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Hadassah Ladies Look to Attract Young Members

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What started out as a dimly-lit star, seemingly billions of miles away, is blooming into one of Brooklyn’s hottest, and hard-to-keep secrets. But cats are going to break out of the bag sooner or later and the Brooklyn Region of Hadassah, America’s largest women’s and Zionist organization, is about to let their cat out of the bag in a very big way. “Hadassah,” the word synonymous with old ladies who love Israel and plant trees in the Holy Land, is shedding its older image and kicking its recruitment activities up a notch, looking to draw in newer, younger members. And what better way to bring in new young blood than a good cause … and why not throw in a fantastic, sizzling, Saturday Night Salsa dance party to boot? For the past six months, Brooklyn Region’s Young Women Young Leaders (YWYL) group, a rapidly-growing sisterhood of some of Brooklyn’s brightest young women, have been putting their heads together to best determine how to get Hadassah’s pluralistic message across and make it appealing to the younger generation. Rachel Cannon, a twenty-something transplanted Oklahoman, who also does office work at Brooklyn Region’s Midwood office, remarked that Hadassah helps her “support issues that affect women everywhere such as domestic violence and preserving our first amendment rights.” “These young ladies are the new face of Hadassah,” explained Roni Schwartz, president of Hadassah Brooklyn Region. “Health care, education, truth in reporting, separation of church and state, support of those in need…[these] are all issues that we are passionate about here.” YWYL’s kickoff event and fundraiser, a wine & cheese Meet ‘n’ Greet held at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, brought in fresh new faces, and since then YWYL has seen nothing short of an avalanche effect take place, as women aged 21-45 not only jump at the chance to join Hadassah, but are excited to be active participants in their membership as well. According to Cannon, a key organizer of Saturday Night Salsa, “Letting people know that Hadassah is alive and well…is a way for me to connect with other Jewish women. I’m so proud to be involved with a group of women who are so dedicated.” Among the myriad facets the young women mulled over in their quest to make the hottest dance party this side of the East River, was—of course—location, location, location. After a number of dance venues and performance spaces didn’t pan out or meet budgetary requirements, with deadlines looming, fate stepped in. While attending a recent concert at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music with her husband Michael, who sits on their Board of Directors, a light bulb flashed over Schwartz’s head, and—after pulling a few strings—bada-bing, bada-boom, the issue of venue was solved. Saturday Night Salsa is slated to take place at the Brooklyn Conservatory, home to one of Brooklyn’s coolest dance spots, in the heart of one of its trendiest neighborhoods, Park Slope. Open to singles and couples in their 20s, 30s and 40s, you don’t have to worry if you don’t know how to dance; in fact, there’s no excuse: The young women, ever resourceful, have secured a dance instructor, who will provide Salsa and Latin dance lessons throughout the night, so you’re guaranteed to be an expert by evening’s end. Park Slope resident and YWYL member and event organizer Lisa Solo first joined Hadassah after attending YWYL’s Meet ‘n’ Greet. “Hadassah, to me, means a sense of place…being involved in a community that’s meaningful for me, with the goals of supporting the Jewish community here and the community in Israel.” Cannon agreed, noting that, “It is…a means for me to advocate for and support Israel, whether for Hadassah Hospitals’ stem cell research or social programs for at-risk youth.” Jewish scholar and activist Henrietta Szold founded Hadassah in 1912 after discovering that during a mass wave of immigration to what was then Palestine, during the height of the newly-founded Zionist movement, there was a dangerous shortage of medically-skilled workers in the desolate desert region. Szold rallied and recruited armies of doctors and nurses to apply their skills and know-how in the Holy Land, insisting that the most up-to-date medical treatment be extended to Palestine’s Arabs and Jews alike, thereby actually reversing the Arab infant mortality rate. Today, Hadassah’s two medical facilities on Mount Scopus and Ein Kerem in Jerusalem, universally known for pioneering new medical techniques, are considered the global standard by which all top-notch hospitals should be measured, and according to National President June Walker, Hadassah is also “a place where prime ministers receive the same care as every other patient who comes through our doors.” Walker refers to the laborious lengths recently taken to save the life of Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, felled by a massive stroke January 4. The eyes of the world were upon Hadassah and its Director General, Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, who has given, and continues to provide daily press briefings to the media regarding the status of Israel’s recovering elder statesman. “American Jewish women want a connection to Israel,” says Schwartz. “At the same time, we [also] want to advocate for those issues important to us here in the United States.” Which brings us back to Saturday Night Salsa, and the young women upon whom the future of Hadassah rests. Although, according to its website, Hadassah “promotes the unity of the Jewish people,” it maintains a strict non-denominational status, freely inviting women of all ages and from all backgrounds, ethnicities and religious orientations to join. “Hadassah’s work in Israel, as well as [at] our office in Washington, DC to promote advocacy, provides the vehicles through which we can achieve these goals,” said Schwartz said. “It’s all extremely close to my heart,” responded Solo, “particularly,” she says, “the community in Israel.” Saturday Night Salsa, sponsored by the Young Women Young Leaders of Brooklyn Region Hadassah, will be held from 8:30 p.m. to midnight, January 28 at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, 58 Seventh Avenue. Admission is $10 in advance, $12 at the door. To make reservations, call 718-375-2596. For more info about Hadassah and YWYL, call the Brooklyn Region office at 718-382-6454, log onto www.brooklyn.hadassah.org, or onto the national website www.hadassah.org.

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