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Komen Race for the Cure to be run in Israel

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From left, Hadassah President Nancy Falchuk, Susan G. Komen lay leader Hadassah Lieberman, and Komen CEO Nancy Brinker speak with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Birkat at a press conference in Washington on April 28. Courtesy of Susan G. Komen for the Cure

The world’s largest breast cancer organization, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is partnering with Jerusalem, Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, health advocates, and scientists for a week of breast cancer-related events.

The Komen organization is launching the Israel Breast Cancer Collaborative, a partnership with nongovernmental organizations in Israel, to enhance advocacy, awareness, screening, and treatment of breast cancer in Israel during the week of Oct. 25 to 29.

A series of events will include a think tank on breast cancer, a mission to Israel, and Komen’s famed Race for the Cure, which will be held just outside Jerusalem’s Old City.

While not an overtly Jewish charity, Komen has deep Jewish roots. Nancy Brinker started the organization in 1982 after her sister, Susan Komen, died of breast cancer. Brinker is Jewish, as was Komen.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure has invested more than $27 million in funding for international breast cancer research and more than $17 million in international community education and outreach programs. Komen has partnered or funded programs in more than 50 countries.

While most of the money raised by Komen goes to general breast cancer causes, the organization has given $2 million for research in Israel through the Weizmann Institute of Science, Hebrew University-Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, Beit Natan, and Life’s Door. In the United States it has ties to Hadassah, Sharsheret, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

This will be the first time, however, that Komen has held the 5K Race for the Cure in Israel.

“This is exciting. For me it is very exciting,” said Hadassah Lieberman, who joined Komen as its global ambassador several years ago when the organization ran its first international race in Sao Paolo, Brazil. The race has since been held in countries such as Germany, Italy, and Egypt.

“We have been thinking about Jerusalem for a while,” said Lieberman, the wife of Connecticut U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman. “It has been one of the places where these things take a while to coordinate.”

According to Komen officials, breast cancer is the most common form of women’s cancer in Israel, accounting for nearly 30 percent of new cancer cases in the country. About 4,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in Israel each year.

In bringing the race to Israel, Susan G. Komen for the Cure hopes to spark new collaborations with organizations such as the Israel Cancer Association and to raise awareness of breast cancer in Israel.

“Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s very first international research grant went to Israel 16 years ago, and we have enjoyed longstanding friendships and productive collaborations in Israel ever since,” Brinker said in a statement announcing the Israel project. “The new Israel Breast Cancer Collaborative takes our relationships to the next level — in partnership with the city of Jerusalem, Hadassah, government leaders, advocates, and our global partners — as we work to address the critical issues in breast cancer for the women of Israel and the world.”

This might seem a precarious time for an international fund-raising organization to broaden its ties with Israel, with the country feeling the fallout of the flotilla incident in terms of public opinion, but Lieberman says she does not believe it will be an issue for Komen’s fund-raising.

“Everyone, whether it is Jewish organizations or Christian populations, is really excited about this race because we never have had a chance to do it in Jerusalem,” she said. “It’s very been exciting and positive, particularly at times like this, when you have to understand that this illness has no border and boundary and you understand the cure has no border and boundary.”

Lieberman added, “It is very special to be able to go to the Kotel to put a note in the [Western Wall], and for some of these women to go there and have a prayer for themselves or for their sisters’ or aunts’ health, and spread awareness around Israel.”

JTA

 
 

New Milford shul, tax assessor spar

The president of Cong. Beth Tikvah/New Milford Jewish Center is wondering why the borough’s tax assessor is trying to take away the building’s property tax exemption. The municipal tax assessor denies this is the case and says she is just doing her job by asking the congregation, New Milford’s only Jewish house of worship, to clarify the building’s ownership and whether the owner is profiting from rent paid by a tenant.

Both hope the matter can be resolved amicably, and soon.

The disconnect appears to center on two issues: first, Beth Tikvah’s agreement earlier this year to sell its building to TorahLinks. The sale is yet to go through, but once it does, Beth Tikvah plans to remain in the building through a lease-back of space. Second, Yeshivas Ohr Yosef, a Jewish high school with an enrollment of about 30 teens, has been occupying the synagogue’s bottom floor six days a week since October 2006.

According to Robert Nesoff, the congregation’s president, Beth Tikvah is still the property owner of record, “taking a contribution for [use of] the space by Yeshivas Ohr Yosef.” The synagogue is not making a profit from this arrangement, Nesoff claimed, and therefore Beth Tikvah’s property tax exemption should remain fully in place. “The whole thing is a contributory pass-through with checks made out to us. They [Yeshivas Ohr Yosef] kick in for a portion of the utilities; it’s a monthly contribution,” he told The Jewish Standard. “The building is used for religious purposes, and that is all. We don’t rent to private or political organizations.”

Moreover, Nesoff contends, because Ohr Yosef is a religious school, its use of the building is in compliance with state statutes for property tax exemptions granted to religious and educational institutions and represents a continuation of Beth Tikvah’s historic use of the property. “There has always been a school in the building,” said Nesoff.

For her part, Maureen Kamen, the tax assessor who has been in the position for a little over two years, said that every three years the borough is required by the state to re-evaluate property tax exemptions for all non-government owned buildings. To comply with these regulations, she conducted an internal audit of every tax-exempt institution in New Milford and sent what are known as “further statements” to them all, requesting supporting documentation to maintain their tax-exempt status. She noted that the last further statements went out in 2006, under the prior tax assessor.

Tax exemptions granted must accurately reflect use of the property; different exemptions are granted for different, albeit legitimate, uses, Kamen explained.

On Oct. 20, 2006, when the financial chair of Beth Tikvah filed an initial application for exemption, he included the information that a Jewish Montessori school was paying $1,700 a month in rent to the congregation, said Kamen. “That raised a red flag whether it’s a private school; they have to document it is not a profit-making school. They could lose the exemption for that portion of the property being rented, if it was a profit-making entity. If it is a full-time school, they are entitled to a different exemption under a different state statute. It is their responsibility to provide the documents so I can make the decision,” she said.

The pending sale of Beth Tikvah’s building also came to her attention, said Kamen, through newspaper accounts she read online (including a story that appeared in the Standard on Jan. 1, 2010). “It raised for me the question of whether the building is being sold. Nesoff said it is not, [but] the problem we have here is, when do they anticipate the sale? The new organization will have to qualify [because the tax exemption is tied to property ownership]. It doesn’t mean the new owner can’t qualify [for an exemption] and lease to them, but it [the new organization] must [first] apply and supply supporting documentation by Oct. 1 for the exemption to be in place for 2011,” Kamen stated, citing Section 54: 4-4.4 as the relevant section of the New Jersey tax code.

In fact, Beth Tikvah is late in meeting the borough’s deadline for documentation required by the further statement, said Kamen. Only recently did she receive an insurance declaration, but that, she indicated, isn’t sufficient to determine the institution’s tax-exempt status for the coming year.

“There must be a timely application on a further statement of Nov. 1 of the pre-tax year, every third year. We should have gotten [Beth Tikvah’s application] in 2009. It’s been an uphill battle to get information. I have worked with many others, Baptist, Catholic, the Elks Lodge. I’m only missing information on one other property and the New Milford Jewish Center,” said Kamen.

But Nesoff believes that Beth Tikvah, unlike other religious institutions in the borough, has been unfairly targeted, a question he raised in a letter he sent Kamen on June 16.

Nesoff also believes that by insisting Beth Tikvah provide proof of its eligibility for tax-exempt status, the tax assessor may be undermining the borough’s religious community.

“My question to her [Kamen] is, there are other religious institutions in town that are blatantly violating laws, for example, one of the churches rents out its parking lot each year for the sale of Christmas trees. The church must need the income, so the town has never gone after them, and why should they? Why shouldn’t we try to save the religious institutions in town?

“In this day and age, most congregations are graying and congregational numbers are falling,” he continued. “Why not bend a little to help instead of trying to put them out of business? All religious institutions provide services in town. For example, we don’t charge rent for meetings for Hadassah and for the Jewish War Veterans. I’m sure all the churches do the same.

“We contribute a lot more than we are taking, not just us, but the entire religious community in New Milford,” he pointed out. “Why this sudden scrutiny of the only Jewish house of worship in town, and why are council members trying to make this a political issue and trying to make political points for themselves?”

At a recent council meeting, said Nesoff, Republicans Ann Subrizi, Keith Bachmann, and Howard Berner asked who owns the building in which Beth Tikvah and Ohr Yosef are housed and, according to Nesoff, “why are kids running around in the street?”

“I don’t want to get the shul involved in politics,” he said, “but there is a question [about their motivation]. These kids wear yarmulkes and tzitzit.”

One neighbor, Nesoff said, has filed complaints about the presence of the school and what she described as unruly behavior by students off school grounds. Nesoff said that the issue was addressed with Ohr Yosef’s principal, and that the principal has taken steps to supervise the youngsters and find alternative space for their free time between classes.

“We’ve shrunk so much. We can’t afford to keep the building going. We’re trying to be a continuing member of the community, trying to service an aging Jewish population and at the same time bring in younger members and trying to be good citizens of New Milford.

“We are a tax-exempt religious institution, and the yeshiva is both a religious and educational institution. It’s very unfair what they’re trying to do to us,” he charged.

Countered Kamen, “I investigate every single property, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, even the Elks [Lodge]. I’m trying to find out what’s going on. I want to assist them to qualify for an exemption and give them proper information and forms to file.”

 
 

American Jews plan relief efforts in wake of Israeli blaze

With Israel in desperate need of aid to fight the fire ravaging its north last week, countries from four continents sent help, including those with whom Israel has been at odds lately, such as Turkey.

Now that the fire is out, the question is what will Israel’s close friends, the American Jewish community, do to aid in the recovery process?

Damage estimates are ranging as high as $75 million, and the American Jewish community has opened fund-raising mailboxes, started as emergency campaigns while the blaze was still burning.

The national branches of the three largest U.S. Jewish religious denominations launched fire assistance funds and asked their rabbis to address the topic in their sermons last Shabbat. Dozens of the country’s largest organizations, including the Jewish federation system, the American Jewish Committee, and B’nai B’rith International, also started funds.

The heaviest lifting in the nonprofit world likely will be done by the Jewish National Fund, which since Israel’s founding has been responsible for the forestation of the country.

With some 12,000 acres scorched and an estimated 5 million trees burned, the JNF has launched a $10 million campaign to be split between reforestation and other causes, such as rebuilding tourism in the area. In less than a week, JNF had raised nearly $2 million in cash and pledges. A number of organizations, such as Hadassah, have pledged to help JNF pay for more trees.

Reforesting the area will be a slow process, according to the JNF’s director of forestry for the northern region, Omri Bonneh. For the first year, JNF says it won’t plant any trees, allowing the land to replenish itself.

It’s not clear how much the American Jewish organizations’ total campaign will be; in some cases it’s not yet clear where the money will go.

The American Jewish Committee pledged $100,000 for reforestation, saying it will plant 10,000 trees to commemorate the 42 people — mostly police cadets from the Israeli Prisons Service — killed in the wildfire.

B’nai B’rith International, which by Tuesday had collected $12,000, will use the money to address unmet needs, according to its vice president of programming, Rhonda Love.

Last week, Magen David Adom, Israel’s version of the Red Cross, deployed hundreds of medics, paramedics, emergency vehicles, and volunteers to the scene of the fire. Its American fund-raising arm, the American Friends of the Magen David Adom, had raised about $150,000 online since the fire broke out, according to its director of marketing, Robert Kern.

A number of organizations are focusing on helping Yemin Orde, a youth village for immigrants to Israel that was 40 percent destroyed in the fire.

Hadassah is providing space for 500 families dislocated by the fire by opening several youth villages with which it is associated. The Jewish Agency for Israel has made space in its facilities for Yemin Orde to continue operating.

The two overseas arms of the North American federation system have been on the ground since the fire began. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee helped out in the evacuation of residents and supplied emergency needs such as food and blankets. Now the JDC is planning to provide programs for the disabled, psycho-social support, and emergency preparedness, according to spokesman Michael Geller.

The Jewish Agency brought hundreds of children from the stricken area to Tel Aviv for respite, and planned to bring 4,000 by the end of Chanukah.

JDC and the Jewish Agency also are working on coordinating youth volunteers. In the long term, the fire could provide the Jewish Agency with an opportunity to test the value of a new strategic plan that places more emphasis on creating volunteer opportunities in Israel.

The agency has proposed a plan to focus volunteer mentors on the Druze town of Tirat HaCarmel, a development town near Haifa that was evacuated during the fire. Agency officials also have talked to the Jewish Federations of North America about creating, through the agency’s MASA program, a project to bring diaspora Jews to help in rehabilitating the animal wildlife in Israel’s north, according to Jewish Agency director general Alan Hoffmann. JFNA will be recommending programs to member federations that will assist both Jewish and Arab communities affected by the fires. This will include immediate relief that will address issues of evacuees and respite activities for children and youth, trauma relief, and professional support to professionals and volunteers. Long-term relief efforts are being assessed.

Jewish Agency officials also said they would like to set up a fund for grants to victims of the fire, much like the fund it has for victims of terror that gives out up to $35,000 to individuals and families affected by terrorism.

How much exactly the JDC and Jewish Agency will be able to do in the long run will be determined largely by how much the federations are able to raise for them. That’s not yet clear, though insiders said the federations would probably allocate approximately $2 million.

Their campaign received an early boost when the JUF-Jewish Federation of Greater Chicago immediately pledged $500,000 of its own money for the JDC and Jewish Agency’s fire relief efforts.

The question is whether money will continue to come in now that the fire has been extinguished.

“It is clear that when the fires stop burning, also the flames of philanthropy tend to die down,” Hoffman said. “But there are clear needs that have been created here. The question is how can world Jewry play a part in restoring this place to where it was before, and that will require resources.”

Use any of the links below to donate to a variety of emergency campaigns established in the wake of Israel’s devastating forest fire.

American Friends of the Magen David Adom, Israeli Red Cross: www.afmda.org

America Jewish Joint Distribution Committee: www.jdc.org

American Friends of Yemin Orde: www.yeminorde.org

B’nai B’rith Israel Emergency Fund: www.bnaibrith.org

International Fellowship of Christians and Jews: www.ifcj.org

Jewish Agency for Israel: www.jafi.org

Jewish Federations of North America: www.jewishfederations.org

Jewish National Fund, Forest Fire Emergency Fund: www.jnf.org

JStreet and the New Israel Fund: www.jstreet.org

Organizations of the Conservative/Masorti movement in North America: www.uscj.org

ORT America: www.ortamerica.org

Orthodox Union emergency fund: www.ou.org

Union for Reform Judaism and ARZA: www.urj.org

Young Israel charity fund: www.youngisrael.org

Zaka, a recovery and identification organization: www.zaka.us

JTA Wire Service

 
 

Madoff ‘clawback’ lawsuits going after Jewish groups, others

NEW YORK – When Bernard Madoff’s multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme first came to light two years ago, several Jewish organizations suffered heavy losses, their assets devastated by the fraud.

Now with the filing of lawsuits by the trustee for Madoff’s estate, it is the winners — the Jewish organizations that inadvertently benefited from the scheme — that are at risk of losing money.

Among them are:

• The America-Israel Cultural Foundation, which raises money to support artists and cultural institutions in Israel. The foundation, which allegedly made $6.68 million in fictitious profit between 2002 and 2008, is being sued for just more than $5 million, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

• The American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, which is being sued for approximately $7 million, according to the Forward.

• United Congregations Mesorah, a nonprofit religious organization registered in Suffern, N.Y., and operated out of the offices of the Wolfson Group, according to the Forward. It is being sued for more than $16 million.

The biggest lawsuit, a claim of $19.6 billon, was filed against an Orthodox Jewish woman in Austria named Sonja Kohn. A housewife turned banker who was born in Vienna and resided in the Orthodox community of Monsey, N.Y., in the 1980s, Kohn is described as the biggest feeder of investor money into Madoff funds. She allegedly conspired with Madoff to lure investors, and reportedly withdrew some $423 million from Madoff’s fund just a month before Madoff was arrested in 2008. Representatives for Kohn have denied any wrongdoing.

Other Jewish institutions that benefited from the Ponzi scheme reached settlements with the Madoff estate’s trustee, Irving Picard, before the Dec. 11 deadline for filing the so-called clawback lawsuits. Picard filed more than 1,000 such lawsuits.

Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization of America announced last week that it had agreed to pay back $45 million of the estimated $90 million it made in the scheme, according to a letter sent by the organization’s president, Nancy Falchuk, to supporters.

“Hadassah, like so many others, was misled,” she wrote. “Precisely because we were following a sound investment strategy, we realized more than we invested and will return some of the proceeds to be distributed to those who lost.”

Boston-area Jewish philanthropists Carl and Ruth Shapiro, who allegedly made more than $1 billion off their investments with Madoff, reportedly have agreed to pay back $625 million, which includes all the assets of their family foundation.

The agreement effectively wipes out the foundation, which had assets of $112 million in 2008, the last year for which data was available. The foundation had doled out annual seven-figure gifts to such Boston institutions as Brandeis University, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Carl Shapiro is 97.

For now, many of the organizations targeted in the lawsuits are holding firm.

“AICF was and remains a victim of the fraud perpetrated by Bernard Madoff,” David Homan, the executive director of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, said in a statement.

Homan denied any wrongdoing and called the lawsuit against his organization “unfortunate.” He also reportedly said that the foundation, which believed it had $13 million invested in Madoff’s fund, could seek a settlement. Homan did not return phone calls to JTA.

One of Madoff’s largest suppliers of investors in the United States was J. Ezra Merkin. The former chairman of the financial services giant GMAC, Merkin funneled some $2 billion of investors’ money to Madoff. Merkin is now the subject of multiple civil lawsuits brought by investors and the New York State attorney general.

In total, Picard has recovered about $2.6 billion through settlements. The lawsuits he filed this week seek more than $50 billion, a figure that is considerably higher than the $18 billion or so estimated lost in the scheme.

Among the lawsuits, Picard is seeking $6.5 billion from Madoff’s primary banker, JPMorgan Chase; $3.6 billion from the Fairfield Greenwich Group hedge fund; and $2.5 billion form the Swiss bank UBS AG, according to Reuters.

Picard also is suing for significant money from two Jewish philanthropists who were Madoff friends and beneficiaries but have died since the fraud came to light: $7.2 billion from the estate of Jeffry Picower, who died in October 2009, and $1.1 billion from the estate of Stanley Chais, who died in September. Both men had family foundations that gave to Jewish causes.

One of Madoff’s sons, Mark Madoff, who was believed to have been a target of Picard’s lawsuits but who maintained his innocence, committed suicide last weekend in his New York apartment.

Burt Ross, an Englewood resident, former mayor of Fort Lee, and Bergen County real estate developer who lost $5 million in the Ponzi scheme, lamented the younger Madoff’s death. Ross is a human being first and a Madoff investor second, he said, noting the other Madoff victims he has spoken to have also expressed sorrow.

“It’s overwhelmingly sad,” he said. “It’s just more devastation caused by this evil human being.”

Ross is not named in Picard’s lawsuits, as he did not take out any of the dividends he had supposedly accrued. He did, however, pay income tax on fictitious income and he is now engaged in a lawsuit with the state of New Jersey to recover those tax dollars. New Jersey, he said, is the only state that has refused to refund taxes paid on the fictitious income.

“They should not be the sole beneficiary to Madoff’s crime,” he said. “They should not be accomplices to that.”

The case is now in New Jersey state court and Ross expects a summary judgment soon.

The full extent of the damage that the recovery process will have on the nonprofit Jewish world will not be known until all of the lawsuits are settled. Even for those that already have reached a settlement, it’s not clear how the organizations’ activities will be affected.

“Hadassah’s fiscal discipline will allow it to pay this obligation from existing unrestricted funds,” Falchuk wrote to supporters about the $45 million settlement. “As always, Hadassah gifts will continue to be used for their intended purpose.” JTA Wire Service

Josh Lipowsky contributed to this report

 
 
HADASSAH=ESTHER=PURIM

Still relevant at 100

Local Hadassah members as proud as ever

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Marcie Natan, president of Hadassah, seen here on Friday, Feb. 24, 2012, holding a proclamation honoring the organization’s founding on Feb. 24, 1912. The ceremony took place at Temple Emanu-El in New York City, where the organization was founded a century ago. David Karp

In April 2006 – when Bayonne resident and former national Hadassah president Deborah Kaplan told The Jewish Standard that “Hadassah is not an association — it’s a way of life” — her own chapter was marking its 70th anniversary, while the Jersey City chapter, with which Bayonne had merged several years before, was celebrating its 85th year.

The Jersey City group was then the second oldest chapter in the state. The first was founded in Newark in 1914.

Kaplan, who said she had been involved with Zionist groups since she was 8 years old, added, “If Hadassah had not been founded by Henrietta Szold in 1912, we would still have needed to create such an organization.”

As the Women’s Zionist Organization of America now observes its centennial year, members continue to take pride in its many accomplishments.

Teaneck resident Miriam Aron, Kaplan’s daughter and a former president of the Northern New Jersey Region, says that while other organizations in Israel now offer some of the same services provided by Hadassah, “We do all of that, and more.”

She pointed out that not only did Hadassah build the infrastructure for a modern medical system in Israel, but it continues to maintain hospitals where — in her mother’s words — “our doctors perform miracles.”

Indeed, so noteworthy is the work of Hadassah’s two hospitals in Israel, one on Mt. Scopus and one in Ein Kerem, that in 2005, the group was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, said Montclair resident Karen Goldman, president of the Northern New Jersey Region.

“Our proudest achievement is our contribution to research and medicine,” she said. But even more, the group is devoted to saving lives, whether through the hospital, through youth aliyah, which rescued children from Europe during World War II, or through “giving a new start to kids at risk in Israel today.”

“The reason we were nominated for the Peace Prize is that our hospitals represent what peace would look like,” she said. “The staff is international and multi-racial, and treats anyone who comes to our doors. We’re incredibly proud.”

“When you come to our door, politics has no place,” said Aron, pointing out that since the Ein Kerem Hospital had grown “more expensive to retrofit than to rebuild from scratch,” the organization built a new facility, the Sarah Westman Davidson Hospital Tower, scheduled to receive its first patients later this month. According to Aron, this is the largest project the organization has ever undertaken in Israel.

Aron described Hadassah as an “evolving” organization. When there was no longer a need for its vocational high school in Israel, it opened up Hadassah College in Jerusalem instead. Similarly, when it became clear that the group could no longer be the sole sponsoring organization for Young Judaea, the youth group became a shared responsibility.

Goldman pointed out that the region — which takes its lead from that national organization and filters ideas down to the local chapters — has been heavily involved in supporting the new hospital facility, necessarily putting some other programs on hold. Nevertheless, the organization remains committed to advocacy, primarily for health-related issues, and to educating its own members.

The local connection

Hadassah has a strong presence in New Jersey, “going where the membership is,” said Aron.

She noted that southern New Jersey is seeing the growth of younger chapters, while some chapters in the northern region are composed primarily of older women.

While only women may be members, men may join as associates.

Many years ago, “We were smart enough to realize if we could get men involved on a certain level, it would add to our fundraising goals,” said Aron. “It’s our male connection — generally the husbands, sons, and grandsons of our members.”

According to Goldman — who said that the region’s 28 chapters embrace more than 11,000 members — Hudson County hosts the relatively new Hoboken Hadassah of Hudson County, founded by women in their 20s and 30s, as well as the much older chapter of Bayonne-Jersey City. Passaic County chapters include Dor Hadash (Wayne) and Clifton-Passaic; while Bergen County is home to the River Dell, TriBoro, Teaneck-Hackensack, Paramus- Bat Sheva, Pascack Valley/Northern Valley, Fair Lawn, Palisades, Northwest Bergen, and Englewood-Tikvah Chaverut chapters. The region also includes chapters in Essex, Morris, and Union counties.

To celebrate Hadassah’s centennial year, the organization ran a promotional membership campaign, adding 60,000 members nationally, said Goldman.

She noted that on March 22, many regional chapters will sponsor events to coincide with the national organization’s “Home Sweet Hadassah” initiative.

“Some chapters are organizing study groups to meet on that day,” she said, pointing out that Henrietta Szold first introduced her ideas about helping pre-state Israel to the women of her study group.

On May 6, the region is sponsoring a centennial-themed walkathon in New Overpeck Park, “where we will pass a virtual torch to commemorate Hadassah’s 100 years.” Then, on May 10, the region will hold a “Gala Centennial Dinner” in Springfield, where past and current region and chapter presidents will be recognized and new officers installed.

Finally, Hadassah’s national convention in Israel Oct. 15-18 will include an international centennial celebration, as well as the dedication of the Sarah Westman Davidson Hospital Tower.

In addition, said Goldman, “Many of our members were among the 1,400 attendees at the recent Centennial Shabbat service” at New York City’s Temple Emanu-El on February 24.

“Temple Emanu-El is regarded as the birthplace of Hadassah, since it was there that Hadassah was founded exactly one hundred years to the day on February 24, 1912,” she said. “Furthermore, February 24 was the yahrzeit of our founder, Henrietta Szold.”

More members, fewer workers

Aron remembers the founding of the Paramus Bat-Sheva chapter, which united the then-older Paramus group with the “young married women from the apartments in Hackensack.”

The Hackensack group, founded in the early 1970s by women eager to work for the organization, had “reached a point where people were moving into houses in different areas, and young women were not moving into Hackensack. So we merged with the Paramus chapter.”

That group, she said, had “more members, but fewer workers.”

With the young women willing to do the work, “it was a happy marriage,” she said, pointing out that while local chapters still run many activities, “The trend in many chapters is that it’s harder to get workers.” As a result, chapters are now pulling together to sponsor joint activities.

Paramus-Bat Sheva President Helaine Wohl said her chapter is following that trend.

In April, her group will participate in a fashion show fundraiser with three other chapters.

“It’s our first attempt at doing a joint fundraiser,” she said, noting that the average age of her more than 300 chapter members is 60 to 65. She estimates that some 85 men are affiliated as associates.

“I’m the baby, at 50,” she said, adding that while membership growth is not as steady as it had been in the past, “We got a lot of members last year through the $100 promotion for lifetime membership in honor of the centennial.”

Wohl, a member for 18 years, said she left the chapter temporarily to found one in Mahwah. “We kept it going for four years, but then it disbanded, and I came back,” she said.

The chapter president said she sees a future with fewer, larger chapters. “The demographics have changed,” she said. “Women are aging, or are snowbirds, so there are fewer active members.”

Some things do not change, however, she said, noting that “some join because they’re Zionists at heart and want to do something for Israel.”

In addition, she said, she receives constant e-mails from the regional office inviting members to go to Trenton to speak out on issues such as stem cell research.

Her chapter, she said, holds monthly meetings on a wide variety of topics, bringing in speakers on issues such women’s health, Zionism, and Jewish history, and offering “fun” activities such as cooking demonstrations.

The organization definitely faces some challenges, said Aron.

“Because of economics, many people don’t automatically volunteer their time or talents, and we know we will have to streamline, live within our funding,” said Aron. “Nowadays, to start and keep a new chapter involved is wonderful. In many areas, as people age or move away, we’ve had to merge or close some chapters, since there are not enough workers.”

She pointed out that while there may be a sizeable number of members, they may no longer be able to be active. One chapter, she said, has members whose average age is in the “high 80s, but they don’t want to close.”

In addition, said Goldman, in this economic climate, “Fundraising is a challenge for every nonprofit.”

Not your bubbe’s organization

Aron — whose mother made her a lifetime member when she was a young child — said that stories abound about her mot her (president of her chapter the year her daughter was born) pushing her around in a stroller as she performed her Hadassah duties.

When the daughter started her own household, “It was never a question of ‘Would I join?’ but what chapter I would join,” she said.

True to form, Aron, now national Hadassah chair for Young Judaea Israel programs and a past president and active member of the Paramus Bat-Sheva chapter, made certain to enroll her own three (now married) children in the organization. Her mother, she said, has remained active, as well, serving as national board member and chair of the organization’s Jewish National Fund department.

Goldman, too, “has been a lifetime member since [the concept] was introduced nationally. My mother was devoted to Hadassah. She said she started it, but I pointed out that she was born in 1914, so couldn’t have.”

Still, she joked, “If she thinks she did it, it’s okay.”

The regional president, originally from Teaneck, also remembers “eating cookies under the table” at meetings of the Teaneck chapter.

Hadassah is definitely a multi-generational affair, said Goldman, who “is hoping to activate young, multi-tasking women as well as women in their 60s and newly retired, who may have time to devote to the organization. We’re hoping to inspire them,” she said.

What she does not want to do is to alienate the older, devoted members who may feel increasingly isolated as the organization “is going green and embracing technology.”

“It’s important not to disenfranchise those ladies,” she said, adding that when she travels around the region to speak with different chapters, she offers to send someone there to give computer lessons. “I want to include them in a universe they’re being excluded from,” she said.

Nevertheless, at the Temple Emanu-el event on Fifth Avenue in February, “I saw the entire age spectrum,” she said, including women of all ages, as well as men.

She pointed out that during 2012, men can join as associates for life at a cost of $212.

“It’s amazing to see the interest still exhibited on the part of our octogenarians,” she said. “They come out regularly for our high-caliber education days.”

Goldman sees a bright future for the organization. “I see us continuing to do what we do, and even better than we do it now,” she said, “saving lives, rehabilitating, and having a younger generation to pass that message along. We’re multi-generational and we cherish interaction,” she said.

“We’re not their bubbe’s organization,” added Goldman. “We’re constantly re-evaluating and looking at strategic plans. It’s not business as usual, but business in an appropriate way — looking at the both the present and the future.”

For more information about Hadassah, and the Northern New Jersey Region, visit .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

 
 
 
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