Around the Country: Am Yisrael Chai

November 9, 2023

Around the Country: Am Yisrael Chai
Luisa Narins in Times Square

In large groups in big cities and in more intimate gatherings in small towns, Hadassah members and supporters around the country have been drumming up support for Israel and the Hadassah Medical Organization’s emergency response efforts. Their signs are clear: “Hadassah Stands With Israel,” “Hadassah Supports Israel” and “Am Yisrael Chai” (The Jewish Nation Lives).

The war in Israel is touching everyone in our Hadassah family. But like other families, we support one another during difficult times. Hadassah leaders, members, Associates, donors and advocates are banding together in our regions, communities and chapters — at rallies and fairs and fundraising and advocacy events — to show support for Israel and Hadassah’s efforts, wearing blue ribbons to keep attention on the hostages and waving Israeli flags.

Hadassah Membership Department Chair Luisa Narins joined thousands of New Yorkers in Times Square in condemning the terrorist attacks and demanding the release of all hostages held by Hamas. With Hadassah’s Times Square billboard as a backdrop — it says, in part: “We Can Stop the Bleeding. Save Lives. Support Hadassah Hospitals” — Luisa joined the crowd in chanting “Bring them home.” “Now more than ever, it is crucial for ALL of us to stand together,” said Narins. “We cannot be silent; Israel is our home, and every Israeli person is our family. We cannot capitulate to terrorists in Israel or here. We are resilient, and we will endure.”

For Stephanie Z. Bonder, a Hadassah Antisemitism Team member, organizing a weekend of unity for Congregation Agudath Israel in Caldwell, NJ, where she is Israel Committee chair, was a way for her and other families to “express our pain at the situation and the horrifying murderous attack.” Pivoting from the previously planned Celebration of Israel at 75, the weekend was a time for spiritual comfort, with uplifting music and a solidarity walk through the streets of Caldwell with 200 people, many of them from the Hadassah Caldwell Chapter. “Our community needed a way to express our solidarity with Israel and all of our family and friends who are there,” said Bonder.

In Corvallis, OR, 25 “dedicated people … representing Hadassah” stood proudly together “in community, expressing and demonstrating support for Israel,” Hadassah National Vice President Peg Elefant wrote on her Facebook page, where she’s been a vocal supporter of Israel and Hadassah. “In case you were wondering,” she wrote, “25 is a terrific turnout in this tiny town!”

Hadassah has also been a visible presence at large-scale rallies in Boston by Hadassah Southern New England, in Chicago by Hadassah Chicago-North Shore, in Philadelphia by Hadassah Greater Philadelphia, in the Berkshires by Hadassah Berkshire Hills and in Miami-Dade County by Hadassah Greater Miami, among others.

Michelle Conwisar, National Evolve: The Next Generation liaison from California, “didn’t want to feel helpless” being so far away from the crisis. Attending two local rallies with friends, she said, “We wanted to be part of something where we felt connected to our community and could comfort, be comforted and support each other while standing up and being proud of what we believe is right. It was energizing to be around hundreds of other people who were feeling the same way. We also wanted to make a stand that we are not afraid to be in public as proud Jews.”

In Beaufort, SC, a crowd of 200 — including members from three synagogues, three churches and the city, county and federal government — joined together for an Israel solidarity event organized by Karen Rosenson Ulm, Hadassah National Portfolio Council member. Ulm told WSAV-TV, one of the two news crews covering the event, “I’m thrilled that Jews, non-Jews and all kinds of people are coming out to speak, and to listen, and to learn and to stand up for Israel. I’m very happy. It’s a very scary time for Jewish people now, not just in Israel.”

Hadassah Florida Atlantic saw 400 attendees at its Israel fair celebrating the country’s 75th anniversary. For Region President Bobbi Prager, there was no question that the event, planned long before the war, would move ahead as planned. "We don’t hide from antisemitism. We don’t hide from war," she told WPTV News. "Now more than ever, we need to show our support for Israel and for our fellow Jews.” And show their support, they did, raising more than $9,000 for Hadassah’s war response efforts.

Baking for a cause was a way for a Houston-based deli and bakery to show its support. New York Deli and Bagel Shop Bakery has been selling blue and white bagels and donating 100 percent of the proceeds to Hadassah, where a Houston-born soldier has been treated.

While many Hadassah supporters have been hitting the streets, others have been hitting the Hill. Nearly 100 people, including Renee Stadd, Hadassah Greater Washington advocacy co-chair, and Harriet Rubinson, Hadassah Greater Baltimore advocacy chair, met via Zoom with US Senator Ben Cardin, the new chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, about the US-Israel relationship, the ongoing war and the Abraham Accords. “The timing of our meeting was an ideal opportunity to inform the senator of Hadassah’s critical on-the-ground work in Israel during the post-October 7 Hamas invasion of southern Israel,” said Stadd and Rubinson. “This was a chance to frankly discuss Hadassah’s roles, accomplishments and future needs with a sympathetic and influential policymaker.”

Nationally, Hadassah is urging policymakers to pass emergency defense and humanitarian aid for Israel, pass resolutions to demand Hamas release all hostages and stand with Israel and condemn Hamas’s brutal terrorist attacks.

Join Hadassah at the March for Israel march on November 14 in Washington, DC.

Michelle Conwisar at a Calabasas, CA rally
Unity weekend in Caldwell, NJ, organized by Stephanie Z. Bonder

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