By Rhoda Smolow & Naomi Adler
In her poem "The Feast of Lights," the 19th-century poet Emma Lazarus calls for joy in remembering the Maccabees' eventual victory. "Kindle the taper like the steadfast star // Ablaze on evening's forehead o'er the earth, // And add each night a lustre till afar // An eightfold splendor shine above thy hearth," she writes. "Chant psalms of victory till the heart takes fire, The Maccabean spirit leap new-born."
An outspoken (and early) Zionist, Emma is perhaps best known for the snippet of the poem she wrote that's inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, "The New Colossus," a call of compassion and welcome to those seeking freedom, making Lady Liberty's torch a true beacon of light.
We know the story of Hanukkah is a somber one, rooted in persecution and destruction, reminding us of the darkness we’ve survived and the resiliency of the Jewish people. Yet the Festival of Lights focuses on the rededication of the Second Temple, on the light that shone brightly, against all odds, despite the destruction and attacks on the Jews. During Hanukkah, we may literally feast on latkes, but as we do, we feast spiritually and metaphorically on light.
In the face of the many challenges we encountered in 2022, Hadassah has been a light, bringing hope and healing where they're needed. In this spirit, please join us in looking back at eight shining Hadassah moments from 2022.
- Hundreds of women from around the world came together online for Hadassah's first one-day virtual women's conference The Power of Purpose, focused on helping women find their purpose through advocacy, health, Israel and empowerment.
- When bombs began raining down on Ukraine, Hadassah, the Hadassah Medical Organization and Hadassah International sent the first humanitarian medical delegation to Poland, partnering with a trauma hospital in Lublin. Ultimately, 15 Hadassah medical delegations went to Poland, setting up a medical clinic on the Ukraine border, collaborating with the World Health Organization and others to treat 31,000 Ukrainian refugees. In Israel, 55 young war refugees were given a new and safe start at our Youth Aliyah villages. Thank you to everyone who helped us raise nearly $1.7 million.
- We spoke out for pluralism in Israel, voicing our concern about news that then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government would not implement the 2016 agreement to set up a permanent space for egalitarian prayer beside the Western Wall. And we spoke out against antisemitism, including as a proud partner this Hanukkah of the Shine A Light initiative to fight antisemitism by helping define it.
- The Hadassah Medical Organization announced the first objective evidence that stem cells injected into the central nervous system can improve life for people with multiple sclerosis and ALS. And this month, scientists at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem have become the first in the world to create male and female stem cells from the same person with the exact same genetic code, a breakthrough that will allow researchers to study how gender differences affect health care.
- We invited our members and supporters to get to know the amazing young women who make up our first cohort of Evolve Hadassah Fellows, a special cohort of young members from across the country who will lead the next generation at Hadassah.
- Hadassah's Meir Shfeyah's Youth Aliyah Village set a record for enrollment, welcoming 678 students on the first day of this Youth Village school that, along with Hadassah Neurim, serves at-risk youth, refugees from Ukraine and young immigrants. Defying the teacher shortage plaguing schools everywhere, Meir Shfeyah received praise from the Ministry of Education for being the only youth village in Israel to be fully staffed.
- For #Hadassah4Choice we mobilized before and after the Supreme Court released its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, overruling the precedent set by Roe v. Wade. Hadassah CEO Naomi Adler delivered a powerful speech at the Jewish reproductive rights rally in Washington, DC, which Hadassah helped sponsor, drawing 2,000 activists from nearly 150 organizations. You mobilized and educated, including at our Road Beyond Roe event with feminist powerhouse Letty Cottin Pogrebin, and by fighting bans on access to reproductive health care at the state level — and winning.
- The Hadassah pride, passion and purpose that guides my leadership was evident in every part of Together in Israel: Our Pride. Our Purpose. Hadassah's 100th National Convention. There's one moment of total joy and celebration that will always stay with me — when all of the hundreds of attendees at Convention made a stop at the Haas Promenade, which many of you know overlooks Jerusalem with panoramic views. We danced together and sang Hatikvah. There was so much to celebrate — our impact, our return, being in Jerusalem, together, again. After all, it's always the people, our Hadassah family, who make our events and our endeavors — big and small — so impactful.
You, our extended Hadassah family, made this all possible. It's so meaningful to celebrate, to revel in the light. As we light our Hanukkah candles this year, the days are short and 2022 draws to a close. We hope you'll join us in finding joy despite darkness, and that, in Emma Lazarus's words, your heart will take fire.