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Patricia Levinson
Patricia Levinson

Hadassah – Healing the World During the Pandemic

(Pictured left to right) Rafael Zaga, Chair Hadassah Mexico, Marcos Shabot, President, Mexican Federation of Jewish Communities; Jorge Diener, Executive Director, Hadassah International, Ethel Fainstein, Director Hadassah Latin America

As the dark clouds of the coronavirus pandemic have roiled the world, spreading death and upending one economy after another, a sunburst of hope and healing has lightened the gloom. This beam of light has emanated from Hadassah’s two hospitals in Jerusalem, Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus, which together constitute the Hadassah Medical Organization, now universally regarded as a reliable and widely respected world authority on COVID-19.

Legendary for their pioneering innovation and ability to think out of the box, Hadassah hospitals are renowned for customizing medical treatment and applying their latest laboratory research to benefit their patients directly. As the pandemic struck Israel, Hadassah immediately put some of its most talented people to work on the myriad of problems presented by COVID-19, creating solutions for their patients caught up in the horror of isolation and uncertainty caused by this disease.

Hadassah International, with its network of Hadassah hospital supporters in many lands, found itself perfectly positioned to become a bridge that could enable the dissemination of this coronavirus expertise to countries and communities around the world.

A world-wide collaboration started with a phone call from Hadassah Mexico on Friday, March 13, 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic had just reached Mexico. Alarm bells went off in the Mexican Jewish Community. If the virus spread, the impact on the community could be enormous. Could Israel serve as a model for them? Israel had already been dealing with the pandemic for a few months and had taken concrete steps to control the virus’ spread. Hadassah Mexico appealed to Hadassah International to find out what the Hadassah hospitals could do to help. The response from the top-level hospital administrators and physicians was immediate: “We are ready, willing and available to offer help and advice. The most important action you can take right now is to protect the elderly in your community. They are the most vulnerable.”

Within days, Hadassah International had arranged Zoom meetings so that the administrators of Jewish old age homes across Latin America could receive help and advice from experts from Hadassah hospital.

Realizing the extent of the need for accurate, informed information, the Hadassah hospitals put together a Manual of Protocols for COVID-19. Now in its third edition, this manual includes detailed information that can be used by both hospitals and health institutions anywhere in the world. Disseminated by Hadassah International, the manual has been translated into English, Spanish and Russian, and has been made available to any medical facility that needed it.

Other communities and hospitals across the world attended Hadassah International’s webinars featuring Hadassah physicians as speakers on a myriad of COVID-19 related subjects. Topics included a wide range of COVID-19 issues such as: how to set up triage for COVID-19 in an Emergency Room; how to set up arrangements for “social pods” for children with special needs, as isolation is particularly hard on them; how to  set up a COVID-19 testing laboratory and testing system that is economically affordable; how to set up an ICU for COVID-19; and the science behind COVID-19 treatment and the progression of the disease. These webinars were held in English, Spanish, French and Russian, and attracted thousands of participants from around the world.

By March 2021, seeing the success of Hadassah’s outreach to help the world deal with the COVID-19 crisis, ambassadors to Israel from 15 Latin American countries came together in Tel Aviv, Israel, to form the Hadassah-Latin American Health Forum. This facilitated formal governmental channels to Hadassah to establish collaborations and seek advice.

The first country to take advantage of this arrangement for collaborations was Argentina, and at the behest of the Argentinian Government, Hadassah International arranged for a team of Hadassah Hospital’s medical experts to travel to Argentina for seven days to work with government agencies, laboratories and hospitals, and to reach out to the doctors and nurses on the front lines of dealing with COVID-19. The arrangements on the ground were facilitated by Hadassah Argentina’s staff and volunteers, and significantly raised the profile of Hadassah in Argentina.

In Mexico, where Hadassah’s COVID-19 outreach started nearly two years ago, a new “Hadassah Hospital” is in the planning stages for Mexico City. The Jewish community in Mexico recently honored Hadassah with a Tree of Life award as a “thank you” for the many lives that have been saved in Mexico through Hadassah’s help and advice.

Other Latin American countries, including Chile, are now reaching out to Hadassah, and Panama’s long-standing relationship with Hadassah has been reinvigorated.

As new variants of COVID-19 are appearing, and cases in Europe are surging, other countries including Spain, Portugal, Austria, Romania and Bulgaria have recently reached out to Hadassah International and Hadassah hospitals to form new alliances that will help them deal with the pandemic and other diseases in the future.

Personally, I regard myself as truly fortunate. My volunteer work, in my role as Hadassah International Communications Chair, has enabled me to help facilitate, design, and implement communications for Hadassah International, helping the organization reach out to every corner of the globe. I have been able to derive considerable meaning and purpose in my life through the extraordinary opportunities I have had to volunteer for Hadassah.

I am particularly proud to have been able to support Hadassah International’s communications. I know that my small contribution to this international outreach has helped to save lives in many countries.

Hadassah’s outreach will continue to bring hope to those dealing with COVID-19.

About the Author
Patricia Levinson, Chair of Hadassah International Communications, a member of the Honorary Council of the HWZOA Board of Directors, Hadassah International Communications Chair, and a member of the Hadassah International Board of Directors, was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. A biochemist, she moved to Israel in 1966 with her husband, working at the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 1970, the Levinson family moved to Schenectady, New York. Patricia immediately became involved with Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America Inc. (HWZOA), moving through the ranks with multiple leadership responsibilities, including working with Hadassah International in the communications area since 2002. She has served on the National Board of Directors/National Assembly of HWZOA for 32 years, and on the Board of Directors of Hadassah International for three years. In 1992, Patricia received her MBA from the State University of New York at Albany, majoring in Marketing and Communications. Patricia lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.
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