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Members Celebrate the Opening Ceremony of Centennial Convention in Safra Square

National President Marcie Natan marches in to the Opening Ceremony.
Hadassah turns the city red.
Runner brings the Centennial Torch in to the Opening Ceremony with Frieda Rosenberg. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat speaks at Opening Ceremony with Traveling Henrietta in the background.

They came from all over the world and from all over Israel to celebrate 100 years of Hadassah: young and old, women and men of Hadassah, most on foot, some in wheelchairs, one on crutches.

They gathered at the Old Hamashbir department store on King George Street and marched with Israeli and Hadassah flags to the Jerusalem municipal building in Safra Square, wearing red shirts emblazoned with: "100, Hadassah since 1912, Partners with Israel for Life."

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The locals lined the streets, and smiled and waved. "Welcome, Hadassah!" called out a man in a straw hat as he bowed to the passing crowd.

They were greeted at Safra Square by a klezmer band, along with clowns on stilts and a group of biblical-looking boys in white turbans playing drums and blowing long curved shofars. An exuberant group of Young Judeans chanted and sang in welcome. A life-sized cut-out silhouette of Henrietta Szold dominated the stage.

Two thousand delegates sat with regional banners: from Greater Philadelphia, Florida Central, Northern Seaboard, Central Pacific Region, Miami, Central Pacific Coast, Lower New York State, Westchester, Upper Mid-Atlantic, Greater Detroit, Greater Baltimore, Brooklyn, Southeastern, Connecticut, North New England, South New England, Desert Mountain, Suffolk, and more. Hadassah Israel raised a banner with a quote from Henrietta Szold: "Dare to dream… and when you dream, dream big."

Israel's Barbara Goldstein announced in stirring oratorical style, "Hadassah is here!" then introduced the contingents as they marched into the town square, including Young Judaea, Hadassah College, Meir Shfeya Hadassah-Neurim, followed by officers and past officers, culminating in the appearance of national president, Marcie Natan, for whom everyone stood and cheered.

A dramatic moment was the delivery of the "Torch of Hadassah," which had travelled for two and a half years from the grave of Henrietta Szold on the Mount of Olives, throughout the United States and back to Jerusalem, held high by long distance runner Ilya Fodpolani, a Hadassah Neurim graduate and Olympic-hopeful, as the crowd chanted his name and cheered.

Miki Schulman, Centennial Convention chair, welcomed the "Travelling Henrietta" full-size paper cut out, which had circled the US, Israel and the world before reaching the convention. The cut out "attended" chapter and region events, celebrated Fenway Park's 100th Anniversary, ran Torch Runs across the US, appeared on the ABC, CBS and NBC Morning National News, attended Broadway shows and "biked" the Rockies.

"This is one of the greatest moments of my life, to officially open Hadassah's convention and launch Hadassah's second century," Schulman said. "This historic moment in each of our lives is one we will always remember.

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"It is fitting and proper that we are beginning here, in Safra Square, in downtown Jerusalem, where we began the work of our hands with a modest clinic, a few minutes' walk away. Who could have imagined in those days of epidemics and desolation that we would be in the 64th year of the sovereign state of Israel, in the united City of Jerusalem, celebrating 100 years of Hadassah's triumph?" she said.

'We have pushed back the epidemics that threatened to engulf this region. We have been faithful and energetic partners in the ingathering of our people, innovators in education, voices for women's empowerment, and forces for Jewish continuity," Schulman continued.

"I know I speak for each of you in how blessed I feel to be associated with this organization."

She was followed by a lively folkdance performed by the Jerusalem Folklore Ensemble.

Marcie Natan welcomed all the generations of Hadassah.

"We are present, each and every one of us, to say 'hineini, I am here.' Just as Abraham and Moses made this statement to God, we say it as builders of Jerusalem and Hadassah. This is only a very small portion of a march that started one hundred years ago when Henrietta Szold and a group of women in New York City each said 'hineini' on the first stage of the journey bringing us to Safra Square today. How privileged we are to continue their work."

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who delighted the delegates by wearing a red Hadassah T-shirt, told the crowd that when he was shot in Lebanon, "I was healed in Hadassah; when I broke my foot, I was treated in Hadassah. No one can think of Jerusalem without Hadassah.

"If Henrietta Szold and the people who founded Hadassah are looking down, they must be pinching themselves, imagining where Jerusalem was 100 years ago and seeing where we are today," he said. "We have exceeded their wildest dreams and each of you should be proud of that.

"In the next 100 years, Hadassah has a lot to offer to improve the situation in Jerusalem," he added. "You are all shareholders in the future of Jerusalem. I love you and thank you and would love to see you back here b'shana habaa b'yerushalayim ha-bnuya [next year in Jerusalem ]."

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Among the enthusiastic crowd was Shirley Rief, a 35-year member from Hartford, Connecticut and former treasurer of her region. She joined the procession in her wheelchair, full of energy, as she extolled the organization and its camaraderie.

"If you are a member of Hadassah you can go to any city in the United States and you will immediately have friends."

Roz Soltz, accompanied by her daughter Alyssa Friedland, was another wheelchair marcher. They represented four generations of Hadassah women, life members from Florida, now living in Jerusalem. Roz is a past president of the Florida region and is on the National Board.

Laura Hubard was active in the Houston chapter before making aliya a year and a half ago.

"I want to keep my energies flowing and helping in the land now that I live here. My mother received the Myrtle Wreath Award six months before she died. So I'm Hadassah through and through!"

Natalie Nechama Gonen, from Long Island, New York, has been a member for 43 years. And Ruth Hyman, from Southern New Jersey, was proud to announce her membership in the Society of Major Donors. Undaunted by new technology, 93-year-old Ruth mentioned that she is on YouTube singing and telling jokes. "Look it up!"

Yona Carmichael, from Carlisle, Massachusetts, was on crutches, but that did not deter her from marching with her sister Sheila Buna, who said, "We're very big Hadassah people." Their mother, Vivian Halpern, aged 100, is vice president of her Florida L'Chaim group and also teaches folk dancing.

Shirley and Louis Train from Houston, Texas have been coming to Israel since 1968. Louis wanted to be quoted as saying, "I think that the Hadassah ladies are the most beautiful women in the world because of the wonderful work they do."

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