Hadassah

Hadassah Advocacy: History & Procedures

Hadassah, as a charitable organization classified under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, is strictly non-partisan and is prohibited from any direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, political parties and candidates for public office.

Hadassah's policy statements represent the organization's official stance on a wide variety of issues facing our nation, Israel and other international matters of concern. Policy statements are debated and voted on at national meetings by Hadassah's national board and delegates from our membership around the country. Once approved, statements become official policies of the organization and serve to define Hadassah's overall agenda and advocacy priorities. See below to learn more about our step-by-step process for introducing and enacting new policy statements.  

As Zionists we must work to strengthen the State of Israel through Zionist Affairs and as American citizens we must work to strengthen the United States through American Affairs. Since Hadassah's inception in 1912, three fundamental principles have formed the basis for Hadassah's advocacy:

  • The preservation of the Jewish people through a peaceful, prosperous and secure State of Israel, and the promotion of Jewish continuity
  • The Jewish imperative for social justice — Tikkun Olam — repairing the world
  • Citizen participation in American civic life and governmental decision-making

Hadassah demonstrates its commitment to these principles by passing policy statements, providing policy education, supporting non-partisan civic engagement, signing amicus briefs, and advocating for our priorities to elected officials — online via the National Action Center and in-person through Day in the District, Day on the Hill, and Date with the State programs.

Zionist Affairs

Support for Israel has always been the core mission of Hadassah's advocacy. Hadassah subscribes to the Jerusalem Program, the ideological platform of the World Zionist Organization, and works to promote that mission. Hadassah supports the policies of the democratically-elected Government of Israel by shaping American public opinion and advocating for American foreign policy objectives that support Israel and its government. Hadassah also speaks out for the needs of distressed Jewish communities and others around the world.

Hadassah has adopted Zionist Affairs policy statements in the areas of: Aliyah; Israel and the Middle East; Jerusalem; Religious Pluralism; Terrorism; United Nations; World Jewish Concerns and Human Rights; and Zionism. See below for a description of each category.  

American Affairs

Early Hadassah advocates understood their responsibilities not only to strengthen Israel, but to improve democratic institutions and policies in America. Hadassah takes seriously its responsibility to uphold the Jewish commitment to social action and social justice, known as Tikkun Olam—repairing the world. As the largest women's Zionist organization in the United States, Hadassah is naturally concerned about issues which affect women and the Jewish community.

Hadassah's current domestic policy agenda—Women, Health & Family—emphasizes the interconnection between health equity, reproductive choice, economic security, and protection from violence.  Since the 1940s, Hadassah has adopted American Affairs policy statements in the areas of: Civic Participation; Crime, Weapons, and War; Energy and the Environment; Health Care; Immigration and Refugee Status; Religious Liberty and Other Religious Concerns; Reproductive Choice; Separation of Church and State; Social Justice and Civil Rights; and Women and Family. See below for a description of each category.

Hadassah Policy Statement Process & Procedure

Hadassah's National Board determines the public policy positions of Hadassah that will be promoted and advocated by the Advocacy Team on behalf of the organization. These positions are expressed in the form of public policy statements, which are debated and approved by Hadassah's National Board (and, at times, the delegates to the annual National Business Meeting). Suggestions for new policy statements, reaffirmations, and amendments may be submitted at any time by Hadassah volunteers, members and supporters to the National Advocacy Team by email to advocacy@hadassah.org.

The following is the process by which Hadassah develops and adopts Hadassah Policy Statements:

  • The National Advocacy Team, comprised of National Portfolio Council members and Hadassah staff, assesses possible policy statement ideas and decides which, if any, proposals to present to the National Board at either of Hadassah's semi-annual National Board meetings. In the event the proposal is presented at a July National Board meeting, then such proposal will also be presented to the delegates at the National Business Meeting, subject to prior approval by the National Board at its meeting.
  • The National Advocacy Team drafts policy statements and background memoranda, which is reviewed and approved by every member of the Advocacy Team, the National President and Executive Director/CEO, and also reviewed by the Legal Department.
  • Once policy statements and background memoranda have been reviewed and approved internally, they are distributed to the National Assembly (National Portfolio Council and National Board) several weeks in advance of a National Assembly meeting to request comments and suggestions. National Assembly members have the opportunity to review and submit comments back to the Advocacy Team.  
  • The Advocacy Team carefully reviews and considers each comment and suggestion received. The Team makes every effort to incorporate editorial suggestions. In deciding which substantive comments to accept, the Team considers whether the comments coincide with the intent of the policy statement.
  • The Advocacy Team calls or e-mails every National Assembly member who submitted a comment, to explain whether or not her comments were accepted and why.
  • This process allows for efficient and meaningful discussions at the National Assembly meeting (for discussion purposes only) as well as on the floor of the National Board Meeting (and National Business Meeting, if applicable) where such policy statements are presented for adoption, so that members can address their comments to the substantive aspects of the policy statement (rather than editorial/ grammatical issues) and whether the Board and delegates (if applicable) should accept the proposals as official positions for the organization.
  • At the National Assembly meeting, a presentation is provided to the National Assembly for discussion purposes only, followed by a separate discussion and vote by the National Board to adopt the policy statements. In the event the Board meeting is during a National Assembly meeting when a National Business Meeting is also scheduled, if the policy statement is adopted by the National Board, then the delegates will be asked to adopt the same policy statement during the National Business Meeting.
  • If the policy statement is approved, the final statement is publicized to Hadassah's members and shared with elected officials and the press when applicable. New policy statements are added to Hadassah's website. For a full list of Hadassah's policy statements or questions about individual policy issues contact advocacy@hadassah.org.   

Policy Statement Categories

Zionist Affairs

Aliyah

Hadassah recognizes aliyah as the highest form of Zionist commitment and actively encourages and supports that act of personal fulfillment. Asks Hadassah groups, chapters and regions to create and participate in programs that promote aliyah, and to support those who have made aliyah. Commends the work of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) and encourages Hadassah members to become "overseas" members and give financial support to the organization. Calls on the World Zionist Organization and the Israel Ministry of Absorption to ease the process of absorption.

Israel and the Middle East

As a supporter of Israel, Hadassah strongly condemns violence against Israel and anti-Israel positions on a worldwide scale. Hadassah sees its duty as supporting the country and its growth as a democratic institution in the Middle East. Hadassah advocates for Middle East peace and against the delegitimization of Israel through means of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). Hadassah also promotes women's rights and religious pluralism in Israel.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, must remain a "united city under Israeli sovereignty." Hadassah saluted congressional recognition of a united Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and urges the relocation of the American Embassy.

Religious Pluralism

Hadassah affirms commitment to the principle of religious pluralism and the preservation of Jewish unity in Israel and the United States—commending efforts of those in Israel and the Diaspora who are working to foster greater respect and dialogue between religious and secular Jewish communities. Hadassah also advocates for women's rights in Israel, including the freedom of women to worship at the Western Wall and against discrimination.

Terrorism

Hadassah expresses outrage over attacks against the Jewish people and Israelis. As a supporter of Israel, Hadassah strongly condemns violence, especially terrorism, against Israel and anti-Israel positions on a worldwide scale.

United Nations

Hadassah holds special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Hadassah has expressed concern over the bias against Israel that continues to pervade the institution and urges reforms.

World Jewish Concerns and Human Rights

Hadassah stands against anti-Semitism, discrimination, and human rights abuses around the world. Hadassah calls on world leaders to track, investigate and prosecute violence against Jewish people. Hadassah has taken stands for pro-Israel students on campus, Holocaust restitution, and documenting the history of Jews from Arab lands, and protecting remaining Jewish communities in Arab countries.

Zionism

Hadassah reaffirms the belief that Zionism is the fulfillment of the Jewish People's right to self-determination and to live in freedom, democracy and independence in its ancient homeland, Israel. Hadassah believes in a practical Zionism and denounces any campaign to delegitimize Israel, including historic claims that equated Zionism to racism and the current boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.

American Affairs

Civic Participation

Encouraging informed and active participation in the American democratic process is central to Hadassah's mission. Hadassah emphasizes civic responsibility among its members and advocates for unobstructed access to the democratic process for all. In particular, Hadassah is committed to increasing voter participation for Jewish women with an emphasis on the younger generation. Hadassah supports the Voter Rights Act and encourages strengthening it.

Crime, Weapons, and War

Though not blatantly within the purview of Hadassah's specific legislative focus, Hadassah has adopted many policy statements with the ultimate goal of nonviolence. From gun control to the desecration of houses of worship, the National Board has often found it necessary to issue public statements in response. Gender based policies touch on important issues such as sexual harassment, asylum to victims of gender based violence, and combatting human trafficking.

Energy and the Environment

Hadassah's commitment to environmental preservation and energy conservation is derived from Judaism's traditional view of humans' stewardship of the earth. Hadassah calls for legislation to decrease U.S. dependence on foreign sources of oil, while advancing sustainable energy solutions to protect our environment. Hadassah has supported much needed legislation such as the Clean Air Act.  

Health Care

Health care issues, particularly women's health concerns, are among Hadassah's top domestic public policy priorities. This extends Hadassah's historic mandate—to bring medical infrastructure to the Middle East through Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO), and provide public health services to countries in need worldwide—to our domestic policy work

Hadassah supports medical research and health care reform, especially with a focus on women's health equity, and support for women's preventative services. Hadassah's history of forward thinking approaches to medicine calls on the U.S. to increase funding to study sex-based biology and the link between environment and exposure to disease.

Immigration and Refugee Status

Because of the historic discriminations which have cost many Jewish lives and cost many others their chance to freely practice their religion, Hadassah has taken a special interest in U.S. immigration and refugees fleeing political repression, humanitarian crises, and other turmoil in their home countries. Hadassah supports anti-terrorism laws, in light of the attacks on our nation, while urging the protection of American's civil liberties.

Religious Liberty and Other Religious Concerns

As the representatives of a religious minority in the U.S., Hadassah advocates for religious liberty (the unencumbered practice of religion) as articulated in the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Hadassah advocates for strict separation of church and state, including opposing prayer in schools and school voucher programs, while also promoting protections like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  

Reproductive Choice

Hadassah has a long standing commitment to a woman's right to choose and control her own reproductive health care. Hadassah believes that women are proper moral decision-makers in this area, and that they should be free to make that decision within the context of their own religious convictions, in conjunction with a medical professional, and without interference from government. Hadassah also condemns intimidation and violence at women's health clinics.

Separation of Church and State

Hadassah has placed a high priority on advocacy work that protects a strict separation of church and state—as prescribed by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution—in the areas of health policy, education, and federal funding.

Social Justice and Civil Rights

Individuals and organizations in the Jewish community know well the impact of discrimination. Jews have faced unequal treatment throughout history and therefore tend to have a heightened sensitivity to the discriminatory treatment of others: Hadassah's efforts have often been focused on removing barriers to basic services, education, housing, voting and employment. Hadassah believes that traditionally marginalized groups are best supported by legislation designed to protect them. This includes strengthening LGBTQ rights, support of affirmative action and disabilities protections. In addition, Hadassah supports the minimum wage, social security and social welfare programs which support our most vulnerable citizens, especially women.

Women and Family

As a women's organization, Hadassah has a particular obligation and an unwavering commitment to women's rights and concerns. Whether supporting equal rights, freedom of choice, access to child care or health care, or working to eliminate violence against women, Hadassah has a proud history in support of women and families. Hadassah supports policies that improve the quality of life for women —advocating for caregiver support, pay equity, expansion of family and medical leave.

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