NEW YORK, NY—Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, mourns the passing of former national president Carmela Efros Kalmanson in West Palm Beach, FL, on March 8, the day before her 96th birthday.
Carmela “Carmie” Kalmanson dedicated much of her life to Zionist activism and Jewish education and led Hadassah at a critical juncture in Israel’s history. During her presidency (1988-1991), Hadassah mobilized to help Israel absorb the masses of Jews arriving from the Soviet Union. In early 1991, during the Gulf War, she led an emergency Hadassah mission to Israel. Four months later, she oversaw Hadassah’s allocation of $3 million to help the thousands of Ethiopian Jews who had been airlifted to Israel.
Born in Cleveland, OH, into a Zionist family – her mother was a sabra and a member of the first class of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem – Carmela Kalmanson was connected to Israel from early childhood.
“Carmie was the quintessential Jewish and Zionist leader,” said Rhoda Smolow, Hadassah’s current national president. “She was a modern, empowered woman rooted in tradition and dedicated to Hadassah’s mission. She was passionate about Israel and backed up her passion with knowledge and intelligence. During a period of great challenge and equally great promise, she led Hadassah with grace, strength and vision.”
During her decades-long service as a Hadassah volunteer, Mrs. Kalmanson was chair of the Hadassah Medical Organization, Hadassah’s medical center in Jerusalem, and a longtime member of Hadassah’s national board. She was an ardent supporter of Hadassah’s Young Judaea program, which connects young Jews with Israel, and the leader of a wide range of Hadassah initiatives, projects and committees. In addition to her extensive work for Hadassah, she held leadership roles in many other Jewish organizations, including the World Zionist Congress and the State of Israel Bonds.
Mrs. Kalmanson is survived by her daughters, Dr. Nina Kalmanson Purvin (Dr. Arthur Purvin) and Helene Kalmanson Epstein (Brad Epstein), three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Her husband, Dr. Martin Kalmanson, died in 2017.