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Netletter Nissan 2013

Barbara Sofer

These weeks of the month of Nissan, before Pesach are the busiest time of the year in Israel. Even though supermarkets go over entirely to Pesach food, and many restaurants offer kosher-for-Passover menus, a certain anxiety level seems to overtake the country.

Adding to the stress this year is the visit of President Barack Obama, making shopping and preparing a little more challenging is the high security. The Jerusalem police opened a Obama-visit hotline to let us know which streets and highways are closed.

At Hadassah Hospital, the designated hospital for the visit, a US security guard will stand at attention in the shock trauma room of the Judy and Sidney Swartz Emergency Center for the entire visit. God forbid, the President will need medical care, but nothing is being left to chance. The White House asked in advance that Prof. Avi Rivkind be available.


The kitchens at our hospitals are, of course, changing over to Pesach food. No pita allowed! In the ER, another kind of preparation is going on. The new head of Emergency Medicine Dr. Aziz Darawshe, says the ER is getting pre-Pesach accidents: burns, ladder-falls, and kids imbibing cleaning fluids. There are also gastrointestinal problems for high risk patients who eat too much matzo. Meet Dr. Darawshe.

He has come to us from the Emek Hospital in Afula where he headed emergency services for more than 20 years The oldest of 11 children, Dr. Darawshe grew up in an Arab village near Nazareth. His father only finished 4th grade, and his mother never learned to read, but four siblings are physicians. Dr. Darawshe speaks eight languages: Hebrew,Arabic,English, Russian, Spanish, Bulgarian an, as he says a "bissel Yiddish." He turned down many job offers, but when the head of Hadassah's ER became available when Prof. Kobi Assaf retired, he went for it.

"Hadassah is one of the best hospitals in the world, and I didn't hesitate for a moment," he said. Make sure you stop by to visit (only socially) him when you're in Israel. He's eager to meet his new "Hadassah family,"and he speaks your language!


Pesach is also the holiday of spring. What better holiday greeting could there have been than the Waltz of the Flowers at Hadassah Hospital? If you're not among the 200,000 persons who have seen the Hadassah Flashwaltz here's the link.

It's gone viral. The setting is the atrium of the new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower. Even architect Arthur Spector was impressed with what a great music hall he'd created. Among the familiar faces, you'll see our smiling National President Marcie Natan, and dancing Hadassah Offices in Israel Director General Audrey Shimron. The waltzing couple? Dancing Donors Diana and Manolo Berezdivin from Puerto Rico. If you look hard, you'll see HOI Deputy Director Barbara Goldstein and me, too. Share and forward this youtube. This is the only kind of "virus" we like at Hadassah.


Did you know that the delivery rooms at Hadassah Mount Scopus and Ein Kerem have to prepare for extra work before Pesach? The hard work of cleaning seems to stimulate childbirth. Popular names? Nissan, (for the month) Aviv and Aviva(spring), Shir and Shira, (for the Song of the Sea we read on the seventh day of Passover ).

Speaking of baby naming, the Pears Program of the Braun School of Public Health brought together alumni of the International Masters in Public Health program recently for a continuing education workshop. Two of the visiting graduates are from Nigeria. One named her baby Israela and the other Hadassah! More than 750 doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, nurses, pharmacists and public health planners from 90 developing and western countries have graduated from this outstanding program..


Imagine knowing that the work of art you are creating will stand in a synagogue in the same Jerusalem hospital as the work of Marc Chagall. Such was the challenge for who artist Sharon Binder. She was recruited for the challenge of creating the parochet, the curtain that covers the ark of the Moshe Saba Synagogue, the newest place of worship of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

Binder grew up in Queens, a graduate of Queens College, where she majored in art and Jewish studies. Fascinated by the use of letters and designs, she studied calligraphy in Canada, where she moved before making Aliyah in 1983. "Hadassah and everything it stands for have always been close to my heart,"said Binder.

"My mother was a life member in New York and Florida," said Binder. "I have long been a life member and am active in Jerusalem. "We know that there are times when it takes more than medicine to heal," said Binder. "My design for the Torah Ark curtain, the parochet is based on a concept of reaching heavenward in supplication, pleading, and seeking guidance. My starting point was integrating three concepts: the Jewish tradition of healing, the symbolism and physical meaning of a heart, and a full range of colors illustrating a human being's emotions.

I wanted to bring Hadassah past and Hadassah present together, just as I combined medical concepts with spiritual and traditional symbolism." Binder chose to illustrate a quotation from the Prophet Jeremiah, from whom Hadassah also takes its motto "the healing of the daughter of my people. Behold, I will bring her relief and healing. I will heal them and reveal unto them an abundance of peace and truth. [Jeremiah 33:6] When the ark is closed, the words "peace" and "truth" line up side by side. Binder has four sons. The youngest Benzion, a graduate of Hadassah College, helped her map out the design, bringing the Hadassah connection full circle.


The arrival of new Torah scrolls in synagogues in Israel is always accompanied by a festive procession. So, too, was the joyous occasion of the arrival of two newTorah scrolls for the Moshe Masri Saba Synagogue. The news that both the Sephardic and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbis were coming brought out patients, too, among them those who sought a Rabbinic blessing for good health.

The ceremony began with the completion of the scrolls in which final letters are written in by hand. Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar graciously wrote a letter for National President Marcie Natan-the only woman on the podiumwho watched over his shoulder. In charge of the ceremony was Hadassah's new Rabbi Moshe Klein who introduced Marcie as "our President." Algerian-born donor Isaac Leon Jacques Zaoui presented the Torah scrolls in memory of his wife Jacqueline Odette Hanna Zaoui.


Yael Maliach Shimoni was only 2 years old, the youngest of five siblings, when her father Shimon Maliach was murdered in the Hadassah Convoy to Mount Scopus. "He wasn't supposed to work that day," said Shimoni. "He was in the shower when he received the call. He didn't eat breakfast or put on his watch. He hurried to catch the convoy. The two miles from downtown Jerusalem to Mount Scopus was dangerous. To make the journey, staff, patients and students gathered downtown and rode in a minimally guarded convoy. The date was April 13, 1949, a month before Independence. We didn't have an army. When the massacre ended, 78 men and women were dead. Maliach was among them. His body was never found.

His wife Sarah, who remained an agunah until 1956 when the missing were declared dead, never remarried. "I can remember getting beautiful dolls and coloring from the women of Hadassah as a child," she told National President Marcie Natan. "You have no idea what an impression it made on me. Shimoni and her sister became biochemists, walking in their father's footsteps. One of the grandsons is a graduate of Hadassah's medical school and a military physician. He also served as the physician of Israel's frogmen. Now retired, Shimoni signed up for a tour to China. On the plane over she was seated near a somewhat younger man in a white suit. Because of his unusual dress, she assumed he wasn't an Israeli.

But then he took out a notebook and she saw the Hebrew writing. He turned out to be an Israeli architect. They began a conversation, and somehow the convoy came up. "I've felt very connected to Hadassah because my father was supposed to have been on a convoy. But he was sick that day and someone else was called at the last moment." "My father," said Shimoni."He spent the rest of the trip being very solicitous to me and we're still in touch," she said. "What are the chances of this happening?"


President Marcie Natan's words at the emotional memorial ceremony.

I, Marcie Natan, am privileged to serve as the 25th President of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, in this, our 101st year. I am humbled to stand on this sacred ground. Henrietta Szold, the first national president was here to set the cornerstone. Rose Halprin, Hadassah's sixth National President, moved to Israel with her family to help build this complex.

She was at the opening in 1939. It was Rose who received the horrendous telegram on April 13, 1948. I can only imagine her shock and anguish. The following day she sent out her own telegram to American Jewry.

I quote from her words: "It is not enough to join us in mourning with broken hearts the massacre of our beloved medical director Dr. Haim Yassky and other members of our staff who were barbarously murdered on the way to Mount Scopus Hospital. We must protest this uncivilized act to the whole world with all the strength that our grief and agony will marshal. We must rededicate ourselves to intensify our medical work so that they may not have died in vain.Only ringing protest and burning dedication will express our solidarity with the heroic yishuv and forge our agony into renewed strength to take up the torch which fell from their skilled, consecrated hands." Like Rose Halprin, I pledge today in the names of the 330,000 women of Hadassah, to carry forth their torch. May their memories be for a blessing, and may you all be blessed for your dedication to the sacred State of Israel.


How do clinicians determine which psychiatric diseases we suffer from? They evaluate symptoms, and if we fulfill enough they decide we are (God forbid) suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar disease or depression. "There are no bio markers for psychiatric diseases," explained Professor Tamir Ben-Hur, chair of neurology. A powerful new team of researchers at Hadassah Hospital is attempt to analyze the complex electricity of the brain. For example, today certain psychiatric diseases are still treated with convulsive (shock) therapy, which does something like hit the reset button on the brain."How much better it would be if we could identify the exact area in the brain that achieves this result," said Prof.Ben-Hur. The multidisciplinary team includes electrical engineers, neurologists and psychiatrists." Stay tuned.


23 new Hadassah WUJS participants, college grads, who are doing a post-university "half gap year" in Israel have arrived. Most are from North America, England, Holland and Russia. They're all doing internships. One I s working in a recording studio to public relations, another in a theater, and a third is a cantor. We'll be hearing more about them when I visit them after Pesach. In last semesters group of 35, at least half have remained in Israel, and a third are making Aliyah (so far)!


A Seder highlight is the spilling of the wine for each of the ten plagues. But when you think about it, the plagues didn't stop the Egyptians. They kept coming back for more. Even after the last plague, the killing of the first born, they convinced themselves that they could still get their slaves back and pursued them to the Sea. Even the sea splitting looked to "natural" that they followed right behind the Israelites. Only when it closed did they understand the message.

The plagues were for our benefit, too, We had a lot to learn. At the Sea, we also got the message, and sang the beautiful song. First men sang, and then Miriam and we women sang. The difference is that we had musical instruments with us. Asks the midrash: In the midst of packing, how did the women know there would be cause to sing? We're always the optimists and repositories of faith. From the matriarchs to modern day Hadassah!

Hag kasher v'sameach. A happy Pesach to all from us in Jerusalem!

Barbara Sofer

Israel Director of Public Relations, Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America

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