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An Enduring Legacy

A Friday Story
By Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef

Two years ago, on March 13, 2009, the 18th of Adar, we mourned the loss of Bill Davidson and remembered him with affection and admiration.

On March 13, 2012 the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower will welcome its first patients, keeping with the promise of his enduring legacy.

His memory serves as a blessing. Bill Davidson 1922–2009

Dear Friends,

There are times in our lives that remain forever etched in our memory. March 4, 2007 – the 14th of Adar – is one of those times. I can still see Campaign Chairs Judy and Sidney Swartz standing in the center of the Abbell Synagogue beneath the beautiful Chagall Windows surrounded by the first Cornerstone Contributors to our new hospital tower and the leadership of the Hadassah Medical Organization and Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America.

I can still hear the gasps of surprise when Judy said: "As the final piece of this important ceremony today, we would like to recognize our new friendship with Bill Davidson of Detroit and his son-in-law, Jonathan Aaron." And I will never forget the moment when Jonathan Aaron electrified the room with his announcement that Bill and Karen Davidson, on behalf of Guardian Industries, would make a gift of $75 million to support the new inpatient tower at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem to be named the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower to honor the memory of Mr. Davidson's mother.

That dramatic declaration was Bill Davidson's legacy of love – love for his family, love for Israel, love for Hadassah. His words and his deeds were rooted in his heritage. They represented his connection with his great grandfather, who settled in Jerusalem at the turn of the century, and the example of his grandfather, who bought land on Mt. Scopus where Hadassah's first hospital was built.

The Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower is Bill Davidson's tribute to his mother, to all she believed in and all she accomplished. It is yet another link to Hadassah that began 80 years earlier when Henrietta Szold stayed with Sarah Wetsman in her parents' home for ten days. Sarah Wetsman Davidson dedicated her life to Hadassah and imbued her children and grandchildren with her passion. One of the founders of the Detroit Chapter, she served as its president and president of her newly created region.

Bill Davidson's landmark commitment to the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower energized our efforts. The Detroit Hadassah Chapter past presidents and especially Judy and Sidney Swartz forged the friendship that resulted in the magnificent gift and set the pace for all that has followed.

"We were fortunate to have the opportunity to meet him," Sidney says. "He was very easy going and gracious the first time we met. We discussed our mutual commitment to Jewish education and he listened intently as we told him about the need for our new inpatient facility."

About a month or so later, Judy says, she received a message to call Bill Davidson. "I need to see you about a naming gift this week," he told her. A few days later they met in Detroit. "On the plane, I reread the book he had written about his life and his family, recalling incidents he had told us earlier. There were stories in there about his mother's bond with Henrietta Szold and the letter Miss Szold had written to Sarah Wetsman after her stay in Detroit that subsequently disappeared.

"At our second meeting, we tried to keep our emotions under control when he told us: 'This is what I'm going to do,'" Judy said – and then he told us that he was honoring his mother's memory with a gift of $75 million to name the Tower in her honor. "He had made up his mind," Sidney added. "He had done all his homework and worked out all the details." And once again, he mentioned the Henrietta Szold letter and his regret that it was missing. "It was very important to him."

Judi Schram, Detroit Chapter President at the time, relates that soon after she invited him, Mr. Davidson and his sister Dottie Gerson visited the Sarah and Ralph Davidson Hadassah House he had donated. The lost letter was the first thing he mentioned in their conversation about Hadassah and the plans for the new inpatient tower.

Sometime later, Mr. Davidson presented the Detroit Chapter with a letter detailing what he remembered Miss Szold had written. On one of my visits, he insisted I accompany him to Hadassah House to see the framed letter and read what he had written.

For Bill Davidson, Henrietta Szold's letter was more than an important historic document, it represented a special relationship. A copy of his letter is on display in the lobby of Hadassah-Ein Kerem next to the model of the building. Soon it will occupy a prominent place in the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower itself.

On an early visit to Detroit, I learned a great deal about Bill Davidson – about his warmth and his kindness and how he put everyone at ease, about his straightforward and unassuming style and most of all, about his integrity. Then we met and I knew that everything I had heard was true. When I described the Hospital Tower and the Medical Center, Bill told me: "I have to do something for my mother. I can't let her down."

During one of our visits, Bill gave me an unexpected and memorable personal gift – he took us to a Detroit Piston's basketball game where we sat courtside. As I alternated my attention between the action on the floor and the people in the arena, I saw all the love and respect he received from his players and the Piston fans.

I remember the last time I saw Bill when I met with him in Detroit to report on the progress of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower. He was very interested in our fundraising efforts and concerned about the future. He begged me to assure him that this monumental undertaking would not be abandoned. I promised him it would be completed. It is a promise I intend to keep.

The Wetsman-Davidson family and Hadassah share a history that began over a century ago – a bond that has grown deeper and stronger with each succeeding generation. The gift of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower is a tribute to all Sarah Wetsman Davidson personified. It is a tangible expression of her love of Hadassah, her love of Israel and her love of the Jewish people.

As I write these words today, on March 13, 2011, I look back two years to March 13, 2009 – the 18th of Adar – when we mourned the loss of this remarkable man, remembering him with affection and admiration. And I look forward to March 13, 2012 when the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower will welcome its first patients – in keeping with my promise to Bill and the promise of his enduring legacy.

His memory indeed serves as a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom

Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef
Director General

Date: 3/18/2011 12:00:00 AM

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