President’s Column: From Twigs to Towers
Each season carries memories of childhood that become part of the pattern of life. For me, the highlight of autumn is Sukkot.
When I was growing up, my aunt and uncle, who lived on the next block with my bubbe and zayde, hosted the family sukka. Some of my earliest memories are of gathering twigs and branches for the covering, decorating the sukka with real fruit—which attracted bees—and having meals at which family warmth more than compensated for the October chill and frequent rain.
I also remember the first time I was in Israel during Sukkot and saw how the holiday was not just part of the rhythm of individual families but of an entire nation. I was struck by the endless variety of construction and decoration—from ramshackle to elegant—that covered the balconies of apartment buildings.
It’s a shame that more people don’t celebrate Sukkot, because the holiday is such a wonderful microcosm of Jewish experience and values. It has the family focus of Pesah and the Zionist element of connecting Jews on every continent to the agricultural cycle of Israel. It also gives us a taste of building and an appreciation for the difference between a temporary dwelling and a permanent home.
Driven from the Land of Israel 2,000 years ago, the Jewish people became adept at building homes in exile. Many of the most comfortable homes turned out to be temporary. In returning to Israel and regaining our sovereignty, the Zionist movement encouraged us to build permanent homes and institutions. The pioneers whose ancestors had for generations put up thin walls and gathered twigs and branches from childhood were quick to put up durable shelters and lay down roots.
Hadassah is recognized as one of the great builders of modern Israel—and we are still building. In July, delegates convened in Las Vegas for a national business meeting at which we discussed plans for our second century. In addition to the focus on Hadassah’s projects, we also opened a new chapter in leadership by welcoming Dr. Ehud Kokia, the new director-general of the Hadassah Medical Organization, and paying final tribute to Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, his outgoing predecessor. (You’ll find a full report on the meeting on page 18.) We also installed a new slate of officers. I was honored to be inaugurated as Hadassah’s national president, but what made the event so touching was the participation of my dear friend, and past president, Bonnie Lipton, who installed me, and my introduction by my daughter, Heidi. Perhaps most delightful, however, was being upstaged by my 6-year-old granddaughter, Nina. Like my own experience helping to build the family sukka, it gave me enormous satisfaction to see such a great personal moment in my Jewish life turned into a family affair and a teaching moment.
Our meeting in Las Vegas was a part of Hadassah’s continuity, and the last gathering of its kind until we meet next year in Jerusalem. After a century of developing one of the most prominent profiles on the Israeli landscape, we are nearing completion of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower, our largest construction project since we inaugurated our Ein Kerem campus in 1961.
We will dedicate the tower at our Centennial convention, which begins October 15, 2012. The dedication will be an opportunity to celebrate the incredible accomplishment of our 300,000 members and to see our connection toIsrael’s future. We will also have the chance to touch all of Hadassah’s projects—from our Youth Aliyah centers to Hadassah College Jerusalem, from Young Judaea to the Jewish National Fund.
I hope you are all making plans to be with us in Jerusalem next October. It will not only allow us to see Israel and our projects, but also afford Israelis the chance to see us. Hadassah looms large in Israel’s consciousness and Israelis know we have always been there in the worst of times and the best. Let us make this gathering a reason forIsrael to celebrate with us.
One travel tip: Try to get to Israel several days early so you can see a nation of sukkot.