On June 5, 1944, the day before D-Day, the headline of a news item in The Chicago Tribune announced, “Hadassah to Push Sale of War Bonds at Meeting.” It was just one notice among many news reports, phone calls, door-to-door campaigns, letters, flyers and meetings that made up or showcased Hadassah’s advocacy and activism during World War II. All of those activities added up to $200 million in bonds (worth $2.7 billion today).
Yes, Hadassah’s best-known projects have always been medical care, youth rescue and education in Israel, but there has never been an era in which the women of Hadassah were not also actively engaged on the domestic American scene.
Over the years, on the national and local level, working on our own, in cooperation with other organizations and often in active collaboration with government institutions and even the United Nations, Hadassah has been a force in promoting stem cell research, genetic nondiscrimination, bone marrow registration, breast cancer awareness, women’s rights, literacy, voter registration and bias-free school curricula. Among many other distinctions, we were responsible for the largest nongovernmental shipment of relief supplies during the Bosnian civil war. Hadassah has also been a pillar of the American Jewish community’s advocacy and support for Israel, on behalf of Soviet Jewry and on many other Jewish causes.
Our domestic calendar today is still full. At the top of our agenda is Every Beat Counts: Hadassah’s Heart Health Program. Recognizing that heart disease is the leading killer of women—at 10 times the rate of breast cancer—and that cardiac symptoms present themselves differently in women than in men, we launched this program as a resource for women to learn about preventive measures and the latest research.
With the growing success of Every Beat Counts in 2014, this year we moved our health campaign up a notch with Every Step Counts: Hadassah’s Walking Program. This walk, taken with very real steps, is a virtual journey from New York to Jerusalem, engaging in physical activity that keeps the heart healthy. Online components include milestone markers for participants, videos, geographic and historic sights and health tips.
Building on our groundbreaking work on issues like stem cell research and gender and pay equity, our domestic agenda now focuses on our Gender Equity in Medical Research Initiative (GEM), preventive health care, affordable child care and human trafficking. We are working with Congress, the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration to address the absence of female participants in many clinical trials to ensure that gender differences yield therapies and cures tailored for women as well as men. We are working with the National Council of Jewish Women toward passage of legislation that would build on the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
The power of Hadassah is seen not only in the issues we embrace but also in our 300,000 members across America. We have a 50-State Advocacy Network to help Hadassah communities advocate locally as well as nationally, to mobilize and to influence public policy. In February, we held a Day in the District in which our members met with their congressional representatives in their home districts to promote GEM legislation. On all of our target issues, we will be providing educational materials, suggestions for activities and events, policy updates and action alerts.
Henrietta Szold wanted not only to empower Jewish women, but also to empower us with a vision and a purpose. That’s something Hadassah understood not only on the day before D-Day, but every day in the life of our mission, which is now 103 years and counting.
You’ll find more information on all these initiatives on the Hadassah website. And if you see a program there that your chapter has not adopted, then you might be the one to engage your colleagues in advocating for that issue. Hadassah, The Power of Women Who Do, becomes a reality when each of us works for the things we are passionate about.