Always a Hadassah Woman
When I became Hadassah’s national president in July 2011, I stood before the national board in Las Vegas and invoked Abraham’s response to God’s call: “Hineni.” With that single word, meaning “here I am,” our patriarch communicated that he was ready to accept the responsibilities being placed on his shoulders.
As I stepped into my presidential role, I likewise took on the responsibility to lead and represent Hadassah, and to build on the choice I made when I first joined this wonderful organization—to be part of something larger than myself.
My term has been enlightening and exhausting, exhilarating and turbulent, marked by great challenge and sweet success. These four and a half years have been the most intense of my life, but I have treasured every moment of it.
Confronting the Hadassah Medical Organization’s financial crisis and negotiating the historic agreement with the Israeli government that resolved that crisis constituted one of the most dramatic chapters in our 103-year history. Seeing breakthroughs in HMO research, visiting victims of violence and disease in our patient rooms and seeing the beneficiaries of our efforts were both trying and gratifying.
Presiding over Hadassah’s Centennial celebration in February 2012—at New York’s Temple Emanu-El, the very congregation in which our founding meeting was held—was a transcendent experience, especially with members of Henrietta Szold’s family in attendance. Eight months later we had our jubilant Centennial convention in Jerusalem, where we dedicated the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower. Feeling embraced by our founders and our history, the world never seemed so small, or time so short.
My term ends on december 31. I am excited and heartened that Ellen Hershkin—an extraordinary leader, strategic thinker and passionate Zionist—will succeed me, becoming Hadassah’s 26th national president. This organization, nurtured by generations of great presidents, will be in good hands.
One of the most enduring lessons I have learned is that as rewarding as it is to be chosen for leadership, the moments and experiences in which I felt most fulfilled were those I shared with other leaders and with you, our army of members and Associates.
The Jewish standard of leadership is based not on a lust for power but on humility. When God asked Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery, the response wasn’t an Abrahamic affirmation but, “Why me?” Even after he began his mission, Moses, our tradition tells us, was lonely, even depressed. Only much later, in the desert, when God told him to gather a council of 70 elders around him did Moses become comfortable, and confident, in his role.
I have had the honor of working with my own council of elders (of all ages). I have also been privileged to lead the most dedicated volunteers any leader could ask for. All of you, in one form or another, have said, “Hineni.” I could not have functioned, nor could I have lived so fully this extraordinary period of my life, if I had stood alone. For any achievements for which I was given credit, the energy and work that went into them were widely shared.
Whatever talents a Hadassah president brings to her task, the position represents much more than the person who occupies it. Our leaders embody the past, the present, the future and the mystique of Hadassah. Millennia after our forebears in the desert bequeathed this concept of leadership, it became a blueprint for the democratic idea of a president or prime minister who is a servant rather than a ruler, who shares power because he or she accepts that wisdom is never the domain of a single person.
A Hadassah presidency has an expiration date, but being a Hadassah woman is a lifetime commitment. So I intend to follow the example of past presidents who remain active. I will be maintaining my position on the HMO board, traveling to Israel monthly for meetings, where I will do all I can to build the future of our medical center, and thereby strengthen Israel. So rather than say goodbye, I’ll end my presidency the way I started it.