Incoming Hadassah president Marcie Natan visits Twin Cities for Upper Midwest Region conference
By MORDECAI SPECKTOR
The Upper Midwest Region of Hadassah (covering Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa and Nebraska) held its spring conference April 30-May 1 at the Sheraton West Minneapolis. At the installation lunch on Sunday, Marcie Natan, the incoming president of the world’s largest Jewish women’s organization, delivered the keynote address.
Following the conference, Natan visited the American Jewish World offices. She was accompanied by Natalie Silverman, Hadassah national vice president and donor outreach chair, of Springfield, Ill.; and Debby Jewett, a Minneapolis resident and Israel Programs chair of Young Judaea, the Zionist youth movement of Hadassah.
Hadassah – The Women’s Zionist Organization of America is known for its support of Hadassah Medical Organization and its premier hospitals in Israel; but Hadassah also supports Youth Aliyah, a child rescue program that the group started in 1934.
Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold helped Recha Freier rescue tens of thousands of children from war-ravaged Eastern Europe. The children were originally settled in agricultural villages in pre-state Israel. Youth Aliyah, which operates three villages in Israel, now helps resettle children from Ethiopian and Russian immigrant families, as well as Israeli at-risk kids.
Natan’s keynote speech here discussed the work of Youth Aliyah, “a school of last resort for Israeli kids… who simply have not succeeded in the system” for various reasons.
“We take 160 of them; they study for nine months, then we take them on the March of the Living [to the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau],” explained Natan, who made the journey to Poland, with her husband, several years ago.
In addition to Youth Aliyah, Hadassah supports a four-year college in Jerusalem. Natan mentioned that this year marks the last time the college will offer a two-year technical course. Also, Hadassah operates Young Judaea camps, for those from ages eight to 18, and a gap-year, post-high school program in Israel.
“I think we have the best teachers,” Natan commented, regarding the Young Judaea instructors in Israel. “They are fabulous. They’re dedicated Zionists who know how to get the message across.”
Natan also mentioned that Hadassah is the single largest institutional contributor to the Jewish National Fund — the tree people — in Israel.
Natan, who has served on Hadassah’s national board and executive committee, served as president of the Eastern Pennsylvania Region (1989-1992). She chairs the board of Hadassah College Jerusalem. She will be installed as the Hadassah president at the organization’s national meeting in Las Vegas, which takes place July 12-13.
Looking ahead to 2012, Hadassah will celebrate its centennial anniversary in Jerusalem, with the October dedication of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower, a 14-story structure on the Ein Kerem campus. The state-of-the-art facility will have 500 beds, 20 operating rooms and a 50-bed intensive care unit.
Returning to the Upper Midwest Region, Natan praised the dedication of the local Hadassah volunteers.
“It’s a fabulous group of women,” she said, adding that Hadassah women are an exemplary cohort generally.
Natan allowed that in certain areas she encounters some “tension” or “competitiveness” in the Hadassah group.
“Here you come in and it’s like being wrapped in a warm blanket,” she commented. “It’s a very cohesive, embracing group of women, and associates — at lunch yesterday we had nine husbands and sons.”
Silverman added that there were also three babies that became Hadassah “life members.”
“No, one of them is not yet a life member,” Natan corrected. “I was very touched by that. Judy said that she would not make her new granddaughter a life member until after July, so that the certificate will have my signature on it.”
Natan, who posed for pictures with the baby, said that was a moment that she will always remember.
“That was my first real understanding that you’re going to be the president,” she said.
(American Jewish World, 5.13.11)
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