By Naomi Adler
Think for a moment about examples of Jewish women to whom you look for inspiration. Since I was named Hadassah's newest CEO/ED, some of the ones I respect (including matriarchs from my family and women of all ages) wrote to remind me of their personal connections to Hadassah. I am sure you are not surprised. For more than a century, Hadassah has trained tens of thousands of women to live our values and model incredible leadership, making sure our beloved organization is one of the largest membership organizations in the Jewish world strongly supporting Israel and raising significant tzedakah (charity/justice) to heal our world.
Yet some of my peers who reached out with words of congratulations had little knowledge of the depth and impact of our mission. In addition to becoming a great opportunity to educate (as well as invite them to become members), this experience reminded me of the important work ahead to ensure everyone feels included and invited to our Hadassah family.
At a time when our world faces so many crises and challenges, I am convinced that the leadership, intelligence and vision of women — especially Hadassah women — are desperately needed. Now, more than ever, our communities — local and global — need to hear Hadassah voices and learn our values, rooted in positivity, inclusivity and pluralism.
During my first few weeks here, I have learned so much about the incredible local, regional and national programming taking place almost every day throughout our country. There are unique opportunities for each of us to learn, donate, socialize and advocate. However, I have also learned that for various reasons, only 40% of our membership hears from us at Hadassah National via email or will get this message in their inbox. Why? Because we simply don’t have email addresses for far too many of our members.
One could just throw up one's hands, but that is definitely not the Hadassah way. Instead, we’re finding new ways to reach out. And this winter, we'll be encouraging all of our members to sign up for emails in our own award-winning Hadassah Magazine. We'll make it easy for them to sign up online (or by snail mail) — so they can share our pride, be inspired, find out new ways to get involved — and, most importantly, stay connected.
Over the next several months, Hadassah is setting up opportunities for top volunteer leadership and me to engage with groups of members throughout the country. At first, we will utilize virtual technology, creating opportunities for groups to meet and engage around important topics facing our organization. By early 2022, I hope to start traveling to as many regions as possible, learning more about how each group brings the power of Hadassah to their area and ways we can expand this engagement together.
We will also be capitalizing on new opportunities to reach out to current as well as prospective members in traditional and nontraditional places. A great example occurred just a few weeks ago, when Hadassah National President Rhoda Smolow was invited to speak as the representative of every major Jewish organization in America. With a backdrop of American and Israeli flags, Rhoda welcomed the Prime Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett, to a special gathering held in his honor by the Jewish Federations of North America. I couldn’t have been prouder to witness the moment when more than one hundred major leaders representing Jewish communities around the country heard her speak of Hadassah's impact around the world and our unwavering ties to Israel.
Finally, it is important to remember that in addition to the work we all must commit to do today, Judaism reminds all of us of our duties to seed the future. Do you remember the story from the Talmud about the older person who planted a carob tree — a species that would not bear fruit for at least 70 years? When asked why this type of tree was picked instead of one that could bear fruit within the elder’s lifetime, the answer was "Carob trees were here when I was born, planted by my family and their family... Now I plant trees for the enjoyment of my children and their children's children" (Talmud, Taanit 23a).
There’s a quote I love from a speech Rabbi Elka Abrahamson — President of The Wexner Foundation, and a close friend — gave to a group of just-ordained rabbis. She said, "Even as you must focus on the immediate demands of the day, it is incumbent upon you to consider innovative solutions for tomorrow."
I am excited and gratified by the opportunity to partner with each one of you on making Hadassah the best it can be today, while we ensure it is ready to help others tomorrow.
Each of us has a choice to make about how we assume our own place in our time. I'm so grateful so many of you have chosen to assume that place with Hadassah.