Paula Mann
Hadassah Educators Council Steering Committee

An Added Gift from Hadassah: Lifelong Friendships

Pictured Left to Right: Laura Lebenkoff, Paula Mann, and Jill Goldstone at Hadassah Greater Philadelphia Region Education Day. Photo courtesy of the author.
Pictured Left to Right: Laura Lebenkoff, Paula Mann, and Jill Goldstone at Hadassah Greater Philadelphia Region Education Day. Photo courtesy of the author.
Pictured left to right: Paula Mann, Andrea Lichtman and Audrey Liss at Hadassah Convention in Philadelphia Old City. Photo courtesy of the author.
Hadassah members and lifelong friends Paula Mann, Ellen Cohen, Andi Leof Davidson, Cheryl Wipon and Debbie Grant at Beach Bunco Weekend in Margate, NJ. Photo courtesy of the author.

Through the years of my membership in Hadassah’s Newtown chapter in suburban Philadelphia, I have met many women who are dedicated to Hadassah and its mission. By the time I became president, the Newtown Chapter had grown to 1,000 members, but my story begins way before that.

After moving to the Philadelphia suburbs with two young children, I began looking for community connections. In 1987, I attended a program hosted by Newtown Hadassah called “A Taste of Israel.” I brought my 5-year-old son to “experience” the warmth of the Israeli sand and the blowing of its desert winds (actually a walk in a blown-up pool filled with sand and a fan blowing to simulate the desert winds). He tasted foods from Israel, listened to Israeli music and planted a tree in a cup, which he got to take home.

I met many women that day who had the same goals as I did: to forge strong connections with the land and people of Israel and to help our youngsters learn about Israel and develop their own Jewish identity. Little did I know then that I was going to establish lifelong friendships with those women. This was Hadassah’s added gift to me.

Over the years, I have attended many Hadassah meetings, programs and conventions. I also went on a mission to Israel.

One day, someone from Newtown Hadassah asked if I could “sub in” for a mahjong game. Of course I could. I learned that these women were all very supportive of Hadassah; some were even past presidents. I ended up playing mahjong and canasta regularly with them. We went on spa trips together and annually attended a “Beach Bunco” (a beach-themed evening of fun) at a friend’s home on the New Jersey Shore.

I love my Hadassah friends. They are bright, nonjudgmental, caring, beautiful women. They are kind, supportive, loving and family-oriented women who will go the extra mile for each other. Yes, we connect for social reasons, but there is so much more to our relationships.

My group of Hadassah “besties” makes sure to add a “Hadassah Moment” at meetings to educate and inspire each other with news of Hadassah’s impact. We attend Education Day as part of the Hadassah Greater Philadelphia Region’s programming. Often, I can find a few women who will, at a moment’s notice, join me at a rally to support one of Hadassah’s many initiatives concerning issues important to women.

For Hanukkah this year, instead of having a gift exchange, we collected money to support the Hadassah Medical Organization’s two research hospitals in Jerusalem. My friends’ values align with being “good people.” Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold would be proud to be part of my group of friends! They care about global events and they rock and change the world for the better! I am so very proud of each and every one of them.

On many Sunday mornings, we take walks together. Besides sharing news about our personal lives, we often talk about Israel, which we care deeply about, and tikkun olam (repairing the world). Since some have children who have made Aliyah, a common discussion topic is when my friends will be going to visit their kids in Israel.

Often, when out to dinner together, we go around the table, one by one, sharing our ideas about a particular topic. There are 18 of us. It’s ironic, since the number 18 is so special to Jews, adding up to chai (life) in Hebrew numerology.  And these women are all very special in my life!

Our group has a “text thread” through which we welcome new grandchildren, send birthday wishes, share the latest news and information about books or movies and offer support during challenging times.

Hadassah is more than an organization to us. It is where we found each other and have come to know that strong bond which grows among Hadassah friends.

A bond can begin with playing card games or attending a fashion show, but what makes this bond extra meaningful is that Hadassah provides a vehicle for caring women to give back, to have a greater impact as part of a powerful organization—and to do that in the company of special friends.

Together, we support the Hadassah Medical Organization and its new Gandel Rehabilitation Center, Hadassah’s youth villages and many other Hadassah initiatives in Israel and the US. We advocate for women’s health equity and empower all women across the country to live healthier lives.

Put your passion into action. There is so much work to be done. Let Hadassah help you get connected and feel empowered.

Learn more about being a Hadassah member by clicking here. You can also contact the Membership Office at or 800.664.5646.

About the Author
Paula Mann, a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle, currently serves on the Steering Committee of Hadassah’s Educators Council. She has been active in Hadassah for many years, first as Membership Chair then President of the Newtown, PA Chapter where she also ran the program “Women Daring to Make a Difference.” Paula is also active on the regional level of Hadassah Greater Philadelphia where she co-chaired Membership and the Hadassah Initiative Leadership Training program and co-chaired an Advanced Leadership Training program. Previously, she was co-chair of Hadassah Greater Philadelphia’s Domestic Advocacy initiative. She recently planned "A Date with the State" where sixty Hadassah members traveled to Harrisburg, PA to advocate for legislation in line with Hadassah's priorities combatting antisemitism and all hate crimes, as well as advocating on behalf of women’s health. Paula is the recipient of the Hannah L. Goldberg Award on behalf of Hadassah Greater Philadelphia for the region's "Anti-Semitism in Your Backyard" joint event with Gratz College. She joined Hadassah in 1988 and was given a Life Membership as a birthday gift from her husband. Paula's children and grandchildren are also Life Members of Hadassah. Professionally, Paula is a retired New Jersey Public School special education teacher and reading specialist, having taught middle school students for thirty years. Today, Paula is a dyslexia therapist, currently tutoring private students. Paula lived in Israel for a year and recently visited Israel on a Hadassah Mission. As an advocate for Holocaust education in New Jersey, one of five states in the United States mandated to teach the Holocaust, Paula was inspired by a visit to Yad V’Shem, Israel’s largest Holocaust Memorial. In Paula’s spare time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, volunteering, playing Mahjong, and traveling. A recent visit to the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Building at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem confirmed Paula’s drive and commitment to Hadassah’s core mission: repairing the world and building a bridge to peace.
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