NEW YORK, NY – Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai and Ministry of Health Director-General Nachman Ash welcomed the members of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, last week, as did United States Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides. All spoke movingly about the indispensable role the organization has played and continues to play in building Israel and developing its health care system.
The occasion was Together in Israel: Our Pride. Our Purpose. Hadassah’s 100th National Convention., which took place in Jerusalem from November 14 to 17. In addition to being Hadassah’s one-hundredth national meeting, it was the group’s first national gathering in Israel in more than a decade. Members had come from across the US to be there.
“Hadassah will continue to be a critical force in building an Israel that we all are proud of,” President Herzog said in a recorded message at Hadassah’s Pride, the convention’s opening program, which took place at the Jerusalem Theater. The event was a tribute to Hadassah’s historic commitment to its two hospitals in Jerusalem, Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem and Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, and to Hadassah’s Youth Aliyah villages for at-risk teens.
“Health care in Israel wouldn’t be what it is without Hadassah,” said Ministry of Health Director-General Ash later in the week at the Henrietta Szold Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Nursing during the dedication of the new Learning Center at the Goldwurm Auditorium, for which Hadassah and its Nurses and Allied Health Professionals Council raised funds.
At the star-studded Hadassah Honors event, Ambassador Nides recalled learning at an early age just how important Hadassah was. “As a child growing up in Duluth, Minnesota,” he said, “I was amazed when I heard stories from my mom, a Hadassah member, about how she worked from Minnesota to help the people of Israel.”
First Lady of Israel Michal Herzog received Hadassah’s inaugural Power of Esther Award, created to recognize women who, like the Jewish heroine Queen Esther, use their intelligence and determination to speak out on behalf of the Jewish people. Mrs. Herzog was honored for what she has accomplished using her professional mediator’s skills to create dialogue among disparate groups in Israeli society.
“I was excited to receive the ‘Power of Esther’ award tonight at the 100th [convention] of the Hadassah women's organization, an organization that proves, in the spirit of Queen Esther, how much women can captivate an entire nation,” she later posted on Facebook.
Marlene Edith Post, a past Hadassah national president who has dedicated her 50-year volunteer career to Hadassah and myriad other good works, received the Henrietta Szold Award, the organization’s highest honor. Named for Hadassah’s visionary founder, the award recognizes leaders who have made outstanding contributions to the Jewish people and to Israel.
Said a visibly moved Post when accepting the award, “My personal family and my Hadassah family are the two pillars on which my life stands.”
Perhaps the most touching moment of the convention came during a surprise reunion, arranged by Hadassah, between a young Ukrainian refugee named Sasha (Alexander) Buzunar and his mother. Months earlier, Sasha and roughly 60 other Ukrainian young people had been taken in by Hadassah’s two youth villages when they fled the war. As he told the convention participants about his experience, Sasha was surprised on stage by his teary-eyed mom, Alina, who ran out from backstage and swallowed him in a giant hug.
Interspersed among the big events and convention sessions were myriad activities focusing on Hadassah and its work, including visits to the youth villages and a behind-the-scenes briefing at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem about the hospital’s latest clinical research, the status of a capital project that will bring the combined capacity of Hadassah’s two hospitals to almost 2,000 and the curriculum of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School.
Said Hadassah National President Rhoda Smolow, “It was thrilling to be with the women of drive and vision who bring Hadassah’s mission to life every day —who support the outstanding work of our hospitals and youth villages in Israel, speak out against antisemitism, relentlessly trumpet their love for Israel and stare down those who question its right to exist, and fight for reproductive choice and other essential health care rights for women in the US.”
For CEO Naomi Adler, who recently completed her first year at Hadassah and was attending her first Hadassah convention, the week was a revelation. “That Hadassah women are a formidable group is no secret. But to feel the energy in the room every time they came together and to hear the intense pride in their voices about what this organization has accomplished in the last 110 years, in Israel and in the United States, was a unique experience and one I feel privileged to have had.”