On a cold and blustery March night in New York City, Hadassah held a concert celebrating the anniversary of our founding, Purim, and Israel, featuring Jewish leader and acclaimed singer Neshama Carlebach. More than 150 people came together, including families with children and a significant number of Hadassah members.
Hadassah National President Ellen Hershkin kicked off the event, recounting the history of Hadassah’s founding. It was under Henrietta Szold's leadership around Purim of 1912 that a women's Zionist study group came together in New York, choosing then to adopt the name Hadassah. Ellen welcomed Neshama, introducing her as “the first then-Orthodox woman of her generation to perform for a mixed-gender audience" and described her as "a strong advocate for religious pluralism and human rights."
Neshama and her accompanying band created a intimate rapport with the audience, which included many of her friends from within and beyond the Hadassah family. Neshama warmed up the crowd with singalong renditions of songs rooted in traditional Jewish liturgy. The concert also featured songs from Neshama's new album Believe, released March 29, the first time she played many of the new songs publicly.
Neshama shared her gratitude for her "Hadassah sisters," and that she was joyful to be singing for "some of the most powerful women in the world."
Between sets, Neshama shared thoughts and experiences, weaving in her personal connections to Hadassah, Israel, and women's empowerment. "This evening isn’t about me," she said. "It’s about Israel, women, Purim, and gratitude.” She spoke of how she struggled with her own Hebrew name, Esther, as a child and identified with it only as an adult. Neshama discussed Esther's role in the Purim story as a "hidden hero," and how she draws meaning from her own life in modern times: by combating the hatred that comes her way with love.
Neshama thanked Hadassah for "bringing out the heroes and sheroes" in everyone our work touches, especially the "hidden" acts of good the public doesn't know about. She highlighted the Hadassah Medical Organization and The Branch Podcast, praising Hadassah as an organization that brings light into the darkness and provides strength to those who need it most.
Sharing inspiring stories about her family's Jewish identity with the crowd, Neshama spoke about Shabbat as a gift given unto the Jewish people, a time that brings strength, peace, and love to the world while emphasizing the importance of loving one another and finding ways to persevere.
Encouraging her audience to push themselves to be capable of doing, saying, and being more, Neshama brought to life the title of her new album, Believe: “If you believe,” she said, “you can choose to be free.”