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Convention Dailies - Wednesday, July 27

Plenary: Women Achieving the Dream--Honoring Women Who DO

National President Ellen Hershkin opened this plenary by honoring four outstanding women in the medical, legal and corporate fields.

Judge Ellen Steinberg, one of the honorees, told the packed audience about her own professional rise and then introduced each of the panel members. She said that she likes saying yes because it gives you the opportunity to do/learn new and different things. She makes a point of stretching out beyond her comfort zone. She is a life member of Hadassah who went on Young Judaea Year Course in 1975. That was an example of trying something new -- no one in her family ever did it and it turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of her life -- lessons learned on YC still used today. In her career, saying yes has led her to many great opportunities. As an attorney who rose in the court system and became a mother, she found that she needed more. She joined Hadassah and took advantage of every opportunity from a young leadership mission to becoming Region President, on to the national board and as National VP.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, Deputy Director of the CDC, had Hadassah in her life from before she was born because her mom and dad were fixed up through women her grandmother met at a Hadassah convention. Schuchat’s original plan was to be a small town doctor. She worked in a NYC hospital in the early days of the HIV virus in the 1980’s. Because of work of the CDC it is not always a death sentence anymore. She and her colleagues are working towards an HIV-free world. Schuchat went on to relay many stories of disease treatment successes and and some of today’s challenges.

Esther Panitch believes in fundamental fairness, which is why she became a trial lawyer. It motivates her and really gets her angry when she believes the system isn’t fair. She started out as a domestic violence coordinator, observing judges in domestic violence cases who often ignored the rights of the accused. Sometimes the victims are real and sometimes they make up domestic violence stories as leverage for divorce. She joined the public defender’s office and became a true advocate. She has seen racially based verdicts and trials, which drives her to make sure the system is fair. Esther says “I love what I do! It gets me up in the morning.” She also loves appearing as an “expert” on tv news programs and says that if a job came up on Court TV, she might have to consider it!

Anita G Zucker, the first female chair of Hudsons Bay Company before becoming CEO of Intertech. Anita was an officer in her local Young Judaea club, attended Camp Tel Yehuda and because she’s a dancer, she sewed all the costumes for her YJ dance troupe; her children are all grads of YJ’s camp machine and her grandson was just dropped off at YJ camp. She is a four generation life member. Zucker inherited the company from her late husband, Jerry Zucker. Eventually, she became her own type of leader and also became a role model and teacher for the company's younger staff. Her mom is a holocaust survivor and a driving force for Zucker, teaching her the joy of serving others. She taught her how to be a business person and how to give back. Anita said “I love what I do; I work for the community and I work for the world.”

After each woman spoke individually, Steinberg led an interesting discussion about mentoring and inspired others; and what’s next for them in their very busy and fruitful lives.

Plenary: Israeli Security Meets Modern Tech--The Iron Dome

Meir Mark, Director of Hadassah International Israel introduced Natan Barak, the CEO and Founder of mPrest, the company behind the Iron Dome. Barak presented a very informative Power Point which explained how the Iron Dome works, in fairly simple terms. He showed when the Iron Dome is launched at a rocket, there is a very limited time frame and limited target parameters to strike at it. Interception is very high. They do not use the Iron Dome when the rocket will land in open area so as not to waste valuable batteries and other resources. There are no interceptions at airports because of civilian planes. Barak explained some of the challenges like battle noise and multiple targets (rockets). The Iron Dome must be a mobile system; they need to be operational in less than one hour from reports of rocket fire. They also must make sure that civilians don't suffer from the debris. Rate of success is going up. Barak thanked everyone for supporting Israel, not just by sending funds but by helping with the challenges Israel faces. He stressed that we need to make more people aware of Israel’s work! We both are all about lifesaving! He ended with a humorous note: when he came up with the idea for the Iron Dome he told his mother that it would take two years to build and his mother said, what do you expect the citizens of Israel to do for two years!

The success rate of hitting the rockets has gone up from 85% to over 90%. They want to be at 98% and because once the enemy realizes their rockets won’t be successful, they motivation to fire will be greatly reduced.

Plenary: Advocating for Gender Equity in Medicine #GEM

This plenary opened with a video about Hadassah advocacy. National President Ellen Hershkin honored Dr. Nanette Wenger, a Hadassah Life Member (since 1962) and Professor of Medicine-Cardiology, Emory University School of Medicine, and described her as “an innovator, a role model, and a friend and champion of women’s health and empowerment. She was joined onstage by fellow panelists Phyllis Greenberger, MSW, Immediate Past President & CEO at Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR); and Dr. Pamela Ouyang, Professor of Medicine-Cardiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Director, Johns Hopkins Women’s Cardiovascular Health Center, and Spokeswoman for the American Heart Assn. Go Red for Women campaign.

The conversation began around cardiac research as heart disease is the number 1 killer of women, and moved to how Alzheimer’s impacts women, and how in the past, there was no focus on women’s overall health beyond menstrual health. Greenberger spoke about the ultimately successful, but slow-moving, process of having any recognition of gender differences in health, pushing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to mandate women’s inclusion in clinical trials, which became easier after a report identified that every cell has a sex. It took 14 years. This year for the first time, applications to the NIH must mention the sex of the cells. At the Hadassah Medical Organization, gender differences are already taken into consideration. All of the speakers talked about the ways they have pushed forward GEM, with mention of how delighted the panelists are that Hadassah has convened the Coalition for Gender Equity in Medicine.

What you can do:

  • Participate in clinical trials. It's an important way to help, and many are observational only. Researchers need to know what/where differences are.
  • Talk to young women to pay attention to this situation
  • Sign up for Hadassah's advocacy alerts
  • Talk to your local Hadassah leaders about getting involved in a Day in the District.

Breakout: Be Bold—Increase Your Hadassah Impact

This informative session was led by Carol Rosenthal, National Vice President and Karen Everett, National Chair, Marketing and Communications. The filled-to-capacity room was the ideal place to be when a discussion took place about bringing back the information from Convention, and putting it to use in units across the country. The presenters kicked off the session and also ended the session, encouraging members to, "take their passion home with them," versus simply giving a report at a board meeting. Presenters spoke about some of the ways attendees could develop ideas for programs that would emerge by looking at the following elements:

  • Who is the audience we want to reach?
  • What do we want to communicate/accomplish?
  • When should this take place?
  • Where should this take place?
  • How do we accomplish what we want to achieve?

With the help of the presenters, attendees brainstormed on possible programs, and they were urged to put their passion within Hadassah's organizational priorities. Carol added, "Think about what has sparked for you. That's where you want to focus your efforts when you return home." Attendees were inspired, when an Atlanta Hadassah member in the room, shared that in a few days she will be leaving for Israel to make aliyah, and how she looks forward to taking what she has learned at Convention and using it abroad in her Hadassah involvement with the new Hadassah Israel unit.

Breakout: Breast Strokes—A Local Initiative

Two part event: Paint Day with 35 models who are mostly breast cancer survivors. They were painted from the waist to the navel. Pictures were printed on 24" x 30" canvas. The Big Reveal Gala sold out with 600 people. It raised approx. $125,000.

The Schube women were the honorees as each was BrCa positive. Attendees were encouraged to take this type of event and make it your own within your community. Dr Dale Bearman, ObGyn discussed myriad genetics and their work with BRCA.

Breakout: Curriculum Watch—Fact, Fiction, Innuendo or Bias

Dr. Sandra Alfonsi, Hadassah’s Curriculum Watch Team Leader, presented an overview of the ways that Judaism, Jewish history, and Israel are being inaccurately taught in school curricula throughout the country. When reviewing curricula, Dr. Alfonsi focuses on three areas where she has found numerous inaccuracies and biases in current curricula--Judaism as a world religion, the Holocaust as a genocide of the Jews, and the history of Israel. For example, she has found textbooks that describe Jews as collateral damage during World War II, not victims of genocide, that Ben-Gurion colluded with Hitler to trade Jewish lives for Arab land to create the State of Israel. According to Dr. Alfonsi, the source of bias, at least in some cases, can be traced to the deliberate influence of donations to prestigious universities by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. Dr. Alfonsi, with Janet Klein-Young, encourages Hadassah members to review their children’s and grandchildren’s textbooks and has created a template to help catalog curricula flaws. Please email her at salfonsi@hadassah.org for a copy. If you identify any of these flaws, please use the template and email your findings to Dr. Alfonsi.

Breakout: Youth Aliyah—Transforming Children's Lives

Interactive and inspiring panel discussion on our Youth Aliyah project, moderated by Dr. Carol Goodman Kaufman, Youth Aliyah Chair, about the serious challenges these children face. Lauren Stern Kedem, Director of PR and English teacher at Meir Shfeya Youth Aliyah Village, described how Youth Aliyah Villages work. "Hospitals save lives. Villages change lives." Dr. Peter Ash, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Services at Emory University, discussed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Much PTSD research in Israel focuses on war and terrorism.

Judge Steven Tuskegee, Chief Judge of the Clayton (GA) County Juvenile Court in Atlanta, said that his court is well versed in the assessment tools used to determine which kids should remain in the community. "Traumatized people traumatize people," he said, adding that "disruptive behaviors don't happen by chance." He also stated that "we too frequently treat the symptoms."

Breakout: Israeli Security—From Airspace to Cyberspace

Natan Barak, CO & Founder of mPrest, became Hadasah's newest Associate at the beginning of the presentation. He discussed how his company MPrest developed the command and control platform for the Iron Dome, the same command and control platform used in many other companies, serving many different functions.

Effective command and control means that everything is interconnected 24/7. this enables decision-making with immediate response time, giving customers the power to use the system in a way that works best for them. This is game changing technology. International cities and industries use the platform including airline, security, electricity, irrigation and many more. Using this platform, the customer is able to manage from the cloud--security, maintenance, telecommunications, computers, parking, etc. All systems are talking to each other in real time, controlled by customer. This was a very interesting presentation on an application that will be used more widely in the future, giving power to customers versus a programmer to create its own rules and use. Not to mention its success in the military.

Strong Jewish Women: Jewish Texts about Leadership

Jewish paradigm of leadership begins with Moses--traditional male leadership models. Portrayals of women leaders from the texts include Shifra and Puah (midwives), Miriam, Zipporah (wife of Moses), Deborah and Yael. All stepped outside of traditional women's boundaries and took stands and risks that could have caused them harm, including death. But, through their senses of persuasion, pragmatism and even a bit of manipulation, they are able to effect change and save lives. "Speaking truth to power" is the path to leadership often taken by women in the texts. Rabbi Ellen Flax, Director of the Hadassah Foundation, points out that women are often boosted to leadership roles after the methods of others (men) have failed.

Breakout: Medical Ethics: End of Life Care

Everyone should have an advance directive for healthcare. You can find one online and download. Make sure your family knows your wishes. Things you must think about: who will make decisions, how the decisions will be made, rationale for making decisions, never be bullied by a physician. The session also touched on how Jewishly we make decisions on end of life care, such as if intervention (such as a feeding tube) will lead to healing, it is obligatory, but not acceptable if it simply prolongs life.

A Call to Action: #EndHumanTrafficking

Stephanie Z. Bonder, President of Hadassah Northern New Jersey, moderated this conversation, focused on sex trafficking with an emphasis on the high incidence rate in the United States. Sharron J. Brown, author of "I Found My Voice: My Journey Through Sex Trafficking and Exploitation,” who told her story of being molested as a child, repeatedly, and how important it is to speak out about the issue. Martha “Marni” Dodd, Child Abuse Nurse Practitioner, spoke about how important it is for people to intervene to protect children. She spoke of the progress being made, and how important it is to change the language. from child prostitution to victim of sexual exploitation. Jennifer Swain, Deputy Director, YouthSpark, spoke of the importance of prevention, and of working both to help victims, and to decrease the demand. "“We’ve decided to not just rescue girls anymore… [but to intervene] to ensure that that child is able to live a successful life free from abuse.”

Dalia Racine, Deputy Chief ADA, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, Human Trafficking Unit, stressed that as education increases, awareness increases, and our case load increases because when people know what they are looking for, they speak up. “Human trafficking knows no boundaries, knows no limits, knows no race, knows no religion.”

Everyone, in every state, should speak out if they see a child in a situation that appears predatory. There’s an anonymous tip hotline, 8883737888, or you can go to your state to look up the number. Everyone was urged to stand up and take this back to your units. Learn more about Hadassah’s resources and advocacy efforts.

Plenary: What Exactly Does Zionism Mean to You?

On the plenary stage, after a short video, Linda Scherzer, journalist and former CNN Mideast Correspondent, moderated a live Defining Zionism in the 21st Century discussion, with two passionate Zionists: Caroline Glick, Deputy Managing Editor of the Jerusalem Post, and Rob Eshman, Editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. With deeply divergent views, the two fielded — sometimes earnest, sometimes with humor — questions about dreams, solutions and fears that surround Israel’s future, particularly those in the Diaspora. In August, Hadassah will be sharing the full conversation online as part of our provocative Defining Zionism (DZ) series. One of the goals of this session was to demonstrate how engaging this conversation can be so that regions and units consider creating a Hadassah DZ event to watch together and discuss. Scherzer wrapped up the discussion, saying: “wherever we stand, we are all Zionists." The facilitator encouraged the group to bring a session like this or play the videos at a parlor meeting, synagogue, or an interfaith group. This is a great opportunity to bring Defining Zionism right to your community.

Plenary: Like Mother, Like Daughter
Authors Letty Cottin Pogrebin & Abigail Pogrebin

After introducing authors Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a founder of Ms. Magazine, and journalist Abigail Pogrebin, Hadassah National Marketing & Communications Chair Karen Everett focused the session on the intersection of their Jewish and feminist identities. Both mother and daughter shared their Jewish journeys, and the importance today of Judaism in their lives. Hadassah plays a role in both their lives, "My mother was a life member of Hadassah and so am I,” said Letty. Abigail promised she’d make her own daughter a member.

For Letty, who grew up in a devout home, she left the faith as a teen, after her mother’s death, when she couldn’t be counted in the shiva minyan for her own mother. “When it comes to the roots of my feminism, I said if you don’t count me in, I’ll count myself out.” One summer, 30 years later in Fire Island, she found her way back. Then Jewish feminism happened. With a sense of humor, Abigail — who grew up during what Letty calls her rebellion against Judaism — talked about how writing "Stars of David” — interviewing celebrities deeply about their faith — helped jump start her journey. Today, she is the president of Central Synagogue in NYC. "The Torah opened for me.” Asked what women's issues stand out for her today, Letty named two: reproductive freedom and women’s poverty. For Abigail, a crucial issue is women standing up for themselves. We need to own our expertise. Unsurprisingly. the audience made it clear they agreed.

Gala Banquet and Presentation of the 2016 Henrietta Szold Award

National Convention Chair Carol Ann Schwartz and Vice Chair Merna Shapiro spoke with grace and elan, weaving the gala together. Hadassah Associates President Fredrick Safer celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the Associates, which now include about 3,500 men. “We are all here for one another,” he said.

Hadassah Executive Director/CEO Janice Weinman gave the invocation before dinner. The blessings before dinner were done by the husbands of the Convention chairs, Larry Shapiro and Michael Schwartz. Marcie Natan, Hadassah Past National President, presented the 2016 Henrietta Szold Award to Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, for his deep commitment to Jewish survival, as a profound thinker, and much more. "I've had a long personal relationship with Henrietta Szold, but more importantly is my relationship with Hadassah... a love affair that has spanned 40 years. Thank you for all that you do, all the time,” he said. Watch his full remarks to hear him speak about “a world in constant change [where] it’s important that people recognize where we are and the challenges we face,” he said. Moving fluidly from seriousness to humor, he touched on Israel’s strength as a startup nation, the meaning of Tisha B’av, and BDS, urging action.

Hadassah National President Ellen Hershkin talked about how her strong ties to Israel and her role at Hadassah come together, highlighting Hadassah’s triumphs, Israeli innovation, and how in the face of past and present terrorist attacks, from Israel to Orlando, our work is more crucial than ever. She spoke of how Hadassah and HMO are breaking new ground, not only in clinical research but in outreach in the United States and Israel, and about launching the Coalition for Women’s Health Equity. We are using the presence of Hadassah members in all 435 congressional districts to push the levers of power that advances our causes."

After dinner, the crowd sang and danced along to a live performance by musician Julie Silver. Video to follow.

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