For Emily Shrode and Emily Godsey, the past year is one they can look back on with pride — because of Hadassah.
As the Jewish year 5783 came to a close, Shrode, 25, and Godsey, 37, were wrapping up their first year in Hadassah’s two-year Evolve Leadership Fellows program for women 45 and under. Both members of the program’s inaugural cohort, Shrode and Godsey have been developing professional leadership skills and building relationships with leaders and young women within their communities. Through Evolve, they’re beginning their Hadassah journeys, helping to champion Hadassah’s mission of healing the world, which is more important than ever, as Israel grapples with the terror and horror of its war with Hamas.
“Unspeakable things happened to the people of Israel on October 7,” said Shrode. "What gave me a glimmer of hope on October 8 was knowing that I get to play a role in Hadassah. I knew that I was able to lean on my Hadassah community for comfort. And I knew that the Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) was already hard at work healing the people wounded by these acts of terror. My actions in this crisis support Hadassah, which directly impacts HMO staff, who are on the frontlines helping the people that come through the doors of Hadassah’s hospitals.”
The stories of Shrode and Godsey’s initial connections to Hadassah coincide. They both sought out Jewish community. And they both found it in Hadassah.
Shrode, currently of Austin, TX, did not grow up Jewish. She turned to Judaism for the embrace of a safe, supportive community following an abusive relationship that left her with no one to turn to. Before discovering Hadassah, Shrode had worked summers at a Jewish day camp and was a resident of her local Moishe House in Austin.
A chance meeting with Julie Van Keer, president of Hadassah’s Austin Chapter, planted the seed that would grow into a Hadassah journey. Just 20 minutes after they met, Julie recognized the Hadassah spark in Shrode and invited her to serve on the chapter’s Board — a pleasant surprise, as Shrode had yet to become a member. And then someone gifted her with a one-year membership.
Three months in, Shrode was invited to partake in the Evolve Leadership Fellows program, during which “so many great opportunities have come my way,” she said. Within her first year, she traveled to Israel for the first time as part of the program, began publishing articles to share her Hadassah experiences and attended Hadassah’s National Assembly Meeting in Chicago in July. Shrode hopes to start a local Evolve presencein her area so other young women can be part of a community of like-minded women. “I love being a part of this village that drives our mission, and this is the first time in my life that I’ve truly found sisterhood,” said Shrode, who spoke at a breakout Engagement session during the National Assembly Meeting.
Beyond opportunities and community, Hadassah’s mission to heal the world keeps Shrode invested. In fact, she became an annual donor after learning how Hadassah’s Youth Aliyah villages provide young immigrants and at-risk native Israelis with a full spectrum of help.
For Emily Godsey of Jacksonville, FL, being a part of Hadassah means being a part of a community where everyone feels empowered.
Looking for Jewish community after moving to Jacksonville during COVID-19, Godsey joined a Zoom program with Hadassah and the Mayo Clinic in Florida, where she worked. This simple act of supporting her colleagues turned out to be the pathway to the Jewish community she was seeing. Through direct messages during the program, Hadassah’s Jacksonville Chapter president, Goldie Lansky, welcomed her and told her about Hadassah’s mission. Godsey enrolled in a one-year Hadassah membership the next day. She worked with Goldie on utilizing grant funds to set up events for young women in her community. She was then selected as an Evolve Leadership Fellow, and she became a life member.
“I keep loving and welcoming every person who walks through the door, regardless of what makes them different from you,” said Godsey, who, with her wife, Brook, has three children: Anna, Daphne and Dock.
For her, Hadassah’s spirit of inclusion has been paramount. “My family may look different than yours, but it’s a beautiful one,” says Godsey, who also spoke in Chicago. “My sexuality and family structure have never been things to consider when it came to being involved.”
Godsey’s time as a Fellow so far has been nothing but rewarding. “I have had an incredible journey as part of the Evolve Leadership Fellows program. I traveled to Israel for the first time. I have made lifelong friends,” said Godsey. The Evolve Leadership Fellows is also the catalyst for her robust future with Hadassah, with her having gained a deep understanding of how Hadassah functions and of the beauty of Hadassah’s vision. “I have started to see a clear path for my continued involvement with Hadassah.” She aims to help propel the organization forward in a meaningful way, building support for the Hadassah Medical Organization and getting involved at the local level, too.
Toward the end of their first year as Fellows, Shrode and Godsey had each been paired with a mentor, a local or national leader, who is helping each of them find their place in Hadassah.
While Shrode and Godsey continue their journeys, a new class of young women is just beginning theirs. The second cohort kicked off their two-year program with meetings and team building at Hadassahofficesin New York City.
Hadassah’s Evolve Leadership Fellows is a two-year national Evolve Hadassah: The Next Generation project aimed at creating a pipeline of leadership within Hadassah and providing leadership skills for young women that will carry over to their professional lives and local communities. Each Evolve Leadership Fellows cohort consists of ten to twelve women, 45 and under, from communities across the US. The women are nominated by a local leader, apply and are interviewed to be accepted into the program. The Fellows meet in person and virtually, participate in an opening program, travel to Israel and partake in a closing program.