President’s Column: Holiday and History
This year, Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukka fall one day before the November 29 anniversary of the United Nations approval of the partition of Palestine. One of the ironies of Israel’s history is that it was the General Assembly—so often associated in recent years with hostility to the Jewish state—that passed the partition resolution. Israel was the first nation to emerge with, in effect, a birth certificate signed by the global community.
That United Nations stamp of approval—enforced by Israel’s War of Independence—provides reason enough to give thanks on this important anniversary. But the November calendar provides other reminders of why we should be thankful as Jews, Zionists and Americans.
It was the November 1917 Balfour Declaration that made establishment of a Jewish homeland the official policy of Palestine’s British rulers. And it was in November 1909 that Henrietta Szold first laid eyes on Jerusalem, on the journey that would be so critical to the founding of Hadassah, to the empowerment of American Jewish women and to building the medical and educational infrastructure in prestate Israel.
What strikes me, so many Novembers later, is how relevant all of these dates remain today. Not without reason, Jews are known for their focus on history. Our own experience as a people tells us who we are and reminds us that the past always provides lessons for the present.
But if our history tells us who we are, it is our actions today that define us and determine our future. That is why, as important as it is to build on our role as medical and educational pacesetters in Israel, we have to be equally mindful of our role as leaders in Jewish communal life and advocates for the causes that best express our values.
Our army of 330,000 members, Associates and donors is an incredible resource in maintaining Hadassah’s stature and influence. But numbers aren’t enough. In a world where hyperconnectivity often threatens the most important connections, communication and innovative programming are essential.
One of our newest initiatives—built on our history of empowering women—is the Hadassah Leadership Fellows, a two-year program designed to inspire, cultivate and train future leaders by offering opportunities to develop skills and perform volunteer work for Hadassah and the larger community. The program offers participants the chance to network with Jewish women leaders around America, advance their skills and experience, understand Hadassah’s work, travel to Israel and engage in advocacy.
Prospective candidates for the Leadership Fellows initiative can find more information on our Web site, www.hadassah.org.
Another key to Hadassah’s role in maintaining the Israeli-American connection, as well as making the connection tangible for individual members, is our enhanced missions program. Our expanded menu includes trips that appeal to every schedule and interest—first-time and veteran visitors, families and small groups, doctors and nurses; missions that focus on healthy lifestyles and activities; and a mission to Poland that will meet up with our Youth Aliyah heritage program.
From leadership training to visiting Israel, from promoting our health care and educational activities to advocacy on the Middle East or the domestic front, Hadassah still does best what it has done for generations: It offers Jewish women a wide range of choices for making an impact and improving the world.
As we observe the holidays this year, our blessings are many: America has given us the freedom and the environment to make our voices heard at home and around the world. Israel is strong, in no small part due to Hadassah’s efforts. More Jews than ever before are free to learn from our history. The challenges of our time are great, but not as great as our determination to meet them.
A Happy Hanukka and a Happy Thanksgiving to all.