First Steps, Long Roads
Every woman attaches her own meaning to Hadassah, but if I had to come up with a few key words common to the shared sense of what we do, the list would surely include saving and improving lives, advocacy based on our values, and preserving memory.
Even in vacation season, assessments are always in order, so here is a short list—almost random and entirely essential—of what’s on our plate and on my mind in August 2022.
As of this Fall, the Hadassah Medical Center, in collaboration with the med-tech company P-Cure, will be the first hospital in Israel to offer proton therapy radiation to cancer patients. Currently offered by only one percent of the world’s hospitals, precision-targeted proton therapy eliminates the risks of x-ray treatments that can damage healthy tissue around a cancerous growth, leading to side effects. Until now, Israelis wanting proton treatment had to travel abroad for extended periods and pay over $100,000 in costs. Now they will able to get treatment in Jerusalem and have the expenses covered by health insurance funds.
Hadassah worked on its own and in coalition with other organizations, for the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the gun safety bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden on June 25. The legislation, which expands background checks, funds red flag laws, closes loopholes and increases funding for mental health resources, is the most important national initiative on firearm safety in twenty years, bringing America one step further in the continuing fight against gun violence.
Another item on our advocacy agenda is a bipartisan congressional resolution calling on the International Olympic Committee to observe a moment of silence at all future Olympic opening ceremonies for the 11 members of the Israeli team killed by terrorists of the Palestinian Black September group 50 years ago in Munich. We especially appreciate the efforts of the Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), who introduced the resolution in the House of Representatives.
Lauren Ohayon, a yoga and Pilates teacher from Miami, recently discovered that HMO is sometimes both the best place for care and also the closest. Though one of her specialties is helping people with back problems, self-help wasn’t enough when she developed severe back pain of her own. A chiropractic adjustment left her unable to stand straight. She tried for several months to treat herself with exercise; determined to keep a commitment to host a retreat, she traveled to France, using a wheelchair to get around. In excruciating pain, from France she called her mother—a nurse and long-time Hadassah leader—who told her she needed to see a doctor immediately and could either return to Florida or head to Hadassah Ein Kerem.
She opted for Jerusalem, where Dr. Josh Schroeder, senior surgeon and spine specialist in HMO’s orthopedic department, discovered a large bone fragment resting on a spinal nerve. Dr. Schroeder operated and removed the fragment, and Ohayon describes her post-op experience as “surreal.”
“I was better immediately!” she said. “I felt no pain. I needed no pain pills.” Within a short time she was standing and walking normally.
Finally, none of us should let this month pass without honoring the memory of Regina Jonas, the world’s first woman rabbi. August 3, 2022, marked the 120th anniversary of her birth—and would that she had lived to 120. Rabbi Jonas was born in Berlin and ordained by the Liberal Rabbinical Association in Frankfurt in 1935. She served as a prayer leader, hospital chaplain and teacher under the increasing restrictions of the Nazi regime, including for 18 months in Theresienstadt. She was murdered in Auschwitz in June 1944.
May the memory of Rabbi Jonas be a blessing, may it shower us with inspiration, and may we go from strength to strength as we put our Jewish, Zionist and Hadassah values into action.