Meet the Veep: Merna Shapiro
It was Merna Shapiro’s passion for medical research—learned early on by the example set by her philanthropic parents and later solidified when her only sibling was diagnosed with terminal cancer—that most motivated her to become active in Hadassah. As a Zionist, Hadassah was a natural fit, an organization where she could link her commitment to the State of Israel and to cutting-edge science—in this case, the medical research undertaken at the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem and shared around the world.
Shapiro lost her younger brother, Richard Kirschenbaum, to melanoma in 2003. Today, she is grateful that Hadassah’s melanoma research, under the esteemed leadership of Dr. Michal Lotem, head of the Center for Melanoma and Cancer Immunotherapy at the Sharett Institute of Oncology, has improved the lives of over 200 people with metastatic melanoma.
Domestically, Shapiro is motivated by Hadassah’s advocacy, especially its work to address the scourge of gun violence. As a resident of Parkland, Fla., where the brutal shooting earlier this year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 dead, the urgency surrounding the issue of gun violence is very real to her.
“Our idyllic community was changed forever on February 14, 2018,” said Shapiro, a 25-year community resident who founded the Coral Springs-Parkland B’lev Echad (One Heart) Chapter with 10 other women in 2002. “In memory of the 17 precious lives who were lost, I was honored to present Hadassah’s Gun Control Resolution at the national business meeting in May in Washington, D.C. And I was proud to participate in Hadassah’s Day on the Hill, where I had the opportunity to implore our representatives to amend gun regulations.
“Hopefully,” Shapiro continued, “Hadassah’s actions will help the bright, articulate young students from my community bring a change to gun legislation and ensure that no other community has to experience a tragedy like the one that occurred in Parkland.”
Fighting for a just cause was a lesson Shapiro first learned as a child from her father, Norman Kirschenbaum, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. Her mother, Dottie Kirschenbaum, an active Hadassah member, created a three-generation Hadassah family and planted the seeds for her daughter’s future involvement. Together, her parents modeled a commitment to fighting injustice and to strengthening the State of Israel.
Today, the Hadassah chapter Shapiro helped found counts over 600 members. She went on to become president of the Florida Broward Region, national membership vice chair and served as the Hadassah national convention vice chair in 2016 before being named a vice president.
Shapiro’s daughter, Alyson, is a life member, and the men in her family are Associates: her husband, Larry Shapiro; son, Adam; son-in-law, Dave; and grandsons Dean and Alec. Shapiro is a member of the Chai Society and a Keeper of the Gate. Merna and Larry Shapiro are generous Benefactors of Peace and Centennial Founders.