Op-Ed: The Hadassah you know has not changed


NEW YORK (JTA) — They say that all publicity is good, as long as they spell your name correctly. That may or may not be true, but certainly it is the case that Hadassah has been in the news a lot lately.

One widely reported story was about doctors at the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem who used a revolutionary technique to quickly diagnose liver failure for Jessa Perrin, an American teenager visiting Israel. Their timely diagnosis and coordination with doctors at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York saved Jessa’s life.

Many news outlets noted that Hadassah representatives were at the White House when President Obama signed the executive order approving stem-cell research, an issue on which Hadassah has taken a leadership role for years.

The Israeli media reported recently that construction of the new Hadassah medical tower in Jerusalem has shifted to 24 hours a day.

And yes, Hadassah has been dragged into a scandalous story about events from the 1990s, when we were victimized by unscrupulous people. This last story may have even made some people wonder about the Hadassah they thought they knew.

If you belong to a Jewish community, or if you know anything about the Jewish community, you do know something about Hadassah.

We are visible in Washington whenever one of our signature issues — confidentiality of genetic information and women’s health in addition to stem-cell research — is being discussed. We are a pillar of every Jewish community in America and have a presence in every one of the nation’s 435 congressional districts. Our name pops up routinely in the prose of Jewish novelists and the monologues of Jewish comedians.

Before American women had the right to vote, Hadassah was organizing Jewish women to make a difference in the world and to take their seats at the table of Jewish leadership — even if the men who led the community weren’t ready for them. Hadassah transformed the role of Jewish women and remains one of the most influential forces on the American Jewish scene today.

You probably know something about our medical institutions in Jerusalem, which have a reach that extends to all of Israel and a reputation that circles the globe. In addition to our hospitals, which are pacesetters in treatment and research, we also run Israel’s premier nursing school and, with Hebrew University, its most prestigious medical school.

For more than 70 years, Hadassah’s residential schools have helped Israel absorb and educate thousands of immigrant children — from Germany in the 1930s, and from Ethiopia and Russia in recent years.

From the first two nurses we dispatched to Jerusalem in 1913 to the new tower rising today, the women of Hadassah have been an integral part of the building of Israel. Throughout its history, Hadassah has sent billions of dollars to Israel.

But it’s not just about dollars or about building. Hadassah is an all-volunteer army of 300,000 members and supporters dedicated to strengthening the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Many organizations and millions of dedicated people have contributed to Israel’s growth, but few have been so influential for as long as the women of Hadassah. But despite our record of success, we are constantly looking at our management and business procedures, always striving to improve.

Like any well-run organization, Hadassah periodically retains outside, independent consultants to review our procedures and to ensure we operate as efficiently as possible. Our goal is to thrive not only in good times, but also to weather new challenges, unpredictable markets and a changing regulatory environment. We consider every dollar we raise a sacred trust.

An organization as dynamic as Hadassah, with a full agenda for continuing the work we began 97 years ago, will not be distracted by a few scandalous headlines, or descriptions of events that happened years ago and for which we bear no responsibility.

We are confident that our friends and supporters in America, Israel and around the world won’t be distracted either. We trust that you will look at the permanence of Hadassah’s institutions on the landscape versus momentary gossip and draw the right conclusion: The Hadassah you thought you knew a few weeks ago is indeed the real Hadassah.

(Nancy Falchuk is the national president of Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization of America.)


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