Heart News and Hospital Updates
Throughout my decades of service to this groundbreaking organziation, I have always valued the key role Hadassah Magazine plays in our ongoing success. The magazine—through its award-winning features and commentaries—reflects our ideals of Jewish culture, thought, Zionism and commitment to tikkun olam with style and sophistication. Today, I am proud to be the chair of this treasured publication, bringing you the latest Hadassah news from around the world.
And I am not the only new face in this issue! The magazine also has a new executive editor, Lisa Hostein. Please join both Lisa and me in welcoming Ellen Hershkin, 26th national president of Hadassah. —Marlene Post
Looking for another reason to register for Hadassah’s National Convention: The Power of Our Dreams, July 25 to 28, at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis? It’s also an anniversary party. Hadassah Atlanta turns 100 this year! The festivities kicked off with an exhibit at the city’s William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum. “100 Years of Hadassah Atlanta,” which closes in March, includes artifacts, memorabilia and hundreds of photographs as well as a video booth where members can record their own personal Hadas-sah memories. The Atlanta chapter of Hadassah was founded in 1916 with 18 members; today, the area has over 3,600 members.
Step to the Beat
Hadassah National Board Member Karen Feit thought she was having a panic attack during a stressful time in her life. But then lessons from Every Beat Counts: Hadassah’s Heart Health Program ran through her head. “Women’s heart attacks may not be the chest-crushing pain you see in movies,” she recalled. She went to the emergency room, where doctors discovered she had had a silent heart attack.
Phyllis Somers attended an Every Beat Counts event in the Boston area, where she learned the signs of a heart attack and heard how the program had helped Valerie Lowenstein, past Hadassah national Health and Wellness Team Leader, identify her own signs of cardiac distress just in time to get treatment. While getting ready for her regular Zumba class, Somers felt pain down her head and neck. Had she not attended the Hadassah event, she would have gone to Zumba. But she remembered what she learned and called her doctor, who told her to call an ambulance. After recovering from cardiomyopathy, Somers is just fine and back at Zumba class.
Every Beat Counts has reached over 10,000 women since September 2013 and continues to save lives. Last year, Every Step Counts: Hadassah’s Walking Program mobilized over 1,000 people to track their daily steps for better heart health, walking 720 million steps (over 350,000 miles) and charting a course from New York to Jerusalem. Every Step Counts kicks off again on April 11. We will be walking a three-month virtual route from Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem to our national convention in Atlanta, held in July. Registration is open now at www.hadassah.org/everystepcounts.
A Hadassah Welcome in Jerusalem
The Hadassah Medical Organization has a new director general. Dr. Zeev Rotstein, formerly the director general of the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer in Ramat Gan, was set to take up the new position just a few weeks ago, replacing Dr. Tamar Peretz, an internationally renowned oncologist who had been serving as interim director general. Dr. Rotstein began his career at Sheba medical center in 1984, becoming a prominent cardiologist and, later, a top-level hospital administrator.
“As a leader and physician, Dr. Rotstein is a perfect fit to guide HMO through the next stage of its recovery plan,” noted Erez Meltzer, chairman of the HMO board of directors. “Dr. Rotstein’s combination of management experience, academic excellence and care as a physician is crucial in addressing the challenges and nuances of Israel’s public health system and to continually improve HMO’s service to its patients.”
In early January, HMO completed an important step in its recovery when its new state-of-the-art operating rooms opened.
Remembering a Champion of Coexistence
October 13, 2015, was not the first time Karen Lakin came rushing into Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem. But this time, she says, was probably the most terrifying. She was there for Richard Lakin—her former husband, best friend and the father of her two children whom she married straight out of Boston University 52 years ago.
A gentle, gray-haired 76-year-old retired principal originally from Newton, Massachusetts, Lakin was returning home from a doctor’s visit that day and had decided to take the bus instead of walking, since he was nervous about the recent spate of stabbings on the streets of Israel. According to Israel’s foreign ministry, between September 13, 2015, and early January 2016, 28 Israelis had been killed and more than 280 wounded.
As fate would have it, two young Palestinian men armed with knives and a gun boarded Lakin’s bus. The men locked the doors of the vehicle and turned on the passengers, killing 2 and injuring 16 others—including Lakin, who was shot in the head and then slashed in the face, neck and stomach.
For two weeks, Lakin held onto life at Hadassah Hospital, surrounded by his ex-wife, their children—Micah Avni and Manya Boteach—and eight grandchildren. Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the United Nations, and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, both traveling in Israel at the time, visited Lakin. Students and teachers from Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education, where both Lakins frequently taught, stopped by bearing colorful posters and prayers. The head nurse in the intensive care unit—an Israeli-Arab Christian—helped organize that particular visit. Her three children had been students of the Lakins.
Richard Lakin never regained consciousness and passed away on October 27.
The terrorist attack that killed Lakin showcased, sadly and ironically, the kind of blind hatred that the educator had spent his whole life fighting. “Dad didn’t deal with politics,” said Avni. “He dealt with people. His motto was: Accept everyone. If you smile at a child, that child will smile back.” Lakin’s Facebook page banner featured a photo of two boys, Arab and Jewish, with their arms around each other and the word “coexist” appearing above them.
As young newlyweds in the 1960s, Karen—a fifth-generation Hadassah life member—and Richard Lakin marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and took part in sit-ins. After they made aliya from Connecticut in 1984, the couple founded an English-language school where Jewish and Arab children studied side by side. And they rarely missed a peace rally.
It has been several months since Lakin’s death, and his family is still processing their grief. “We feel awful. Sad. Broken,” said Karen Lakin. “But anger? No. I guess, for us, anger just never seemed productive.”
“One cannot keep asking why something happened,” Avni eulogized at his father’s funeral. “Instead we can ask how one might respond, and what we intend to do now that it has happened.”
One response the family has chosen is fighting incitements to violence, taking the fight to those they see as its facilitators: social media sites. According to Avni, on the day after the bus attack, videos glorifying the attackers and giving explicit instructions on how to carry out similar attacks were already online. Sitting by his father’s hospital bed, Avni began researching online incitement to violence and subsequently had his father named lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against Facebook filed in New York, in a case organized by the Israel Law Center.
The suit, which now has 20,000 complainants, demands that Facebook stop allowing violent, anti-Semitic incitement to be hosted on its platform. “They cannot hide behind excuses of free speech,” Avni said. “They, like all of us, have ethical and moral responsibilities.” —Danna Harman