New Year, New Horizon
Rosh Hashanah ushers in a season of renewal. When I look at how much the medical, social, commercial, political and emotional landscape has changed since early 2020, I can’t help thinking that we are on the verge of Rosh Hashanah Hagedolah—the Great New Year.
The most obvious change over the past few months is the post-pandemic reopening, with the United States and Israel in the vanguard. With good reason, we always temper our celebration of the efficacy of Covid vaccines with the realization that the retreat of the virus does not mean total victory, that variants and billions of unvaccinated people around the world still represent risks. But after more than a year of huddling in our homes and venturing out only with great caution, the sense of renewed life is palpable.
The relief goes far beyond the immediate sensation of returning to a pre-pandemic normal. The mRNA vaccines that protect more people every day represent a medical revolution that will pay dividends in the future. Instead of the years or even decades it took to develop vaccines for smallpox, measles, typhoid, yellow fever, polio and other diseases, the mRNA process gave us a Covid shot in 11 months. It’s likely that the process will lead to better flu vaccines with quicker updates and perhaps longer protection. It may also accelerate the effort to develop vaccines for HIV, rabies and new viruses as unimaginable today as coronavirus was in 2019.
Building on involuntary experience, we are also likely to see lasting improvements in the organization and efficiency of health care, schools, commerce and the workplace. Though many of us may be tired of Zoom meetings, they will now coexist with more traditional options as a way of maximizing choice for the sake of efficiency. If we learn the recent lessons of preparedness and stockpiling, we can avoid life-threatening shortages and distribution problems.
In the past year, both Israel and the United States had a change of government, both elected by narrow margins. After four elections in two years, Israel’s new coalition embraces the full spectrum of the nation’s many parties—which obviously presents challenges as well as opportunities. In Washington and across America there is a new tone addressing health challenges and also combatting the spike in racist and antisemitic activity.
The sense of renewal is tangible for Hadassah and for me personally. Though the date is still uncertain, I am looking forward to my first trip to Israel in more than 18 months. Instead of the backdrop of home and office interiors on computer screens, I want to walk the corridors of our hospitals, the narrow streets and open squares of Jerusalem and the beachfront in Tel Aviv. I hope all of you will make the journey soon.
Everywhere in Hadassah there is a sense of new beginning. The Hadassah Medical Organization, of course, never stopped working during the Covid lockdowns, but a welcome sign of both normal and renewal was the group of 20 new nurses—some right out of school, others coming from other institutions—that went through orientation at the Ein Kerem hospital in June. Our Meir Shfeyah Youth Aliyah Village, which had to send most of its residents home during the worst of the pandemic and shift to virtual learning, saw more than 100 students graduate, the largest group in the village’s history.
And after a year of stops and starts, Hadassah’s headquarters in New York City are set to reopen three days a week in September. We have worked wonders in the virtual world, but as the reopening draws near, I feel an enormous weight falling from my shoulders.
We experience many renewals in life. They are mostly small steps, and they often make up for setbacks. Much rarer are the giant-leap renewals like the ones we are living now. As Henrietta Szold’s wise words remind us, “There is no ending that is not a beginning.” May Hadassah, America, Israel and the world
make the most of the opportunities before us.
Shanah Tovah to all!