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The Jerusalem Netletter: 5772, November, 2011

By Barbara Sofer

A new Hebrew month has started: Heshvan, also called Mar-Heshvan. "Mar" means "bitter" and the month has this unhappy name because there are no holidays in it. As much as I love the holidays, I also like getting back to business as usual. We've had the first rains, and even on sunny days, the evenings are cool in Jerusalem. This is the season we all call, not fall, but "after the holidays." The 240 Young Judaea Year Course teens are deep in their volunteer jobs, from excavating Massada to helping sick kids. Hadassah College students have begun a new academic year; 2400 at Hadassah College which has opened new majors in Human Resource Management and Politics and Communications. At our Youth Villages, children at risk are buckling down to the regimen of school work- often meaning for the first time getting to school everyday after living in dysfunctional families. A back-to-school TV show on Israel's Channel 2 focused on the students working at the Meir Shfeya educational winery. In addition to immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, and inner city Israeli kids, a refugee teen from Eritrea spoke in Hebrew and said how good he felt at Shfeya.


We welcome aboard Hadassah Medical Organization Director General Ehud Kokia and thank outgoing DG Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef for his 11-years of devotion, hard work and leadership. Here is my favorite story about Professor Kokia: He was already an experienced physician and IDF officer, but he wanted to complete the flight surgeon course offered at the US Navy's famous flight academy in Pensacola, Florida. To qualify as a flight surgeon, he would have to swim a mile in less than 80 minutes wearing full pilot's regalia: zippered flight-suit, helmet,pack, boots. He would have to demonstrate proficiency in underwater swimming and a range of swimming strokes. At last, Dr. Kokia would have to jump from a 15-foot tower.There was one small problem. Like many who grew up in land-locked Jerusalem, the otherwise athletic Kokia couldn't swim. So at age 40, Dr. Ehud Kokia took swimming lessons and practiced. First paddling and floating, stroke by stroke, he acquired mastery in the water. He passed the swimming requirement on the first try! Good luck swimming in the waters of Hadassah!


In addition to the holidays, so much has happened in the last few weeks including the freeing of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit after five years in captivity. Hadassah and Young Judaea have been very close to the Schalit family, and when the announcement was made, Young Judaean Year Coursers immediately joined the Schalit family in the protest tent where the Schalits spent years keeping their son's plight in limelight. We had nearly lost hope. Then, there was Gilad, frail but free, emerging to freedom.


Former Young Judaean Gershon Baskin played an important role in the renewal of conversation between Israel and Gilad's captors. Over the last five years Baskin kept alive a back-water track of negotiations through his personal contacts. Baskin's contributed both ideas and positive energy to the official channels. After Baskin returned from the Year Course in 1974 and began working at Camp Tel Yehudah, he thought about his experiences and pledged to become involved in peace seeking. When he graduated from NYU, he immediately returned to Israel in 1978. He was so committed to getting a deep understanding of the region, that he lived in an Arab village for two years. He is known for being open to talking to anyone, but unyielding on the subject of Israel's rights. Today he is the founder and co-director of IPRI, the Israel Palestinian Center for Research and Information.


In my personal life, this has also been an exciting time with the birth of our first set of twin grandchildren. This is also a Hadassah story that I want to share.Our daughter Yael, a speech therapist, learned that she was pregnant with twins. We were worried. Her previous three children were born tiny. Veteran Netletter readers will remember the story of these preemies who got their start in the Rosalie Goldberg Department of Neonatology. I was worried for her and the babies. How could she possibly carry twins?

Yael doesn't live in Jerusalem. She lives in Gedera, near Rehovot, an hour away, but she came to Jerusalem to consult with High Risk pregnancy expert Professor Drorit Hochner Her local doctors said they were glad she was seeing Professor Hochner because they were often unsure about the right treatment.

Said Professor Hochner, "There isn't my ideal scenario, but we're going to manage it. We're going to get through this. You are going to get through this pregnancy, and each of the babies will be 2 kilos (4.4 pounds)."

I had a flashback nearly two decades earlier. A close friend with a blood disease had consulted Dr. Hochner, then a less-well-known expert in high risk pregnancy. Her regular doctor and even her rabbi thought she should abort the baby. "We're going to get through this," Dr. Hochner had assured her. The nearly-aborted baby is now a gorgeous 18-year old headed to the IDF. I also remembered how our patient Shosh Weinstein, then 50, turned to Dr. Hochner wanting to have a baby after her son was murdered in a terror attack on Ben Yehudah Street. "I understand," said Professor Hochner. "We're going to get through this." Baby Eden is nine, a good student and talented ballerina.

Still, I knew it wouldn't be easy. Indeed, there were emergencies and hospitalizations along the way. Yael had to give herself daily shots. On Simchat Torah, Yael had reached the 36th week. She and her family joined us in Jerusalem for the celebrations. After the holiday, Yael and I drove up to Mount Scopus because she was feeling "something like contractions." It turns out that she was in labor. We called her husband to come immediately. She needed an emergency caesarian section. . (Yael's husband didn't want to for religious rRunning the operating room that night was nurse Reuven Gelfond who had headed Israel's mission to Haiti. Talk about having a sense of confidence! He let me stay inside for the birtheasons.)

First, Baby A came into the world. A girl. Then baby B, another girl. Two little beauties-weighing-you guessed it, 2 kilos and

2.3 kilos. That includes the two teeth that each was born with!

The babies, Yael and her husband, and their three sisters, (right, five daughters) are home. Baby A is Ayala. Baby B is Menucha. Next week they're going to see the maxiofacial surgeon/dentist to have another look at those mysterious teeth!

How unthinkable life would be without Hadassah!


They don't call it Hadassah of Greater Baltimore for nothing. A great Hadassah Mission, mostly from Henrietta Szold's hometown, was in Israel recently, touring Hadassah projects and a wide variety of other sites. The mission was led by Centennial Key chair Aileen Bormel (yes, she always wears her key). When the group reached the Abbell Synagogue more than an explanation of the Chagall Windows was waiting. There was a surprise for Aileen. Her husband David and brothers Steven and Marc Grebow had pledged a student surgical room in the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower in her honor. "I'm rarely speechless," said the vivacious Aileen. "But today I'm moved beyond words."


Hadassah College's VP and Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Zachi Milgrom recently returned from the UN's Academic Impact Conference in Korea, convened in the presence of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The premise of the UN initiative is that the academic world has a lot to offer developing countries to achieve human rights, literacy, sustainability and conflict resolution. More than 670 schools in 104 countries are taking part. Dr. Milgrom represented both Hadassah College and also the State of Israel. He was chosen for the most prestigious forums and sought out for advice on how to reach the success of Hadassah College in making higher education accessible to new sub-groups within the population. He described the multiple pre-academic preparatory programs and their success in providing concourses into higher education for Jewish and Arab students who would otherwise not make it to college.

Many of the students need tutorials in Hebrew. In addition to native-born Israelis, there are immigrants from a dozen countries, Bedouins, and Jerusalem Arabs. Others have to develop study habits. Still others have special needs. By the time they finish the Mechina they have to be able to cope with the high level of studies for which the Hadassah College is also well-known, and which makes its graduates sought-after by employers

"I placed a lot of emphasis on the continued support we give students as they move from pre-academic preparatory courses into full academic life," said Dr. Milgrom. "We aim for an individualized approach to build on the strengths and overcome the challenges of each student."

He was frequently asked how they got along. "I explained that politics and conflicts stop at the door of Hadassah College. We encourage students to help each other, so that even previously unsuccessful students are strengthened by knowing they can help others." Dr. Milgrom has agreed to provide continuing advice to schools around the world through a portal on the UN's website. Kol Hakavod!


Dr. Yehudah Neumark, a senior Lecturer of Epidemiology and Director of the International Masters in Public Health Program of our Braun School of Public Health returned recently from Nepal where he ran a week-long workshop on Community-Oriented Primary Care

(COPC) - a model developed in our school over several decades. He taught 35 health professionals at the Dhulikhel Hospital outside of Kathmandu. Dhulikhel is a community-oriented hospital that runs a network of some 20 rural outreach health centers around the country. "They are interested in applying the COPC to their centers," said Dr. Neumark. "The workshop was one element in the recently established partnership between Dhulikhel and our school, with funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (through the Israeli Embassy in Nepal). The Embassy decided to use their Yom Ha'atzmaut celebration funds to sponsor these activities and play the matchmaker between us and the hospital." Later this month, Dr. Ronit Calderon of our school and Dr. Lisa Rubin (Director of the Mother & Child Health Dept of the Ministry of Health and who lectures in our school) are going to Nepal to run a workshop on community-oriented mother and child health!

TRAVEL HADASSAH STYLE Teens in the Young Judaea Olami section are in Morocco, studying the roots of this important Jewish community. Our own Barbara Goldstein, torch lighter on Independence Day, is crisscrossing America raising Hadassah spirits. We're all doing so much traveling these days, I was delighted to see the products created by our own Young Judaean/ Hadassah activist Devra Miller (Barbara Goldstein's daughter) featured on the Neimen-Marcus website! Have alook at the jewelry wallet. It's perfect for all those Hadassah pins we are taking to the Centennial Convention in Jerusalem next October. If you haven't signed up, now is the time. And speaking of jewelry, according to Aileen Bormel you can still get those beautiful Centennial keys for Hanukkah gifts.

From Jerusalem with love,

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

Date: 11/18/2011 12:00:00 AM

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