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Hadassah, Henrietta, and Me

12 May 2010 3 Comments

Pillar of Peace: Cross-cultural Understanding

Commentary by Liora Herman, Marketing and Outreach Manager

The Women's Zionist Org of AmericaI have grown up a child of Hadassah, the women’s Zionist movement, without knowing its full history or the impact it has had on the development of the Jewish State, and more importantly the role of healing―physically, mentally, and emotionally―it has played in the global Jewish Community.

Upon birth every child in my family, including my brother, received a lifetime membership to Hadassah as a gift. And it is truly the gift that keeps on giving. The February/March issue of Hadassah Magazine, “Hadassah: The Road to 100,” includes articles detailing “how the world was changed because of the organization [Hadassah] and the women who built it”. One of these articles was written by a close Peace X Peace friend, Barbara Sofer.

Having met Barbara in 2008 when she came for the Washington, DC launch of Sixty Years, Sixty Voices: Israeli and Palestinian Women,I knew I was going to read something well written and thought provoking. But little did I know that her magazine essay was going to cause tears in my eyes and a sense of pride coupled with a need to take action and get my tush off the couch.

Barbara’s article, “Letter from Jerusalem: Hadassah Horizon”, will be featured as a Voice from the Frontlines, reprinted with her permission.

Yeah, yeah, I’m only 24, I have a lot of life ahead of me. But I want to make big change NOW. I am constantly struggling to find my place, my purpose and my higher calling. Kudos to Katie Spotz (featured in our April PeaceTimes) for finding hers (shameless plug 1)! But my passions are being pulled in so many directions I find it hard to choose. And I can’t do them all.  Or can I?

I only have patience for so much self-reflection. I am the kind of person who thrives on the energy of others. So naturally I go bouncing my ideas off of family, friends, colleagues, and the overly cheery Starbucks guy.  The great thing about a network―check out ours at (shameless plug 2) is that you never realize the potential that exists until you dive in. So, a few weeks ago, I began tapping my network. Oh, and the floodgates overwhelmed me with opinions and ideas.  My parents learned long ago they could never tell me to do anything a particular way. I am so self-determined that only suggestions, opinions, and experiences will be welcome. But sometimes, when I am making that life-changing decision, I wish someone would tell me what to do. Learn about my most recent life-changing experience in “The Economics of Change” (shameless plug 3).

So here I go again, trying to weigh my options. Well now that I think about it, maybe others have made similar choices in their lives. Didn’t the women who lived 40, 60, 100 years before me struggle with similar decisions? The internet really hasn’t changed everything.

Founder of Hadassah

I am sure Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah, had her own life dramas. She grew up in Baltimore as one of eight daughters. I am one of three children and we always fought over the mirror and the sink, so I can’t image eight. There is so much information about her life and work, but I want to know: How did she handle peer pressure? Body image issues? Boys?  Szold was a great woman who opened many doors for women in Judaism, but if I were to sit down with her today, I would want to know if she knew her path was groundbreaking at the time. Or did she just follow her heart?

And how do I know what my own heart is saying? Sometimes I feel so fickle. The decisions I am about to make feel daunting.  I want to make a big difference and I feel that I am destined for something greater, but what happens if I don’t find the path? What if I chose to make the leap, but I don’t land on my feet? I want my life to be filled with love, charity, passion, growth, adventure, and satisfaction. Henrietta Szold’s work impacted the lives of many, Jewish and Arab alike. She saved some 22,000 Jewish children from Hitler’s concentration camps. But did she find her work fulfilling? Was she happy? Was she loved?

For many, Hadassah provides a congregation for community service and socialization. It is a place where history breathes and the future is full of promise. Szold’s impact on feminism in the Jewish community and her part in the development of Israel is immeasurable and ever present. But what lessons can I learn from her and apply to MY life?

I look to these changemakers of past and women of the present for guidance. I want to “grow-up” to be a peacebuilder. But now, as I stand at the head of two paths, do you have answers for me? Or do I just have to plunge down one hoping its right? The time for considerations is over. I have to choose. And the choice will change my life.

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3 Comments to “Hadassah, Henrietta, and Me”
  1. Deborah Goodleman says:

    Liora my friend!

    You will not make a mistake, as long as you follow your heart. New adventures are always hard. I wish I had been brave enough to even consider your choices! The best part of your twenties is you can always change your mind and go back to the other path! OK? So I vote 1 2 3 close your eyes and just JUMP!

    You will always have my support and love.


  2. Rob M. says:

    hello, great article;-)…it’s so important to appreciate & understand all the positive aspects of what has gone before us, whether Hadassah or other groups, that play such an heroic role…and especially a behind the scenes role in so many cases!..
    This is even more meaningful with respect to building bridges for peace & solid-respect/relations such as in the MidEast where so many organizations have allies & members that conflict w/ various peace roles such that only by shedding light on their positive work will we be able to gain trust between conflicted groups/nations who distrust each other & each other’s allies, NGOs, etc..
    BTW, keep up ur work & as far as taking a career path, WELL just keep your SUPPORT SYSTEMS as strong as possible & then move toward whichever goals/path/work that really seems worthwhile & you’ll no doubt be successful in ur ventures, p3ace, Rob

  3. Rachelle Pachtman says:

    Great piece Liora. And YOU are the one who is inspiring me on my own path as a baby boomer seeking how to make my years count! Go Liora!

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