Over, But Not Out
My term as Hadassah national president ends on December 31. It began with a global pandemic and ended with Israel at war. And for the past four years I have always been exactly where I felt I needed to be—with all of you at my side.
One thought has returned to me repeatedly: I feel closer to Henrietta Szold. Like her first visit to Jerusalem in 1909, I see a landscape with enormous challenges and know that a mass organization of Jewish women—our organization—can make a difference. We need to stay in the middle of the picture.
Early in my term, Israel was unreachable. Lockdowns and closed borders gave me a deeper appreciation of Hadassah’s first generations, working to build a nation on the other side of the world that most knew they would never see with their own eyes. In the early days of Covid, with travel suspended, we learned quickly to navigate virtually and in many ways our interaction with Israel was nearly seamless. Now, with Israel’s war with Hamas, even amid a general slowdown in travel I’ve gone to Israel three times between October and December.
At least Covid united humanity in isolation: Most of the world went through the same crisis at the same time. And Hadassah played a key role not only in Israel, but also in sharing our expertise in ways that helped people in many nations.
This new war has brought a kind of isolation for Israel and the Jewish people that is anything but shared, reminding us of the harshest chapters in our history. On October 7 we witnessed the worst slaughter of Jewish civilians on a single day since the Holocaust.
But hard times bring out our best. Hadassah is organic, part of the beating heart of Israel and Jewish people, something essential to daily life, with reserve and regenerative capacity to rise to emergencies. Our hospitals heal the sick and injured; our medical and research staff advances the frontiers of knowledge, extending individual lives and contributing to the extension of human longevity. The Hadassah Medical Organization also serves as a shining example, especially in the worst possible times, that coexistence and mutual respect between Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and others in the Middle East is both possible and necessary.
Our Youth Aliyah villages educate and house at-risk children from Israel and abroad. And just as they have done in the past, in the midst of the new war, our villages have also welcomed people forced to flee their homes near the borders with Gaza and Lebanon.
With each crisis, we provide an address where new people, energized by the threat to Jewish life and humanity, see in our work a place for them to invest their time and dollars.
Henrietta Szold’s original vision was to build a force of empowered women to support the Jewish nation, and that support has been constant for 112 years. In the process of building a nation we made ourselves experts, leaders and advocates on issues from defending Israel to strengthening women’s health and women’s rights, from fighting antisemitism to protecting democracy.
Between Covid’s outbreak in 2020 and the war that has stained the calendar at the end of 2023, we played a pivotal role in helping Ukrainian refugees fleeing across the border to Poland and serving victims of the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria. And of course our hospitals kept their doors open for the needs of Israelis 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
As members of Hadassah we are all part of this protective/immune system. No one of us is indispensable but all of us together are critical to Jewish welfare and survival. And I have great confidence in the dedication, wisdom and vision of my successor, Carol Ann Schwartz. With all of you behind her, I know she will lead Hadassah effectively as we build a better future for Israel and the Jewish people.
Like so many of you I take the title “life member” seriously and literally. I’m not moving out, just over.
L’hitraot, see you soon!