COVER STORYNovember 2021

Hadassah: The Power of Women Who Do

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By Andrea Roberts, Deena Feinman, and Audrey Levine

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. (HWZOA), is the largest Jewish women’s organization in the United States, with nearly 300,000 members, associates, and supporters. Here in San Diego, there are over 2,100 members and groups for women of all ages.

Hadassah’s three pillars are: Empower women to advocate, build strong leadership and community, and advance health and well-being. It’s an organization where you can meet and connect with a diverse group of women, participate in a wide variety of activities, attend enlightening programs, join books or play Mah Jongg, and have fun. Hadassah trains leaders and affords opportunities to people worldwide.

Hadassah is usually associated with Hadassah’s Hospitals in Israel, its research, medical breakthroughs, advancements in women’s and children’s health, and medical care. Hadassah does create “miracles”, but in more ways than just medicine. Hadassah works to combat anti-Semitism, strengthen bonds with Israel, prevent human trafficking, and creates opportunities for youth and families. Hadassah advocacy supports a legislative agenda that puts values into action.

One such miracle is Mayar’s story. Gaza resident Nourhan noticed an unusual white stain in her baby daughter’s eye. The diagnosis was a rare aggressive eye cancer. Numerous ophthalmologists concurred that there was no other choice but to remove the eye. Noura was devastated but wouldn’t give up. She took Mayar to Hadassah Hospital. Within three days, the Endovascular Neurosurgery and Stroke Unit team performed a procedure focusing chemotherapy directly to the tumor. It was a success. The eye was saved and Mayar could see.

“It’s impossible to describe the emotions we experience and satisfaction we derive when we give this news to a family,” said ophthalmologist Shahar Frankel. “The team here at Hadassah not only saves sight and heals difficult and complicated medical conditions, but we also serve as a bridge between peoples.”

Leading The Way In Medicine, Research, And Care

Over its 109-year history, Hadassah women have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to grow Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) from a small nursing clinic into two world-renowned academic research hospitals in Jerusalem, with a diverse staff that treats over one million patients per year regardless of race, religion, nationality, or ethnicity. Hadassah Hospital plays a major role in caring for people in the Middle East as it’s one of the region’s only Level One trauma centers. When disaster strikes anywhere in the world, Hadassah medical teams are there. In 2005, Hadassah was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for building “bridges to peace” through medicine.

Hadassah Hospital, Ein Kerem shares a campus and collaboration with Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine. All signs throughout the hospital are in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, and the hospital treats anyone. Israeli and Palestinian patients share rooms, where visiting family members sit together, united in having a loved one who is ill. The hospital has a 19-story in-patient tower with 5 floors of underground state-of-the-art surgical suites sheltered deep in the Jerusalem hillside and fortified against conventional, biological, and chemical warfare. The hospital is also home to the beautiful Marc Chagall stained-glass windows in the Abell Synagogue.

Hadassah volunteers can be found in 28 countries, including China, Japan, and Russia. The universal language of medicine allows Hadassah International to establish research and clinical ventures between Hadassah Medical Center and medical institutions worldwide.

Says Hadassah’s new National CEO Naomi Adler, “Every single day, what they do there makes peace as a true expression of tikkun olam, repairing the world.”

Fighting Anti-Semitism

A major focus of Hadassah is fighting anti-Semitism. Hadassah led the effort to secure the signing of the Never Again Education Act. It ensures we never forget the tragedy of the Holocaust, that students will learn its lessons of tolerance, and that educators will be better prepared to teach this critical subject matter accurately and confidently.

Hadassah has been involved in the wording and content of ethnic studies curriculums and in urging the UN to ensure greater accountability of educational materials being used worldwide.

Youth Aliyah — Caring for Youth In Need

Hadassah’s Youth Aliyah program supports two youth villages in Israel, Meir Shfeyah and Hadassah Neurim. More than 300,000 young students from 80 lands have been housed, educated, and graduated from these villages over the last 87 years. Youth Aliyah helps educate, feed, counsel, and provide shelter and multiple social supportive services for at-risk Israelis, young immigrants, and children from countries where it is no longer safe to be a Jew. Recently, the children and teens have come from Russia and Ethiopia, as well as from dysfunctional or poor families. At the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Tokyo, one of Hadassah’s Youth Aliyah graduates carried the flag for the Refugee Olympic Team.

Protecting the health of families

The challenges of infertility on families are acute. Hadassah is expanding infertility awareness and education for policymakers. Certain conditions that cause infertility are more prevalent in the Jewish community, and a higher incidence of genetic mutations—including BRCA—increases the need for fertility preservation and other treatments. Hadassah is on the forefront of genetic disease research.

Women’s health is a foundation of Hadassah’s focus. Women often present different symptoms or incidence rates for diseases and react differently to drugs, medical devices, and treatments than men. Understanding how diseases impact women and men differently, supporting the medical community in gathering information, and improving research, education, and screening for diseases are essential for better health outcomes.

Partnering for Health

For decades the US and Israel have collaborated in medical partnerships. Hadassah was an advocate for an innovative US-Israel medical partnership that advanced the detection, treatment, and prevention of COVID-19.

Hadassah champions the United States-Israel Collaborative Research Act to better diagnose and treat patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. Hadassah Hospitals have been leading efforts to expand PTSD research and treatment options, has conducted research examining the impact of PTSD in Israeli Defense Force soldiers, and done comprehensive studies analyzing the impact of childhood trauma into adulthood, specifically in regard to biological and DNA changes in those who experienced trauma at a young age.

Hadassah and Momentum Inspire Younger Women

Hadassah’s partnership with Momentum provides an opportunity to experience a deep connection and love for Israel and connect with one’s Jewish heritage. The goal is to inspire women and create bonds that transform their lives, their families, and their communities. Women under 50, with children living at home, are eligible. This year-long journey includes self-exploration, experiences in Israel, and Jewish learning. It includes a free 8-day trip (airfare not included) to Israel from November 28 to December 6, 2022. Participants build relationships with pre-trip gatherings and continue their experience and learning in monthly educational and social gatherings once they return.

Says Joan Rosenberg, Co-President of Hadassah San Diego, “The women of Hadassah believe that each of us has the power to make an impact. Together, we can effect change by advocating on critical issues concerning Israel, the Jewish people, and women’s health equity. Hadassah helps change lives through medicine, advocacy, and education. This is just a morsel of what we do and who we are! This is the organization of The Power of Women Who Do!”

To learn more about Hadassah, visit www.hadassah.org. For Hadassah membership and programs, contact Deena Feinman, Director, Hadassah West Coast, 858-243-8575, dfeinman@hadassah.org.

Sidebar

Hadassah’s “Fab 5” Multi-Region Conference Comes to San Diego

Hadassah’s “Fab 5” is a time to reconnect with old friends and make new ones, listen to inspiring keynote speakers, and attend a wide variety of workshop sessions. Join the “fabulous” members of Hadassah’s 5 regions west of the Mississippi at the San Diego Hilton, Mission Valley. Celebrate the accomplishments and breakthroughs Hadassah has made in medicine, women’s health, advocacy, Youth Aliyah, and so much more. Pre and post conference events are being planned. The conference runs from Friday, February 25-27, 2022. Discounted rooms are available. Conference registration is now open. For information, contact Fab5@hadassah.org.

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