Across the country, Hadassah members are finding new ways to make an impact in the face of COVID-19, even as they navigate their own pandemic challenges.
Consider Hadassah Northeast, home to nearly 20,000 Hadassah members, which has launched three COVID-19 initiatives: PPE collection and drop off, mask-making and phone calls to their most vulnerable members. For Kathy Kerstein, President of Hadassah Northern New England, they're "decreasing the distance between people, even while we're socially distanced."
A Mitzvah Across the Generations
Ashley Buckholtz wanted to help her New England Chapter's outreach efforts, but couldn't make calls to isolated seniors. The interior designer — currently furloughed — lives outside of Boston with her husband and two kids — Leo, 11, and Natasha, 6. She realized that even if she didn't have time to make calls, she could make art. So she started a local initiative to send artwork to residents in a local nursing home.
"This is something I could do with my kids in my daily life," Ashley says. "Sending cards is fun. It's a mitzvah. It's a no-brainer way to brighten someone's day and teach your kids a valuable lesson. And you can do it from home. No mask required."
Kathy of Hadassah Northern New England says they're building this effort out, creating an insert for families to put in each envelope with the children's artwork, whether it's a cat or a rainbow or a Star of David. It says "Hoping this picture from a young Hadassah friend brightens your day." The cards will go to a senior living center in Chelsea, Mass, which has been hard hit by COVID-19.
Mask Making: A Stitch in Time
“The Hadassah community has come together in a meaningful way to empower women to contribute at a time when we’re all feeling helpless,” says Lisa Conti of Hadassah Boston, a life member who has been actively involved since 1997, and is currently serving as Major Gifts co-chair.
Lisa led an initiative to collect PPE supplies for professionals through HNE (Hadassah Northeast). As the need shifted, she started sewing masks. When Temple Emanuel learned about the Hadassah project, they asked her to co-chair a mask-making effort. She jumped at the chance, bringing Hadassah in as a partner.
In late March, she began a weekly sewing circle, making masks for friends and families — and to send to Beth Israel Lahey. That circle evolved into "A Stitch in Time," a webinar that features a striking picture of fourth-generation Hadassah member Jordan Conti (pictured here) — her daughter. In less than a week, more than 70 people registered for the first webinar. On May 6, Hadassah Metro hosted a session with 90 people, and more are in the works. "Hadassah is filled with amazing women who are creative and like to give back," she says.
Across the coast, Hadassah's K'helah Shel Nashim (KSN) Group in California has forged a new partnership to get food where it's needed most. Last month, they kicked off Feed Our Friends, working with Wildflour Bakery & Café to benefit the West Valley Food Bank and the Ventura County Rescue Mission. With careful social distancing, 52 members got involved in the effort, led by Susie Iazzetta and Gail Orens.
On May 1, a second Feed Our Friends event garnered 70 bags of canned goods for local food banks in the Conejo and San Fernando Valley.nd 70 bags of canned goods to local food banks in the Conejo and San Fernando Valley. Mobilized by Hadassah Southern California Northern Area Co-Presidents Cheryl Stark and Elise Feldscher, some 70 Hadassah members from the KSN, B’yachad, Hevra, Emek Ha Ilanot groups joined the effort.
Sisterhood Breaks Down Isolation
On the East Coast, the husband of a Hadassah Metro board member wanted to do something with Hadassah to help. What if the board members called older members who live alone and found out what they need, and he and other board husbands — some Associates, some not — did the grocery shopping and drop it off. And that's just what they did. One board member says these calls have been one of the top three things she's done in her life.
Greta Rothschild, president of Chicago-North Shore, says that right now, "we really need community, and Hadassah provides that community. We're a sisterhood." They're still connecting, sucessfully shifting to virtual programming."It's a new world. It's how we're going to be."
Along with all of the Hadassah Midwest regions and chapters, Hadassah Chicago-North Shore has been reaching out to isolated members through its We Care Wellness Check program. "Many are in the highest-risk groups, and we definitely want to make sure they're all right," she says. "It's scary out there when our world has been turned upside-down." Of all the We Care-Wellness Check calls she's made, one made a deep impact on her, to an older woman who lives alone. The two talked for a while, and have become friends — now exchanging Shabbat calls each week.
"Wellness works both ways," Greta says, choking up. "I think she gave me just as much as I gave her."
A Powerful Connection
Ashely is new to Hadassah, and first got involved on Momentum-Hadassah trip to Israel. It "sparked" something in her, part of why she's so happy to have found a Jewish way to respond to COVID-19.
That connection to Israel and Hadassah's hospitals runs deep for many members, especially now. "My husband and I visited recently," says Lisa Conti. "We saw the Round Building, where the COVID patients are now being treated. We know nurses need these supplies. We certainly can contribute to the health and wellness of people here. That's part of the Hadassah mission."
And for some members, the value of community in the height of a pandemic takes on new meaning, whether it's an online book club or a young women's virtual happy hour to talk about the Netflix show "Unorthodox."