The delegation rabbis, a cantor and lay leaders issued a collective “wow” when they heard about the Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) creating emergency underground facilities at both its Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus campuses in a matter of days.
Three groups of religious and lay leaders from the United States and Canada visited Hadassah’s hospitals as part of leadership solidarity missions with the State of Israel. More than 50 delegates represented communities from all streams of Judaism from across New Jersey and New York and from Illinois, Maryland, California, Pennsylvania and Ontario.
“Our hearts are breaking for our brothers and sisters in Israel,” says Rabbi Ethan Prosnit from Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, NJ. “We feel very invested in and nervous about the future of Israel and we’re dedicated in solidarity with the people.”
Hadassah Offices in Israel (HOI) hosted the mission members, introducing participants to HMO staff, wounded soldiers and civilians.
“Hadassah has treated around 190 soldiers and civilians injured in the war,” HOI CEO Suzanne Patt Benvenisti told her audiences, expressing gratitude for their outpouring of emotional support.
She guided delegates around the soon-to-be-opened Gandel Rehabilitation Center, which will increase rehab bed numbers from the current 38 to 132. “The vision of building this center was so important. Now, because of the situation, we are speeding up its completion. Given current circumstances, demand is only going to grow.”
The groups were organized by The Jewish Federations of North America, the Rabbinic Council of America and The Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center.
Hadassah Mount Scopus Director Dr. Tamar Elram spoke of the unique role that organizational leaders must play at this time: “It’s not all about the building. It’s also about what’s in people’s hearts. And there’s a practical element too: What we don’t practice over and over in normal times won’t work in a crisis.”
The patients told their stories: the soldier shot while rescuing 32 soldiers, 14 wounded people, three civilian women and a baby all trapped by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Kissufim; the police officer shot during a gun battle with terrorists at the entrance to Kbbutz Nahal Oz; the nurse creating a Shabbat atmosphere in an army base shot while trying to save the lives of two wounded Israelis; and the middle-aged woman with serious leg injuries after she was hit by shrapnel from a rocket in a town near Jerusalem. All are patients of Hadassah Medical Organization’s hospitals in Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus.
“It’s different when you sit with people who went through that horrible day and who rescued others,” said Rabbi Annie Lewis of Shaare Torah synagogue in Gaithersburg, MD. “Then there’s the amazing medical team here, having gone through COVID, having been stretched in so many ways — the doctors, the nurses, the therapists, social workers — all doing remarkable work.”
After hearing one of the patients speak, Esther Ochana from the tour operator that brought many of the visitors to Israel asked to address the audience and their Hadassah hosts: “My brother-in-law was severely wounded in a terror attack while trying to save someone killed by the terrorist. He’s been treated at Mount Scopus’ rehabilitation center for more than a year. I can tell you, the work you are doing here is unbelievable. Thank you for the amazing job you are doing.”
On leaving the campus, one of the American organizers promised that the delegates would take these messages back to their congregations, to their pulpits on Shabbat and to their broader circle or personal connections and via social media.