A Term of Endearment
When my flight left John F. Kennedy International Airport on October 6, I thought I was making a brief trip to Israel for a celebration honoring The Jerusalem Post’s choice of the 50 Most Influential Jews of 2023—a list I was humbled to be on as Hadassah’s representative. When my flight landed on October 7, Israel was at war, having suffered waves of rocket barrages and brutal murders at the hands of Hamas, evoking memories of the Holocaust.
Instead of an awards ceremony, I went to our medical center in Ein Kerem, where I met some of the survivors. I spoke to one man who had been shot by terrorists who chased down his car; he lost a leg, but our doctors saved his life and his wife thanked and hugged me. I saw people who had been attacked on the road, in their homes and at the Nova music festival.
I went to be honored for what Hadassah does and instead witnessed what Hadassah is.
This is my final magazine column as Hadassah’s national president. The past four years have gone by in the blink of an eye. Most of my presidency has been conducted in the shadow of Covid. In America, forced to close our offices, we pivoted quickly into a virtual community—and that led to more members being able to participate in national, regional and local events. I am proud to say that we kept the entire Hadassah staff employed and actively working. Through most of these four years, we held our National Assembly and National Board meetings, two highly successful fundraising galas and many other events, on Zoom.
In Israel, our doors remained open. Not only did our medical center continue to provide world-class care, it became a leader, nationally and on the international stage, in treating Covid and fighting the spread of the pandemic.
I cannot express enough pride in the enormous respect Hadassah has received around the globe as a humanitarian organization, notably through our work on the Polish border aiding refugees from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with their medical needs and our efforts to help during the earthquake rescue and recovery mission in Turkey. Hadassah was among the organizations honored with the 2023 Genesis Prize for our response to the Ukrainian crisis.
Among the most agonizing aspects of pandemic isolation was being unable to travel to Israel for so long, which deepened my reverence for the early generations of Hadassah women who labored to build a Jewish state that most would never see with their own eyes. With them in mind, I was especially gratified to fulfill the promise of holding Hadassah’s 100th National Convention in Jerusalem in 2022.
I have witnessed with admiration how Hadassah encourages and enables all members to stand up and speak out on issues important to them. We have a stronger voice today in defense of a democratic Israel, in advocacy for women’s reproductive freedom and in opposition to antisemitism and all forms of hate and prejudice.
My 43 years in Hadassah have taught me to smile through challenges—and that a positive attitude overcomes negative forces. And beginning my presidency with a pandemic and ending with a terrible war, I have been reminded that, like battle plans, expectations rarely survive the first crisis.
Walking through the corridors of the Hadassah Medical Center in early October I saw the results of hate, but I also felt closer than ever to Henrietta Szold, beholding a landscape of need as she walked through Jerusalem in 1909. Her vision led to building the greatest medical center in the Middle East and a pillar of modern Israel. All Hadassah walks with her.
I thank you all for the privilege of leading this wonderful organization with Pride, Passion and Purpose through a few experiences I expected and many I never dreamed of.