Hadassah members disappointed by his departure from Pittsburgh
Members of Pittsburgh Hadassah chapters were recently informed that they will now be part of Hadassah Greater Detroit Region.
In letters dated March 2022, 1,500 Pittsburgh residents were told, “Your chapter has not met or had a council for the past few years. For this reason, we are disbanding it and would like to give you the opportunity to move on to a more active chapter.
Judy Cocke of Hadassah Greater Detroit said 1,500 letters were sent to serving members in Greater Pittsburgh. The intention, she said, is to consolidate many “small different chapters” in the greater Detroit area.
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Janice Greenwald, an active member of Hadassah for nearly 50 years, said she understands the organization’s raison d’être but is saddened by its decision to withdraw further from western Pennsylvania – Already two years ago, the people of Pittsburgh were informed that their chapters were now part of the greater Detroit area.
“I know it was for financial reasons, but at the end of the day, I don’t know if it was best for Pittsburgh,” Greenwald said. “The work we are doing in Israel is amazing. Miracles come out of Hadassah…I believe in the product, but it’s sad that we don’t have a presence in Pittsburgh.
Greenwald is a former chapter president, regional president, and national vice president of Hadassah. She sits on the organization’s honor board. The latter, she explained, allows her to continue to help various Hadassah regions and their chapters run programs.
In Pittsburgh, however, Hadassah’s activities are few.
Part of the reason, Greenwald said, is due to national restructuring; another possibility is due to decreased desire among western Pennsylvanians.
“When you live in Pittsburgh and you’re part of Detroit, you don’t have the same kind of connection,” she said.
Pittsburgh’s Judy Palkovitz agreed. “Most of us aren’t interested in Detroit,” she said.
Like Greenwald, Palkovitz participated in Hadassah both locally and nationally. Today, she serves on Hadassah’s National Portfolio Council and as President of Planned Giving and Estates.
According to Hadassah’s 2020 tax filings, the organization received nearly $15 million in contributions and grants, and an additional $8 million in investment income. These funds support health care, education, youth institutions, and land development in Israel, as well as the improvement of American and Jewish life in the United States, particularly through support for the programs of Zionist education and youth, and promoting health awareness.
Pittsburgher Nancy Shuman said Hadassah is doing important work globally, but shifting sentiment toward Israel may be one reason Pittsburghers’ support for the organization has waned.
“I don’t think people are still as excited about Israel as they were before,” Shuman said. “I may be wrong.”
A few weeks ago, AJC released the results of a survey of 1,800 millennial American and Israeli Jews, which indicated “millennial American Jews may be willing to suppress their Zionism, even their Jewishness, to stay in good social position, and we need to be aware of the long-term consequences this will have on this key demographic group.
But the Pew Research Center was unable to say whether levels of emotional attachment to Israel changed “significantly” for American Jews in the years between the two studies it conducted of American Jews in 2013. and 2020.
Rochelle Parker, a member of nearly 40 years and former president of Hadassah Greater Pittsburgh, said traveling to Israel with the organization gave her a better understanding of Hadassah as well as the Jewish state.
“It was a catalyst for me to say, ‘Yeah, I want to be involved in this organization,'” she said.
Greenwald said she wants Pittsburgh residents to know more about Israel and Hadassah’s efforts.
Whether it’s sending supplies to Ukraine, providing free medical care regardless of religion or origin, or welcoming and training non-Jews in the hospital, there are many things that Israel and Hadassah are doing without getting enough credit, she said.
Shuman, former president of Hadassah’s Greater Pittsburgh Area and a member of the national organization’s honorary board, said that in more than 25 years – as well as trips to New York, Israel and Jordan – she had gained a better understanding of Hadassah’s work.
Greenwald said she appreciates her decades of involvement with the organization, adding, “I’ve been all over the world with Hadassah and it’s changed my life.
In addition to traveling to Bosnia and France, Greenwald said she has served as a representative at the United Nations and spoke about Hadassah’s commitment to improving conditions for women around the world.
“My life wouldn’t have been the same without Hadassah,” she said. “I am very proud to be a life member and donor.
Greenwald said she was also proud of the organization’s commitment to protecting women’s rights.
In response to the May 11 Senate vote that failed to advance the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022, Hadassah President Rhoda Smolow and CEO Naomi Adler said: “Women’s power over their own bodies and their ability to make health decisions based on medical advice and values must be sacrosanct. It shouldn’t be a political issue. Hadassah will continue to advocate for women’s access to reproductive care nationwide. We call on leaders on both sides of the aisle to do the same by continuing to work for national legislation that protects women’s health and liberty.
Greenwald pointed to the organization’s work in Washington, DC, and the number of young activist members, as a bittersweet indicator of Hadassah’s future.
“Hadassah is still a great organization,” she said. “It’s just very sad that we don’t have a presence in Pittsburgh.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be contacted at [email protected]