Emily Shrode
Hadassah Evolve Leadership Fellow

Hadassah Chose Me

Hadassah Evolve Leadership Fellows in Israel (author seated on far right). Photo courtesy of Hadassah.
Thye author (right) and Alison Klein at Hadassah ATX booth at the Israel@75 celebration. Photo courtesy of the author.
The author at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of the author.

“What is Hadassah?” was my first thought a little over a year ago, the day I became a member. Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, an impressive non-profit with hundreds of chapters around the country, is the largest Jewish women’s organization in the United States.

The women who make up Hadassah accomplish many things, such as advocating for women’s reproductive rights and fighting antisemitism! Together, we also fundraise to support the medical miracles that take place at the Hadassah Medical Organization, Hadassah’s medical center in Israel.

Hadassah means a lot of things to a lot of people. To most people in Israel, Hadassah is a hospital system that not only saves lives but also makes great strides in medical research and technology.

Many Hadassah leaders and members are part of families that have been involved with Hadassah for generations. As for little ol’ me?  I am a first-generation Hadassah. To take this one step further, I am a convert to Judaism. So how did I go from not even knowing what Hadassah was to becoming one of its young leaders?

Unexpected Beginnings
It was a Sunday morning in January 2022. The sun shone brightly, and the weather felt uncommonly warm. I and my roommates from Austin’s Moishe House, an organization for young Jews, had been invited last-minute to tour the facilities of the Dell Jewish Community Center, which were under construction at the time. The other people on the tour were local leaders of other Jewish organizations in the Central Texas area.

We all wore hard hats and walked around the construction site that was soon to house the Jewish community center for Central Texas. During the tour, I found myself walking next to a short woman with a sharp mind. That woman was Julie Van Keer, president of the Hadassah Austin Chapter. We naturally got to talking about our roles in the local Jewish community. Julie spoke passionately about Hadassah, its the mission and what the amazing women who are its members accomplish.

Within 20 minutes of meeting each other, Julie had offered me a position on the board of the Austin chapter. I hadn’t even signed up to become a member yet! But I eagerly accepted. That afternoon, I went online to sign up for membership.

Before I could click on the registration button to pay my dues, Julie called to tell me that someone had anonymously gifted me with a year’s membership! I felt so wanted and taken care of. Since then, my role on the board has been to support programming and communications for my local chapter.

Evolving and Growing
Not even three months into being a Hadassah member, I was selected to become an Evolve Leadership Fellow. This selective two-year leadership-building program has enabled me grow my leadership skills. I have also made lasting friendships with nine other strong Hadassah women from across the country whom I never would have met without this opportunity.

An important part being an Evolve Leadership Fellow was making a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Israel last November!

Through Evolve and my involvement with Hadassah, I have found sisterhood and garnered respect by establishing myself as a leader in the Austin Jewish community.

Hadassah really invested in me and that is why I invest my time in Hadassah!

And What Now?
I remain part of Hadassah and an Evolve Leadership Fellow. I plan on being part of Hadassah for the rest of my life. In February, I became a life member. Now the question is, how do I make a difference in the work of such an outstanding organization?

Well, first, change must begin with the world around you and I feel that the biggest issue in many people’s lives is isolation. By starting an Evolve Leadership Fellows initiative in my area, I will create a space for young Zionist women to come together. The goal of this initiative is to fight the loneliness that we all can feel at times.

And my dreams don’t end there! I am passionate about fighting human trafficking. Is that a good fit for Hadassah? I don’t know yet.  But I know that being part of Hadassah is truly the right path for me.

Hadassah does so much domestically and, through its internal arm, internationally to heal the world! And I am thrilled to be part of it! I am also thrilled that my dear Hadassah friend Julie Van Keer has chosen to be my mentor for Hadassah’s mentorship program, part of the second year of the Evolve Leadership Fellows program, which will kick off soon!

Joining Hadassah was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. But is doing something a decision if it is a no-brainer?  Hadassah found me. Hadassah chose me. Hadassah truly invests in me. And I want to take that investment and use it to repair and heal the world (tikkun olam).

Watch the Evolve Hadassah Fellow video here.

Emily Shrode is a life member of Hadassah and an Evolve Leadership Fellow.

About the Author
Hadassah Evolve Leadership Fellow Emily Shrode brings fresh eyes to the organization, now beginning its 113th year. On the local level, Emily serves on the board of Hadassah's chapter in Austin, Texas, where she currently resides and is a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle. For Emily, Hadassah is a means of spreading hope and healing the world. She hopes to share her passion for the mission of Hadassah with others throughout her continued involvement in the organization. As a community builder, Emily sees value in what Hadassah does on the local level by providing a space for women to grow meaningful connections with one another.
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