A century after the founding of Hadassah, the Southern New Jersey Region proved the organization’s message has transcended the decades.
At the organization’s annual Myrtle Wreath Luncheon on March 25, more than 300 women gathered to celebrate the successes of all those years, the last in particular, which saw a 24 percent increase in membership.
Another 3,670 life members were added, the second-largest total of any region in the nation, increasing its life membership total to 13,227.
Calling the membership figures “something to be proud of,” region president Sue Beller said, “We have surpassed our fund-raising goals and have brought in capable leaders to take us into the next century.”
The region raised $1.1 million — almost $3 million if bequests are included — for Hadassah projects and the new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.
As part of the celebration each chapter had its “centennial stars” recognized. A facsimile of the Scroll of Esther created to celebrate Hadassah’s 90th anniversary in 2002 was passed among families with members spanning generations. Hadassah was founded on Purim in 1912.
Mindy Wiser Estin of Ocean Township, immediate past president of her Hadassah chapter, well understands the role Hadassah has played through the generations. Her 14-year-old daughter, Samantha, is also a life member; Estin’s mother, Harriet Wiser, is also a member of the Ocean chapter; and Estin’s husband, David, is an associate member.
“It all started when I was 12 and we went on a federation mission as a family to Israel,” said Estin. “We visited Hadassah Hospital. Because my dad is an orthodontist, we had an interest in medical issues.”
Her sister, also an active Hadassah member, spent a semester at Hadassah’s medical facilities in Israel while studying nursing at the University of Pennsylvania.
However, it wasn’t until 2007, when Estin went on a Hadassah leadership mission, that her eyes were opened to the breadth of its outreach and impact.
“We went to Hadassah College and saw all the other things Hadassah does,” she recalled. “It just does so many things to help Israel and its people.”
Receiving the annual Myrtle Leaf Award were Sheila Solomon Klass and her daughter, Dr. Perri Klass, who spoke about the book they coauthored, Every Mother Is a Daughter: The Never Ending Quest for Success, Inner Peace, and a Really Clean Kitchen.
Perri Klass, a pediatrician and professor of pediatrics and journalism at New York University, spoke about how she and her mother followed similar paths in life. Both are writers, went to graduate school, wrote books, became college professors who married professors, and had three children.
Yet, Perri said, at the same time she had something her mother never had — the full support of her parents in all her endeavors. Her Orthodox grandparents did not approve of her mother, who is now 84, leaving home to attend college.
“My parents nurtured me, cheered me on, and always let me know how proud they were,” said Perri. “My mother married a Jewish college professor, had a beautiful house in the suburbs, and her mother never once told her she was proud.”
Sheila, professor emerita at Manhattan Community College and author of numerous books and articles, confirmed that assessment a bit. “My father later relented a little and told me he was proud of me,” she said, “but my mother never said she was proud.”
Perri said she admired her mother’s ability to juggle home and work at a time when few women had careers.
“In the 1960s my mother was one of the only mothers in my neighborhood who worked,” said Perri. “My mother would wake up two hours early and go to the attic to write. We woke up every morning to the sound of her typewriter. After she put her children to bed, she went up to write in the attic.“