Emotion and Action
February is upon us, but in many ways our hearts and our emotional calendars tell us it is still October 7. Terrible events often bring sadness and motivation in tandem. We cannot change what happened, but we can change the future.
Times like this remind us of Hadassah’s dual purpose: To serve the everyday needs of the people who rely on our institutions of healing and education, and also to work for a better future. After October 7, we discovered anew just how deep our human resources run. It wasn’t just the Israel Defense Forces that mobilized its reserves, but also Israel’s civil society and Jewish communal structures around the world, Hadassah very much included.
First and foremost, our medical center immediately began treating victims of the October 7 attacks and, soon after, soldiers wounded in battle.
In America, we stepped up our advocacy efforts. Hadassah activists from across the country converged on the National Mall in Washington in November to participate in the largest pro-Israel rally in United States history. In December, we co-sponsored the event at Israel’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations to bear witness and hear testimony about Hamas’s acts of murder and brutal gender-based violence—and to demand action.
In January, I traveled to Israel with some 50-plus Hadassah leaders on a global solidarity mission. We met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog to pledge Hadassah’s support. We visited injured soldiers in our medical center and also with members of a team from the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine who were working to identify remains of some of the October 7 victims.
We inspected our new Gandel Rehabilitation Center on Mount Scopus, due to open a few days after our visit, just in time to receive 12 patients to its War-Wounded Department; we have accelerated the center’s phased opening to meet the increased demand for its state-of-the art care.
And we went to the Tel Aviv office of the International Committee of the Red Cross to deliver a petition demanding that the ICRC meet with Israeli hostages still held in Gaza.
The most wrenching part of the mission was visiting Kfar Aza and Nir Am, two of the communities devastated by the Hamas attack. We saw the utter destruction, inhaled the still searing smell of burned-out homes 97 days after the massacres. We recited the Mourners Kaddish and sang “Hatikvah.”
Hadassah built pre-state Israel’s health care system and turned over its network of hospitals, clinics and dispensaries to the government upon independence, keeping only our medical center in Jerusalem. But last year we took a step into our past by opening a satellite medical facility in Beit Shemesh, Israel’s fastest growing city. And though nothing is concrete yet, we very much want to be part of the discussion about rebuilding the health care infrastructure of the communities near the Gaza border.
We continue speaking out against the weaponization of gender-based violence against Israeli women and girls, supporting Israel’s efforts to defend itself and standing up to antisemitism on college campuses across the United States and in our communities. This month, our immediate Past President Rhoda Smolow will represent Hadassah at a congressional hearing on sexual violence. And in March, 20 Hadassah representatives will attend meetings of the UN Commission on the Status of Women; they will be ready to speak out on the horrendous impact of rape as a weapon of war, including the brutal sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas.
We are concentrated on the future and also on restoring as much as possible of what was lost in October. We are building, literally and figuratively. We are advocating, demonstrating, healing, educating—also mourning and remembering—all to ensure a stronger Jewish society and a more secure Israeli nation.
It is in the greatest challenges that Hadassah has always heard the loudest call to action. No organization in America has contributed more to building Israel, empowering Jewish women or expressing Jewish values. October 7 will remain a day of tragedy, but it also fortifies our resolve in every season.