Ruth Ramone Rosen
Hadassah Australia Executive Director

5780 and 2019 might appear to be random numbers, but both tell powerful stories about us as individuals and as a community.

The first allows us reflect on Jewish continuity, an unbroken lineage of achievement, heartbreak, promise and resolution.

The second places Judaism in the context of the wider non-Jewish world.

For members of the Hadassah family, both numbers are important and mutually inclusive.

As I look back over the previous 12 months – from Rosh Hashanah 5779 to 5780 or the Jewish New Year 2018 to 2019 – I understand both of them in the context of the work we do at Hadassah Australia in support of Hadassah Hospital and its critical outreach inside Israel and well beyond its borders.

That work may be prosaic on a day-to-day level, but in the context of contemporary human history it is profound and life-changing.

The Hadassah organisation can trace its roots back to Palestine at the turn of the 19th century and the pioneering work of Henrietta Szold. A true visionary, she brought westernised medicine to an impoverished slip of land and sowed the seeds for a modern healthcare industry. The small group of nurses that arrived eventually morphed into a major hospital network – Hadassah – which today provides life-saving medical outcomes to diverse communities within and beyond the Green Line. In many respects it is unique, and is credited as the template on which all medical services in Israel are based.

Hadassah Australia can trace its history from 2003 (5763), when Ron Finkel wanted to acknowledge the importance of the hospital in his family’s life and to encourage fellow Australians to support its vision as a safe haven for people in need of medical intervention irrespective of their religion, gender, politics or financial status.

Barely two years later the work of Hadassah Hospital as an island of calm in a chaotic regional sea was acknowledged by a nomination for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize – for its role in building bridges to better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health.

For me, a newbie to the Hadassah family, the hospital’s story is very much about the here and now. Over the last 12 months, Hadassah Australia has supported an extraordinary range of activities that have changed lives in ways that I could never have imagined. In most cases they were programs I inherited; in others, they were projects introduced under my watch. In every case, it’s possible to chart how lives have been influenced and how support from Australia has played a part.

Some examples:

The Jerusalem Crisis Intervention Center – a unique service that supports children and adolescents dealing with a range of emotional and psychological stressors caused by terrorism, domestic and sexual violence, family dysfunction, bullying, and so on. 

Goshen – an Australian-Hadassah inspired, community-based service that is teaching paediatricians about new modalities to support families with young children.

Ethiopian nursing scholarships – a pioneering initiative that has introduced a new track to a university education and a career in nursing for a community that is under-represented in both.

Medical clowns – Hadassah was the first hospital in Israel to recognise the importance of clowning to patient and staff wellbeing. Clowns with an understanding of the medical setting are not only reducing the trauma for young patients, but are contributing to the hospital’s bottom line.

Medical research – Hadassah has long-championed the idea that doctors working at the bedside can bring that experience to the research laboratory. It is one of the reasons that more than 50% of all hospital research conducted in Israel is carried out at Hadassah.

These achievements – along with many others – reveal why Hadassah is more than a hospital in the traditional sense, and an indispensable part of the wider Israeli community.

The reality, of course, is that these achievements can only continue with funding. Australians are among the most generous donors to Hadassah on a per capita basis, but more is needed if Hadassah is to lead the way for the continued benefit of the people of Jerusalem and beyond, be they Jews, Christians, Muslims or other.

While you consider making a donation, let me, on behalf of Hadassah Australia President Ron Finkel and all of us at Hadassah Australia and the Hadassah community more broadly, wish you and your loved ones a Shana Tova Umetuka (a good and sweet year).