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Our Chapter

A Retrospect from 1925 to 2010 

   On the afternoon of March 30, 1925, eighteen women gathered in the home of Mrs. Joseph Silberman and enthusiastically endorsed the formation of a Hadassah Chapter in Harrisburg. Most of their parents were from Eastern Europe. They brought their candlesticks and menorahs. They also brought their sense of religiosity and community. They elected their first officers: President, Mrs. Florence (Isadore) Lipman;  Vice President, Mrs. John Silberman; Secretary, Mrs. Robert Rosenberg; Treasurer, Mrs. Harry Zuckerman; and Financial Secretary, Mrs. Emauel Mall. By June they had a balance in the treasury of $18.75 and in October they accepted their assigned quota from National of $1,500. The other founding members were: Mrs. John Bowman, Mrs. Jacob Cohen, Mrs. Lewis Cohen (grandmother of Viv Bergel), Mrs. Max Cohen, Mrs. John Feldman, Mrs. Samuel Finkelstein, Mrs. Ada (Harry) Levin, Mrs. Joseph Levinsohn, Mrs. Isadore Levitan, Mrs. Jacob Lechmonovitch, Mrs. Maurice Rochman , and Mrs. Isaac Rosenberg.  Mrs. Benjamin Baron, although not listed as a charter member, joined soon after. Zionism was not a popular concept at the time and many people could not embrace this movement until Hitler came to power. These gallant women were well aware that they would face indifference at a time when the cause they held so dear was far from popular, but they bravely set about organizing card parties, bake sales, sewing groups and luncheons, in order to meet their pledge to Hadassah.

   Mrs. Jeannie Silberman, mother of Rhoda Apple, was the second president of the chapter from 1926-1935. Wow what tenure!!! According to her daughter, Rhoda, also a past president, her mother would host “penny luncheons”. The women who attended collected envelopes of pennies to support the creation of the Jewish state. Diana Slotznick, whose mother, grandmother and aunt were charter members, said her mother participated in chapter “linen showers,” collecting sheets and towels to be sent to Palestine.

   The Harrisburg Chapter was part of the Eastern Pennsylvania Region of Hadassah. The Region consisted of Allentown, Bethlehem, Lancaster, York, Lebanon, Honesdale, Wilkes Barre, Scranton, State College, and Lewistown. Myra Pompian was one of the treasurers of the Region, past co-president of our chapter and continues to be actively involved.  For many years, Myra has been records administrator for our annual Big and Initial Gifts campaign. Frances Goldberg became the Eastern Pennsylvania Region President in 1984. Hanna Pollack, from Lebanon, and Marci Natan, from Lancaster, were Region presidents. Marci was also president of the Lancaster chapter and is currently the National Treasurer. Hanna currently is a National Vice President.

   Over the years we have been a stand alone chapter, a member of other regions including, for a very short time, the Western New York region, and Baltimore. Now we are affiliated with the Northern Seaboard Region thanks to the efforts of Past President, Shari Dym. This has been a very rewarding alliance.

   On the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, Junior Hadassah began with a meeting at the home of Rabbi David and Mrs. Marion Silver, who funded the group. Members of Junior Hadassah included Rhoda Apple, Trudy Sorin, and Helen Hartman among others. Junior Hadassah disbanded and became the Business and Professional group. There was also a Senior group organized by Mrs. Florence Lipman.

   In the early days of the chapter, members embroidered a tablecloth with member names. This may have been a fundraiser. The tablecloth was used for all functions because years ago there were formal teas for each event.

   In 1950, chapter president, Pearl Rosen, had just returned from Israel. She presented at a meeting in Harrisburg in the old JCC on Third Street about the groundbreaking for the Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO). Frances Goldberg recalled that meeting, (her first introduction to HMO) and thought “am I ever going to get to Jerusalem?” Of course, Frances did get to Jerusalem and Israel many, many times over and has children who made Aliyah. Also in 1950, Ruth Gruber, National President, came to Harrisburg to speak at a Donor event.

   For several years in the 1950’s, “Hadassah Speaks” was a weekly, noontime Sunday radio program on WHP. Edna Silberman, past president, was the founder and host of the program.   Anna Greenberg took over hosting duties, and the radio program was on the air until the 1970’s. Regional and national presidents were often interviewed, among other notables. Jewish holidays were featured, and sometimes Hebrew and Jewish music were the program highlights.

   In the 1950’s, Harrisburg formed three local groups, the Hill group, the Mid City group, and the Uptown group, to accommodate members’ needs. The Uptown group conducted afternoon meetings. The Mid City group conducted evening meetings as did the Hill group. Each group had its own president. In the 1960’s, the three groups became two, the Ora and Tova groups. They met every month except twice a year when the entire chapter met. In 1976, the country experienced the gas shortage that impacted travel and the groups disbanded and merged into the chapter.

   In 1964, our chapter hosted Hazel Greenwald. Known in the US, Israel, and many other corners of the globe as HAZEL, Chairwoman of Hadassah’s Pictorial Archives came to speak to our members and the community. She took photographs, and produced movies, and slides of all Hadassah’s work in Israel and of the country itself. These comprised a history of Israel since it became a State. The Library of Congress expressed interest in her movies and even had some on file. She traveled to many countries and from some of them; she accompanied the movement of Youth Aliyah children to Israel.

   Just before the Six Day War, in 1967, Hadassah sent a letter asking for donations because Israel had great needs. When the war broke out, Frances Goldberg had just been elected Chapter President. Hadassah participated in a large community rally for Israel. Rabbi Wolpe, of Beth El Temple, spoke, and Hadassah members collected donations at that rally. Harrisburg Hadassah was the only Jewish organization permitted to fundraise for both the 1967 and later the 1973 wars because of Hadassah’s support for the HMO. At that time, only the Harrisburg United Jewish Community was authorized to raise money for Israel.

   Over the years, dignitaries from National Hadassah, HMO, and the state of Pennsylvania participated in chapter programs. Among the National Presidents who came to Harrisburg were Ruth Gruber and Charlotte Jacobson. Marlene Post attended a dinner and program honoring the Associates. In 2001, former President, Ruth Popkin, spoke at a Donor luncheon, and in June 2001, National President, Bonnie Lipton, was the guest speaker honoring past and present region leaders, Chapter Presidents and Founders. The Medical Director of HMO spoke at a Big Gifts dinner. We also hosted a Hadassah Magazine editor. The National Chair and contributor to the magazine, Mrs. Ruth Gerber Cole, spoke at one of our regular program meetings.

   Major events and fundraisers over the years included, Bridgearama, progressive dinners, fashion shows, card parties, art shows and skits written by Elaine Simons, with assistance from Faye Glick, performed by our members. Local radio and television stations aired public service announcements for our fashion shows to promote the events. We sponsored a community-wide Tay Sachs screening, fundraising theater trips, study groups in Harrisburg and Hershey, Jewish book month and displays at local libraries, and Pninah Lipsky gave Hebrew lessons. There were Supermarket Sweepstakes, with the first prize a 3 minute sprint in Pantry Pride. We sold flowers for Rosh Hashanah and Passover and many, many more special events. One of those special fundraising events featured nationally and internationally renowned comedian and author, Joel Chasnoff, who delighted our members at a Donor event, in 2008.

   We also partnered and continue to partner with community organizations such as, the Center Against Domestic Violence, Dress for Success, helping low income women get back or into the workplace, and the Jewish Federation of Harrisburg. We sponsored health awareness and other informational programs such as, a cyber security, Hadassah’s projects, programs for children and families, and presentations by medical, health and wellness professionals. Health programs included Osteoporosis testing, women and heart disease, nutrition, stress reduction, and our breast cancer awareness program “Check It Out”, where members go to area high schools to talk to teenage girls about breast cancer self examination and screening.

   The Harrisburg Chapter “Check It Out” program was initiated, in 1997, with the financial backing of The Doris L. Rubin Philanthropic Fund of the United Jewish Community of Greater Harrisburg.  Doris Rubin, mother of Life Members Ricci Doctrow and Traci DeBroff, was a devoted Life Member of Hadassah. Doris, who passed away in May of 1995, had her own experience with breast cancer. Her family felt that by supporting the “Check It Out” program and Hadassah at the same time, it would be a great tribute to their mother's memory. Ricci was the first program coordinator for the breast cancer awareness program. The current chair person is Rebecca Morrison. In the beginning, all instructional materials used in the program that were not supplied by National, were paid for by the endowment. It is now called the Doris and Robert Rubin Philanthropic Fund, which continues to support Hadassah as well as other Jewish community organizations.

   Other special ongoing projects include the “Read, Write Now” program, which teaches reading and writing skills to young children in inner city schools chaired by member Debbie Hervitz and the Medical Doll program chaired by Betsy Blecker. The up to twenty volunteer “Doll Ladies” (as we fondly call them) get together regularly to make teaching dolls for local hospital staff to help children deal with their illness and reduce fears.

   In recent years, our chapter established a vibrant Al Galgalim program for children with strong leadership from Monica Baturin Lutkins and Bryna Handler. In the past year, Robin Rosenthal initiated and became the chair of the Young Women’s Council of Harrisburg Hadassah. The program has been very successful in bringing in new members, presenting educational and awareness programs, fundraising, and just plain fun activities.

   There are many individuals who have made our chapter so enduring and successful that it would be difficult to acknowledge everyone, but there are members who have continually stepped up to do the hard work over the years since the inception of our chapter. We appreciate the contributions of all of our members in every way they are able to participate.

   As part of our history, we want to acknowledge all of the presidents who made us what we are today.

The Women’s Zionist Organization of America
Harrisburg Hadassah Presidents 

*Florence Lipman



Joan Friedlander


*Jennie Silberman



Elaine Simons


*Lena Gottlieb



Esther Itzkovitz


*Clara Rochman



Esther Reemer


*Bea Zabludoff



Nancy Feldman


*Henrietta Cohen



Arlene Rosen


*Rose Marcus




*Zel Baturin



Nancy Cramer Aronson


*Ann Rubin



Leah Martin

*Sara Feinerman




*Ethel Schapira



Leah Martin


*Sylvia Levin



Arlene Rosen

*Molly Fraiberg




*Pearl Rosen



Linda Freedenberg


*Rose Schultz



Myra Pompian

*Rosalie Handler



Helen Friedman


Renee Feller




*Edna Silberman



Holly Abel


*Ceil Yaverbaum



Beth Michlovitz

Bernice Ibsen




Janet Snyder



*Shirley Freedman


Ruth Neipris



Helene Hartman

*Rebecca Viener



Vivian Bergel


Frances Goldberg




Cynthia Sussman



Vivian Bergel


Anna Greenberg



Shari Dym

Sue Dym



Sueann Lehner



Shari Dym


Faye Glick




Norma Jablon


Esther Beck


Gail Rosen


Vivian Bergel

Elaine Schwab


Sueann Lehner


Faye Glick










*of blessed memory

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