel it every time we raise our voices on an important issue, whether it is Israel’s right to defend itself or the need to invest in stem cell research. We feel it every time a new member joins Hadassah.
Next year, to mark our centennial, we will be dedicating the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower in Jerusalem. It will be one more success in the Hadassah story, as well as a tribute to the dedication of our 300,000 members and supporters. It is impossible to say today that on the day of dedication we won’t be in the midst of tough times. But I can assure you that, just as we have shown throughout our history, tough times never stop us from moving forward.
Write to Nancy Falchuk at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see her latest podcast, go to www.hadassah.org/podcast.