Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, on Thursday awarded Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with its highest honor, the Henrietta Szold Award at a festive event in Jerusalem marking its centennial. Netanyahu praised the 2,000 delegates from the US who had gathered to mark the event, saying: "Thank you for 100 years of partnership in building the State of Israel."
Immediate Past National President Nancy Falchuk gives Netanyahu the Henrietta Szold Award
Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, on Thursday celebrated its centennial with a gala event in Jerusalem, culminating in the granting of the Henrietta Szold Award to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Two thousand delegates from the US gathered in Jerusalem to mark a century of Hadassah's partnership with Israel, going back decades before Israel became a state. Hadassah's story was told at the evening through film, music and dance, highlighting landmark events in the organization's history, prominent actors who carried its mission forward and grateful recipients of its services.
The figure of Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold, who started the organization in New York in 1912, was channeled through Israeli news anchor Tamar Ish Shalom, who recited passages from Szold's writings as her image appeared on a screen. "A great idea cannot go anywhere without a great organization to take it forward," she said.
Troops of singers and dancers took turns performing rousing numbers with nostalgic soundtracks from the history of Zionism and building the land. A brief film introduced Eli Mason who made aliyah from Ethiopia as a child without his parents, was educated at a Hadassah youth village and with the organization's help successfully completed law school. When Mantson needed time off from work to pass the bar, Hadassah provided it through private donations.
Young Judaean Yosef Abromowitz first came to Israel on a Hadassah scholarship. Today he is an innovator in solar energy on Kibbutz Ketura.
Adi Hoodja, who was critically injured in a 2001 terrorist attack as a young girl, walked onto the stage in a colorful evening gown and thanked the Hadassah doctors who saved her life and limbs.
Homage was paid to the 78 Hadassah doctors, nurses, patients, staff and students massacred in 1948, one month before Israel was founded, in the worst terrorist attack in the nation's history.
The guest of honor for the evening was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Immediate past Hadassah national president Nancy Falchuk presented the Prime Minister with the organization's highest honor, the Henrietta Szold Award. "Rarely in history has one person's life so embodied the values, the intelligence and the essence of the Jewish people," she said in presenting the award.
In his acceptance address, Netanyahu thanked Hadassah for "one hundred years of partnership in building the Jewish state." He thanked the women's organization for rescuing children during the Holocaust, educating immigrants, training teachers, doctors and nurses, and above all, "making Hadassah Hospital one of the leading medical organizations in the world, changing the lives of millions."
On a personal note Netanyahu said both his father and father-in-law, who had both passed away in the last year, had been treated at Hadassah with extreme dedication. He quoted Henrietta Szold as having told a sculptor: "Make my eyes look to the future." Yet she died in 1945 and never saw the birth of the Jewish state, said Netanyahu. "Even she could have never imagined such a future."
Netanyahu voiced his commitment to women's rights and equality. "As long as I am Prime Minister I will never tolerate discrimination against women," he said. Highlighting the role women play in the Israeli military, Netanyahu said: "In Israel not only do women not stay at home, in Israel women defend our homes."
Hadassah national president Marcie Natan recognized the organization's past presidents and invited the eldest among them to the stage: Bernice Tannenbaum, who, Natan said, "is the younger sister of Hadassah by only one year." Tannenbaum said she joined Hadassah in the 1940s "and spent the rest of my life in Hadassah."
She was joined onstage by two young Hadassah activists who pledged to follow in her footsteps. Esther Panitch, a criminal lawyer, who traced the roots of her leadership skills to attending Hadassah meetings with her mother, declared: She pledged to continue Hadassah's work in the US and to walk in Tannenbaums footsteps.Deborah Lander Netzer, who made Aliyah and works in Israel high tech, is the President of the Vered Hasharon Chapter of Hadassah in Raanana. She, too, pledged to continue Hadassah's lifesaving work and walk in Tannenbaum's footsteps. Declared both women: "Hadassah's second century has begun."
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