On May 15, 1998, celebrations spread across Israel to commemorate its 50th year as an independent nation. This historic year coincided with Aileen Bormel's first visit on a Hadassah Young Women's Mission – a trip that would significantly impact her relationship with Israel, Zionism and Hadassah.
"What makes Hadassah unique is its strong connection to Israel and the projects that take place there. Although I had been involved, when I saw firsthand the babies in the NICU at Hadassah hospitals, the trees planted through the Hadassah-JNF program, and the groundbreaking medical research taking place, I was hooked." Another very special moment for her was seeing her grandfather's name printed in the Yahrzeit memorial display in the Abbell Synagogue where a Kaddish is recited for him each year. When she returned to her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, Aileen moved through the ranks to President of the Baltimore Big Chapter then to member of the National Board. Currently Aileen is a Co-Chair of the Society of Major Donors.
Aileen impassions those around her. She has made it her personal mission to provide others with that same deep experience that she had upon her first visit to Israel. She has been on seven Hadassah missions, leading five, and inspiring many more people to become involved with Hadassah. Indeed, her whole family are members—spanning four generations. On one of her trips, Aileen's family named a room in the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower in her honor.
"I would like to see Hadassah grow in strength," says Aileen. She plans to continue to lead missions, particularly to attract young leaders. "Young people are the future of Hadassah. Bringing them on missions to see the hospital will ensure that our work continues for the next hundred years."
Rae and Stanley Gurewitsch
For Rae and Stanley Gurewitsch, heart disease is all too familiar in their family. Remarkably, all four of their parents died from it. While the pervasiveness of heart disease makes their family history less than unique, what they have done to ensure their own and their children's future certainly is.
Both Rae and Stanley are first-generation Americans of Russian decent, born and raised in New York City. Rae's mother fled Russia just prior to her 21st birthday with two of her six siblings. She met Rae's father in the diverse lower east side neighborhood, in a store owned by his uncle. Today, the store is a landmark in New York City's Tenement Museum, a tribute to the many immigrant populations who came through Ellis Island and settled in the lower east side tenements to establish their new lives in America.
As a consequence of bans on practicing religion in Russia, Rae relates that she was not particularly connected to Judaism growing up. "I was culturally Jewish, but I chose to go to Brandeis University and felt comfortable there because it wasn't Yeshiva." Upon returning to New York on a school break, she met Stanley. Stanley had a very similar family background to her except for one distinctive difference -- he was Orthodox. President of his schul, Stanley encouraged Rae to become involved in Jewish causes. One day she attended a Hadassah luncheon with a second cousin. "Coming from a non-orthodox background, I appreciated how Hadassah covers the whole spectrum of Jewish life. I was impressed with the intellectual curiosity and intelligence of the women. I came to really enjoy the sisterhood."
Twenty-five years later, Rae is President of the New York Region. She is excited about Every Beat Counts: Hadassah's Heart Health Program™ (EBC) as a way to energize her Region and make an impact on the future of heart health. Rae and Stanley's most recent major gift was designated to the Cardiology Department at Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO), world-renowned for its pioneering medical methodologies. "We felt that it was an appropriate way to memorialize our parents and help others who will benefit from the research and care at HMO. It is the only hospital in Israel where ground-breaking research is conducted and then the scientists walk through the turning door to speak to the doctors on the job caring for patients."
Rae has been presenting EBC at events in her Region, educating women about diet and exercise for risk reduction. "I did yoga for about 30 years. I know how good exercise is for the heart and the whole body. Everyone can find a way to exercise that is suitable for them. The fact that heart disease is by far the number one killer of women is meaningful."
Rae is also overseeing the launch of a Dietician Council in her Region, a networking group that will allow members to further their nutrition education, fundraise for Hadassah, and help educate others. "EBC applies to so many people. As a matter of fact, my fabulous Hadassah husband, who has always been supportive, wrote letters to his work associates asking for support and they really responded to it! The heart health cause speaks to men as well as women," said Rae. "There is an urgent need in our communities and education is the foundation of Hadassah." Rae hopes that Hadassah's emphasis on heart health will benefit her daughter, her community, and future generations.
I am so proud to be a partner that Hadassah can count on, year in and year out, as it bridges the gap between Jew and non-Jew, secular and religious, Israel and the world. When I signed up to be a Keeper of the Gate and then a Golden Keeper, I knew that I was part of a growing number of women committed to keeping the work of healing going by supporting the daily operations of Hadassah's hospitals. Any organization, or person for that matter, breathes easier with the knowledge that they can depend on a continuing income stream.
I became a Keeper about eight years ago while serving as the President of the Tobay Chapter on Long Island. I wanted to give more than my usual donation and the beautiful David's Harp pin caught my eye. Then, something wonderful happened: Hadassah started to treat me like a major donor! I was invited to a special cocktail party at the next Convention and was exposed to an atmosphere of giving. Being a Keeper allowed me to enjoy contributing at another level.
You will laugh when I tell you how I came to be a Golden Keeper. I was at a Keepers event at Convention about three years later when I realized, to my horror, that I was naked! My David's Harp pin had fallen off and was nowhere to be found. Someone started talking about this new thing called Golden Keeper and, since it came with a pin, I signed on.
In addition to being a Keeper, I support the Tower. I visited Hadassah Ein-Kerem many times and I was well aware of how crowded it was, but also what a central role the hospitals hold in Jerusalem's economy. Hadassah's historical willingness to take on projects of immense scope, and succeed at them, makes me feel part of a powerful and effective organization, which makes me personally feel powerful and effective, too. My parents, who took me to Israel for the first time when I was just 14, worked assiduously and gave generously, which has had an enormous impact on my ability to give. I try to follow their example and be as generous a possible. When Hadassah is the first to respond to tsunamis and earthquakes, and is an oasis of healing in the midst of terror, I'm inspired to do more, always.
I want to say how lucky I feel to be able to give and how thrilling it is to see it make an impact. Thank you, Hadassah, for adding so much joy, friendship, knowledge and direction to my life.
Micky and Harold Smith with Joanne and Jim Smith
How does a family in St. Paul, Minnesota develop a connection to Hadassah and Israel that spans several generations? For Mickey, z'l, and Harold and Jim and Joanne Smith, the ties began when Mickey was a child, helping her mother raise money for Hadassah. They were strengthened when, as the Life Membership Chair of the St. Paul Chapter, Mickey's mother Daisy made all the women in the family Life Members. As each generation became active members, Associates and Major Donors, they found in Hadassah a meaningful connection to friends around the country, to a cause that moves and inspires them, and to Israel in ways through which they can see their impact.
Through the years, the Smiths have given generously to many Hadassah projects. After their daughter Marjorie died of breast cancer in 1982, Mickey and Harold funded the Center for Enhancement that offers wigs and other cosmetic assistance to women undergoing chemotherapy. Harold recently made a new gift to the Mickey and Harold Smith Enhancement Center, to be sure that it will continue to offer support to women who need it. They were also generous donors to breast cancer research and treatment.
In their hope to connect the future generations in the same way as they have been connected, Mickey and Harold made their grandchildren, David and Eve, and first great grandchild, Yael, all SMD members. Harold says, "Mickey is the one who made it happen. " At 90, Harold maintains Mickey's close connection to Hadassah, attending local events when he is in St. Paul and visiting with their Hadassah friends while he winters in Florida.
Other relationships bind the Smith family to the Hadassah Academic College. Mickey's parents were good friends with Harry Rosenthal. Both Harold and Jim maintained that friendship through their involvement with Herzl Camp. When Harry married Miriam Freund, z'l, a Past National President, and brought her to live part time in St. Paul, Jim and Joanne befriended her also. Miriam introduced them to Yakov Amidi, Director of the then-named Hadassah College of Technology (HCT).
Jim and Joanne also became good friends with Past National President June Walker, z'l, whom they met sitting by the pool in Jerusalem after a National Convention. As Chair of HCT, June encouraged Jim and Joanne to become Major Donors at the College. Jim, a physician, saw the College as a connection to the hospital. He said, "I particularly appreciate how the College was training the health professionals of tomorrow, developing medical technology for the future, and training people to operate that technology."
All of the Smiths are Major Donors at the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower. Mickey and Harold have proudly donated a Surgical Center on Level 4. Harold, who believes in seeing the results of his philanthropy, says, "Surgery gives people the opportunity to maintain a quality of life. We are proud and blessed to have been able to do that, and to become Guardians of Zion." Jim and Joanne, also SMD members, purchased a chair in the synagogue after their visit to the Tower at the Centennial Convention. "The Tower took my breath away," said Joanne. "It was so far beyond the pictures we had seen. And I fell in love with the synagogue, looking out over Jerusalem." Jim added, "The Tower reflects what is happening in medicine now and then takes it one step further. It is absolutely state-of-the-art." The Smith family is truly intertwined with Hadassah.