President’s Column: Investing in the Future
In our complicated world, confusion is often the companion of progress. Every advance in prosperity seems to bring with it new problems. New technology is equipped with built-in distractions. Increased freedom sometimes entails increased noise.
Yet, when we recall what life was like with less technology, prosperity and freedom, there is no question of going back. Our job is not to resist progress but to manage the challenges that come with it.
The Zionist movement is, in addition to an independence program, an operating system for the Jewish people to meet the challenge of a rapidly changing world. Little did the movement’s founders realize that in the coming century the pace of change would increase exponentially.
Nevertheless, modern Israel, better than most nations, surfs the waves of change. Despite its many challenges, it is a resilient society with one of the most robust economies on the globe.
Born of the same Zionist movement, Hadassah is also resilient. Subject to the same economic, demographic and behavioral forces that confront every institution around us, over the course of 100 years we have been creative, adaptive and successful. The obstacles of the moment can seem daunting, but looking at the road we have traveled offers the confidence of perspective.
Seventy-five years ago, within the lifetime of many people living today, Ein Kerem was a sleepy village, a half-day’s journey from Jerusalem if you went the normal way—on foot. Seventy-five years ago, most of what is now Tel Aviv was still desert. As recently as the 1970s, food in Israel was what you ate in someone’s home or in a kibbutz-style cafeteria; consumer goods were what friends and relatives brought in from Europe or America.
Today, Israel is a gourmet destination. There’s no consumer product you can’t find in the stores, and Israel now exports—from fashion to technology to television rights—as much as it imports.
Hadassah opened a hospital in Tel Aviv in 1921, a dozen years after the city’s founding. It was part of a network of more than 130 hospitals, clinics and dispensaries that we built across Palestine. Though we turned most of that infrastructure over to government and municipal authorities after independence, our footprints are still all over Israel’s modern health system—one of the best in the world.
As a result of opening our main hospital there in 1961, Ein Kerem is now a thriving Jerusalem neighborhood, a commercial and transportation hub and soon to be a stop on the city’s light-rail system. Rising above our campus is the new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower, the most modern medical facility in Israel.
The world is more crowded and competitive than it was in 1912. We were once the only option for Jewish women who wanted to express support of Israel, interest in health care or a desire to work with like-minded people. Today there are other women’s organizations, other philanthropies that welcome women and other Israeli hospitals that have support movements in America.
Looking at the cold facts, I suppose we lose some people to competing organizations. But looking through the lens of our institutional experience, I can only feel pride. Hadassah played a pivotal role in building the Jewish world—and, to a great extent, the Jewish nation—in which there are so many choices and so much dedication.
For a century, Hadassah has broken through every barrier we encountered. Through our hospitals and institutions of medical education, through Youth Aliyah, Young Judaea and our Jewish National Fund projects, we have filled in much of the emptiness in health care, child rescue and land reclamation of a now thriving nation. It is a given that a strong, diverse country will produce many hospitals, just as a vibrant American Jewish community will produce many organizations to address critical issues. It’s no surprise that others have followed in our footsteps.
It’s also no surprise that we are still pacesetters in building the Jewish nation, and building ourselves in the process. In a complex world, Hadassah is a great investment.