Hadassah Women Who Do: Merna Shapiro, Volunteer Leader Extraordinaire
My column introduces Hadassah member and volunteer leader Merna Shapiro. I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to speak with Merna about her many years of involvement in, and her passion for, Hadassah.
Stacey: Merna please tell us how you became involved in Hadassah and why you chose Hadassah.
Merna: My journey with Hadassah began with my mother’s love of jewelry. She was a Hadassah member who wanted a three-generation pin and gave me a Hadassah membership just so that she could get it! Over the years, I have come to believe that we at Hadassah have the power to do nothing less than heal the world together. Hadassah sometimes refers to the collective strength of its 300,000 members and supporters as “The Power of Women Who Do.” This feeling and the world-class research done at the Hadassah Medical Organization, Hadassah’s medical center in Israel, are what inspire me to continue my commitment. I also love Israel and I love Hadassah’s role in Israel. The people I have met through Hadassah mean the world to me.
Stacey: Merna, tell us about your Hadassah journey.
Merna: I have been a member for over 40 years. When my family moved to Parkland, Florida, two decades ago, I was asked to start a Hadassah chapter. I took on the membership role and recruited 150 new members! Over time, I moved into a membership position on the regional level and then became region president – the best three and a half years of my life. Eventually, I was asked to be the national vice chair of membership. Since then, I’ve served on many national committees and as a member of Hadassah’s national board. In 2016, I chaired the national convention in Atlanta, became a national vice president and went on to chair the Ethics Committee.
Currently, I am what’s known as a coordinator for the Engagement Division. That means I serve as an advisor to the division, both representing the viewpoint of the members and bringing my years of experience as a Hadassah volunteer leader to bear on the division’s work.
I feel so blessed and lucky to have been given all these opportunities. Each has been a terrific way to meet incredible people while promoting Hadassah’s myriad good works. My journey has been amazing, empowering and rewarding.
Stacey: Tell us about the Engagement Division. What are your plans for this division?
Merna: Engagement is a relatively new division at Hadassah. Our goal is to build Hadassah’s tent and make the membership more diverse. There are four departments in Engagement. One is Evolve Hadassah: The Next Generation, which cultivates future Hadassah members and leaders. Another is the Program Department, which develops events and activities to engage members. Another is Membership, which handles anything having to be with membership benefits and opportunities. And the fourth is Professional Councils, which supports the Attorneys and Judges Council, the Physicians Council, the Nurses and Allied Health Professionals Council and the just-launched Educators Council, which bring together Hadassah members with similar professional backgrounds.
The goal of the Engagement Division is to reach out and connect people of all ages and to cultivate a passion for Hadassah. The chairs of these departments work collaboratively to ensure that that goal is met.
To me, the greatest blessing of Hadassah is the chance it offers for sisterhood, community action and health and healing to help make the world a better place. I like to remind people that Hadassah membership offers outstanding and empowering opportunities for women. Our professional councils, for example, offer members a chance to network with others with similar professional backgrounds. I know that engagement begins on the local, grassroots level, so the division’s local membership, education and philanthropy programs are essential.
In addition to working with the Engagement Division, I’m on the Hadassah Major Donor Team, another effective way to help build membership. I am always thinking about the fact that Hadassah needs considerable funds to fulfill its mission – to enable its hospitals in Israel to save lives and its members in the United States to advocate for issues that are important, like women’s health equity. This is why I serve on the Major Donor and Membership teams.
Stacey: Thank you, Merna, for telling us about your engagement, membership and major donor efforts. Your passion is palpable. Now we would like to learn a little bit more about you.
Merna: I want to make the world a better place for my two grandsons. I want them to live in a safe world, especially in terms of antisemitism, and to feel safe to be a proud Jew. Working with Hadassah helps me achieve that goal. I also love Hadassah because of all the extraordinary friends I have made through my years of Hadassah involvement. I encourage all my other friends to become Hadassah members for that and all the other reasons I spoke of.
Here is an important story regarding my Hadassah involvement. My brother died of melanoma 20 years ago. By the time I learned about Dr. Michal Lotem, the Hadassah physician doing research on the disease, my brother was too ill to benefit from her work. However, I had the power to promote it so that it could benefit others. I realized from this that my life is inextricably bound up with the values of Hadassah. My life work as a clinical therapist embodies values that are the same as Hadassah values. The goal of both is to improve the health of individuals and families.
My husband and my children have been wonderfully supportive of my Hadassah commitments. This is very meaningful to me. I am proud to share with them the sense of fulfillment that being involved in Hadassah has brought me. I am lucky to be able to show my family that by doing tikkun olam, I am repairing the world and helping Hadassah to do amazing things at the same time.
I have also been fortunate to meet some of the most interesting people through Hadassah. For example, world renowned Hadassah stem cell expert Dr. Benjamin Reubinoff, Iron Dome creator Natan Barack, former Knesset speaker and Hadassah Medical Organization Board of Directors Chair Dalia Itzik, and Hadassah transplant surgeon Dr. Abed Khalailah, to name just a few.
Stacey: Thank you Merna for sharing your passion, insights and thoughts about Hadassah with us. We are so fortunate to have you! Please leave us with final pearls of wisdom.
Merna: My greatest wish is that Hadassah should be living for another century and my legacy will be the work I have done to help make that possible! Remember that being a Hadassah member offers outstanding and empowering opportunities. I am so thankful for the amazing, empowering and rewarding journey I have been on with Hadassah. I look forward to continuing that journey and continuing to help Hadassah move forward!