I opened my inbox recently to find an email with a message that sent a river of icy cold blood coursing quickly through my body, from my head to my toes.
The chill persisted as I read that my congregation was one of many in Pennsylvania that had received a threat by email late that morning. Of course, the staff contacted the police and conducted a thorough sweep of the buildings and grounds. With all the children, teachers, staff and clergy safe and accounted for, the synagogue determined there was no credible threat to our community.
My mind was filled with anxious thoughts. I wondered how many people who had started working there many, many years ago ever expected to be searching the synagogue and surrounding area for hate-filled people or for devices intended to harm pre-school children or the staff and clergy.
Shortly afterwards, I received another email, from an Israeli cousin, who described how she feels when she hears the Hebrew words hutar l’pirsum (cleared for publication). She knows she is about to learn the names of soldiers killed in battle or who have died in captivity. She cannot avoid the fear, the dread, the pain and the sorrow. It is all around her.
And as I turn to my synagogue for prayer, study and to celebrate Shabbat, I am grateful that I have both this community and other resources to support me during these extremely difficult days. I can talk to my family and Jewish friends who understand and feel the pain, too.
And I can turn to organizations like Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, to which I have belonged for nearly 30 years, supporting its work in health care, women’s rights and other priorities in the U.S. and Israel. And while I have enjoyed the social aspect of being part of a group of like-minded women in my Philadelphia community, Hadassah has never felt more important to me than it does now, as the war in Israel and Gaza continues to rage.
For one thing, I am constantly amazed at the level of cutting-edge medical, psychological and rehabilitative care offered by the Hadassah Medical Organization, Hadassah’s medical center in Jerusalem. With a Level 1 trauma center providing treatment for complex cases and specialized attention for severely wounded patients, Hadassah’s hospitals are an integral part of Israel’s health care system.
It has always been clear that the doctors at the Hadassah Medical Organization create stunning research breakthroughs on a regular basis. Now, as more stories emerge of courage, compassionate care and amazing results, I find myself even more grateful for their work.
I am also just beginning to understand the incredible impact that Hadassah is making on children at its youth villages. Through these communities, Hadassah gives at-risk children and teens – Jews, Druze, Muslims, Ethiopians, Russians, Bedouins, Eritrean refugees and others –a home, an education and support of every kind.
Now they have been further traumatized by the October 7 massacre, the ongoing war and, in many cases, the loss of home and family members. Hadassah continues to stand by these young members of society, working daily in every way to make them whole again while accepting new residents who have been orphaned or displaced from their homes because of the war.
The Times of Israel recently estimated that American Jewry raised $1 billion to support Israel in just the first month of the war. And while there are so many vital organizations on the ground providing critical help during this crisis, I am proud to support Hadassah, a Four-Star Charity with a 100% ranking from Charity Navigator.
As an American Jew, I often feel helpless, as if I cannot provide meaningful assistance to Israel during these terrible times. But I am grateful that I can count on Hadassah to be my proxy by continuing its 112-year tradition of supporting both a hospital system that cares for the people of Israel in such a profound and important way and youth villages that provide hope to children who may have thought there was none.