I learned about Hadassah through my older sister, who was active in her Miami chapter. I was in my late teens at the time and I remember her Hadassah challah bakes, candle-making workshops and volunteer projects. I was impressed by the organization’s dedication to supporting Israel and empowering women, as well as by the sense of community Hadassah forged among its members.
In 2021, my friend Emily Godsey chaired a membership drive for the Jacksonville, FL chapter of Hadassah and I hosted it at my home. Because of COVID-19 restrictions at the time, we had to keep the event very small, but it was a fun and informative afternoon. I joined Hadassah that day, along with other attendees, and I continue to be a proud member.
This summer, that same friend invited me to participate in the Jacksonville chapter’s ongoing drive to collect feminine hygiene products for low-income women in our area. I had been unaware of the great need for these products among this group of women. I learned that women without access to these necessities often miss work or school when they are menstruating. Some substitute toilet paper. Some conserve the products they have by using them for longer than recommended, which can result in health issues, such as toxic shock syndrome.
Goldie Lansky, president of the Jacksonville chapter, explained to me that the US government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) categorizes tampons and sanitary pads as “luxury items” and, therefore, does not fund them. Without this financial assistance, many women are left to choose between their hygiene and other necessities.
The sisterhoods of the four largest synagogues in the Jacksonville area are collecting donations of these feminine hygiene products. The supplies will be taken to The LDJ Jewish Family & Community Services (LDJ/JFCS), where they are distributed through a community food pantry, as well as three local schools. As of the time I wrote this blog, over 100 boxes of products had been collected, and more are expected to be donated as the drive continues.
Donna O’Steen, the development and volunteer specialist at LDJ/JFCS, told me how thankful she is for the donations. She explained that many people do not realize how challenging something as normal as a menstrual period becomes when a woman is battling poverty.
LDJ/JFCS gives away roughly 75 “packs” a day, with each package consisting of 10 tampons or pads. We remove the items from their boxes and create these “packs” because many of the young women receiving the products are teenagers, who feel embarrassed to be seen holding feminine hygiene supplies. We always keep the recipient’s dignity foremost in our minds.
As Jews, we take pride in performing tikkun olam, repair of the world, through our deeds of kindness. Seeing women in our area willing to contribute, collect and deliver the products has been very moving. When various organizations and sisterhoods unite like this to help those in need, it demonstrates the strength of community.
By giving women access to necessary hygiene products, Hadassah continues to carry out its vision of promoting women’s health equity.