Carmela Efros Kalmanson, z"l 1927 - 2023

March 9, 2023

Carmela Efros Kalmanson, z"l  1927 - 2023

Carmela Efros Kalmanson, who served as national president of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, from 1988 to 1991, passed away on March 8. She would have turned 96 on March 9.

Mrs. Kalmanson, who dedicated much of her life to Zionist activism and Jewish education, led Hadassah at a critical juncture in Israel’s history. Born into an active Zionist family—her mother was a sabra and a member of the first class of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem—she 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.”

In her decades-long service as a Hadassah volunteer, Mrs. Kalmanson headed a wide range of projects and initiatives. She served as Chair of the Hadassah Medical Organization, Hadassah Magazine, Zionist Affairs and Public Affairs. She headed the Long-Range Planning Committee and the Hebrew Studies Department. She was twice co-chair of the Hadassah National Convention. She was also a longtime member of the Hadassah National Board, an Honorary Vice President, chair of the Henrietta Szold Award Committee, a member of the South Florida Region Area Development Team and a strong supporter of Young Judaea, which connects young Jews with Israel through a variety of summer programs.

During Mrs. Kalmanson’s presidency, Hadassah was directly involved in some of the most dramatic events taking place in Israel and the world. The Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) increased funding for AIDS treatment in Israel. Hadassah also expanded its ophthalmologic outreach to Africa. In a two-week period in 1990, HMO eye surgeons in Kenya operated on 400 blind people, giving sight to many for the first time.

As the Cold War ended, HMO, Hadassah College and Youth Aliyah all mobilized to help in the absorption, education, retraining and employment of the masses of Jews arriving from the Soviet Union. In January 1991, Mrs. Kalmanson led an emergency Hadassah mission to Israel during the Gulf War, at a time when Israel was under missile attack from Iraq and Hadassah’s hospitals were on high alert. Just four months later, with the airlift of Ethiopian Jews into Israel, Hadassah allocated $3 million to Youth Aliyah to adapt its programs to meet the needs of the new immigrants.

Prior to serving Hadassah on the national level, Mrs. Kalmanson was president of the Long Island Valley Stream Chapter and, later, president of the Nassau Region.

In addition to her Hadassah activities, Mrs. Kalmanson was a leader in a variety of Jewish communal bodies. She was a delegate to six World Zionist Congresses and a member of the Presidium of the Zionist General Council. In 1997, she was elected as a lifetime Honorary Fellow of the World Zionist Organization. She served on the national board of the State of Israel Bonds, was chair of the Executive Committee of the American Zionist Federation and a president of the Long Island American Zionist Federation. She was also active on the Jewish Community Relations Council and served on the board of Temple Emanu-El, Palm Beach, Florida.

Carmela Efros was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and educated at Ohio State University, where she was active in Hillel and in the Intercollegiate Zionist Federation of America. She also studied at the Herzl Institute and Teachers’ Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. She was a religious-school teacher and served as chair of the religious school board of Temple Gates of Zion in Valley Stream, New York. She married Dr. Martin Kalmanson in 1947.

Dr. Kalmanson died in 2017. Mrs. Kalmanson is survived by her daughters, Dr. Nina Kalmanson Purvin and Helene Kalmanson Epstein; her sons-in-law, Dr. Arthur Purvin and Brad Epstein; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Click here to make a donation in memory of Past National President Carmela Kalmanson

Read the press release here.

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