(Jerusalem -- March 25, 2005) -- With the windy hills of Jerusalem as a backdrop underneath a Purim moon, Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, celebrated its 93rd birthday last night by dedicating its newest facility, the Judy and Sidney Swartz Center for Emergency Medicine at Ein Kerem. The joyous ceremony coincided with the celebration of Purim, the holiday on which Hadassah was founded in 1912. The dedication was the culmination of a weeklong donor mission - the largest ever for America’s largest women’s organization - during which 700 major donors saw the fruits of their dedication to the welfare of the people of Israel.
“Hadassah has always been known for pragmatic Zionism, fueled by our passion and dreams, but expressed in no-nonsense investment in health care, education and children at risk,” June Walker, Hadassah National President, explained to the 900 guests and dignitaries in attendance at the Jerusalem Theatre. “I know you feel as I do, privileged to see this once improbable dream become a reality in such a short time.”
Built in less than three years, the $50 million Judy and Sidney Swartz Center for Emergency Medicine has the capacity to treat 100,000 to 120,000 patients annually, an increase of 41 percent above previous use. The new center - at 43,000 square feet, it is more than three times the size of the old one - includes an expanded trauma and resuscitation unit, an acute and critical care facility, adult and pediatric emergency units, and an observation unit. The center is able to double its capacity in the event of mass casualties, has special safeguards against biological and chemical attacks, and employs advanced technology for diagnosis and information retrieval. By 2006, the center will be further enlarged so that the old Ein Kerem emergency room will become a walk-in and ambulatory first-aid clinic.
One highlight of an evening that was filled with many thrilling moments for the emotional audience was the presentation by Israeli-born screen star Natalie Portman of the first Mordechai Award to Prof. Avi Rivkind, the chairman of general surgery and head of the trauma unit at the hospital. Rivkind, who with his staff, presided over the hospital’s old trauma unit during the darkest days of the intifada, was honored for “service to his people” and the extraordinary measures he took in saving lives and modeling ethical behavior during a very difficult period in Israel’s history.
The Hadassah Medical Organization was recently nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize for its unfailing practice of treating all residents of the region with equal medical care and compassion without regard to religion or ethnic background.
Just as Hadassah, the women’s organization, operates on parallel stages in the U.S. and in Israel, last night’s dedication took place at the Jerusalem Theatre and by live hook-up to the Ein Kerem campus of the Hadassah Medical Organization. “Each of us tonight was personally involved in the building of the Center for Emergency Medicine and we have come to fulfill the mitzvah of hanukkat habayit,” said Marlene Post, a past national president of Hadassah, and the evening’s mistress of ceremonies. With that, the theater audience watched as Judy and Sidney Swartz, of Marblehead, Massachusetts and Delray Beach, Florida, removed a wind-whipped tarpaulin to reveal a plaque bearing their name. It came as a surprise to everyone in attendance, who know the Swartzes well as major supporters of the organization and the leaders of the mission.
According to Sidney Swartz, he and his wife gave so generously because: “I didn't want to be looking back one day and asking myself what I had done when Israel was facing attack.”
The evening also featured three moving stories of terror survivors. Tammar Fish Lifschitz, a Hadassah nurse, was shot by a terrorist precisely three years ago on Purim, while nine months pregnant. Both she and her baby were saved by a Hadassah medical team, though her father was killed in the attack. She was in the audience on her father’s yarhzeit to thank Hadassah. Also there were two children - an Israeli and Palestinian - both victims of terror, and Shimon Ohana, an Israeli border guard who was saved by Prof. Avi Rivkin and his team after he was rushed to Hadassah’s trauma unit “dead on arrival” with two bullet holes in his heart.
Other honored guests of the evening were the Honorable Daniel Kurtzer, U.S. Ambassador to Israel and his wife, Sheila Kurtzer, head of Hadassah’s Corps Diplomatiques, Israel’s Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who addressed the audience, and songstress Shuli Natan, who sang “Jerusalem of Gold.” Before the formal ceremony, the mission members participated in the reading of the Megillat Esther.