Our Passion and Purpose Can Help Shape 5781

Thursday, Oct 1 2020

Hadassah National President Rhoda Smolow

By Rhoda Smolow

After looking back during the High Holy Days, we look ahead. As we do both, I’d like to share with you these words from my President’s Column in the latest edition of Hadassah Magazine.

Renewal, reflection, family, hope—the High Holiday season has been all of this. But this year has been different. The calendar tells us that 5781 will begin the same way as other years, yet our inner clocks still can’t tell when Emergency Time ends and Renewal Time begins.

Comparing what we couldn’t do with what we have accomplished is dizzying. But the confluence of crises has also evoked memories and lessons from the arc of Jewish experience…. As we enter a New Year drawn neatly on the calendar, our actual renewal is stretched over time as crisis overlaps with post-crisis. Perhaps this is normal—an example of what was meant by the Mishnah sage Rabbi Tarfon in Pirkei Avot: You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.

As we each make our personal commitments to playing our part in 5781, I know that I feel a renewed sense of pride, passion and purpose in being part of something bigger: Hadassah, the vehicle through which we come together to help heal our world.

I hope you’ll commit to taking action with me -- and joining forces -- in 5781. For Israel, for women’s health, for voter turnout, for fighting antisemitism and hate. For the generations to come.

#HadassahVotes: Online and Energized
This year, it’s easier than ever to help get out the vote with Hadassah. You don’t need to be an expert to join our Hadassah team on Motivote. You’ll find everything you need to register, navigate your state’s voter laws, get your friends registered and involved, and make sure we see the largest turnout of women voters of all time. Hadassah is proud to be participating in Vision2020Votes, a national, nonpartisan effort to mobilize voters for the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.

Holding Israel in Our Hearts
It’s hard to be the president of Hadassah and not be on the ground in Israel, yet I know that our hearts are always with Israel -- especially as the nation faces a devastating second wave of COVID. On Monday, Haaretz reported a “death toll at 1,499, and 2,092 new cases were diagnosed, as the country paused for the Yom Kippur holiday.” Adding more beds to cope, our teams continue to fight on the frontlines. On Tuesday morning, Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem was treating 121 COVID-19 patients, with 25 in the ICU.

Yet we remain hopeful that the clinical trial for a vaccine starting at Hadassah this October will save lives in the years ahead. And we're so proud to share inspiring Israel stories in The Branch, our monthly podcast about Jews and Arabs in Israel forging connections, even when it’s complicated.

Advancing Women's Health
In Judaism, saving a life is one of the most important mitzvahs (good deeds). With October’s arrival this week, we’ll start seeing waves of pink, and be reminded of how important Hadassah’s domestic education and awareness initiatives are when it comes to women’s health -- not just around breast cancer, but for heart health, diabetes, infertility, women’s health equity and racial justice.

Fighting Antisemitism

We had a huge success in 5780 with the passage of the Never Again Education Act. Now, as we see continued acts of hate and antisemitism, we cannot stop our push to bring Holocaust education to more children in America’s schools.

Lifting Up Women’s Voices
Above are just a few of the many places where we’ll focus our energies in the new year. As we mourn Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, life member of Hadassah and hero to me and countless others, so many of her words and deeds stand out. As we continue our work of healing the world and empowering women to effect change, we’d all do well to remember that, as she said, "Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time." 

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