Local Hadassah leaders are welcoming the launch of the Greater Princeton chapter of the women’s Zionist organization, created in December 2013 through a merger of the 344-member Trenton-Lawrence and 754-member Princeton Ha’Atid chapters.
“The Greater Princeton chapter is a multi-age, multi-generation chapter,” said Sherryl Kaufman, president of the Hadassah Southern New Jersey Region.
The Trenton-Lawrence chapter, Kaufman said, “was an ‘older’ chapter, and, as frequently happens, there was a dearth of leadership — people were not coming up the pipeline to take over.”
“It was a big chapter but they have many older members who spend the winter in Florida or don’t participate as much,” said Judy Bortnick of Princeton Junction, former chair of community outreach for the Princeton Ha’Atid chapter and now copresident of the new chapter.
Regional leaders decided it would be beneficial to both chapters to merge them.
“The members of Trenton-Lawrence chapter, who were still very active, could still have a home and an infrastructure, and they brought some of their existing, vibrant programs to the Princeton chapter,” said Kaufman.
The new chapter’s programming includes tzedaka activities, from back-to-school and coat drives to Christmas gift-wrapping at Quaker Bridge Mall to fund-raisers for Hadassah’s cancer research, as well as educational events.
“There are a lot of people coming into the chapter, and we want to make sure they feel happy, comfortable, invited, and part of our chapter — that they are part of all exciting events that we do,” said Bortnick.
Laura Brandspiegel of East Windsor is copresident with Bortnick.
After getting involved with the Princeton Ha’Atid chapter 10 years ago, Brandspiegel served in leadership capacities, including president for three years, and is now in her second term as membership vice president for the region. She has had a long relationship with Israel, nourished by a semester there in 11th grade, family trips, and her participation in the Hadassah centennial celebration last year, when she visited Hadassah College in Jerusalem, Hadassah Medical Center, and the Hadassah youth villages for at-risk youngsters.
Miki Krakauer of Princeton Junction, executive vice president of the new chapter, agrees with Brandspiegel and Bortnick that the merger will strengthen Hadassah in the area. At the same time, she expressed sadness at the weakening of “the very proud Trenton Hadassah legacy.”
“The sad thing is that we kind of had to do it because we were losing our older members and younger people were not coming in,” she said. “Maybe it just reflects the mobility of the Jewish community.”
Hadassah is best known for its support of its two medical campuses in Jerusalem, which have been facing an accumulated $357 million deficit and have currently been given temporary respite from creditors. Last month, Hadassah Medical Organization doctors agreed to return to work after a two-week strike. While its leaders continue to negotiate a recovery plan with the Israeli government, the unions, and other stakeholders, they have been assuring chapters that contributions will be monitored to ensure that they fulfill the intent of the donor.
“My understanding is the issue making them go into bankruptcy has more to do with staff and paying salaries,” said Brandspiegel, a Hamilton physician whose husband, Larry, is cantor of Beth El synagogue in East Windsor. The funds raised by Hadassah, she said, go toward infrastructure and research needs, not toward salaries.
“Our fund-raising money can only go so far,” said Brandspiegel. “The government and insurance companies need to kick in.”
At the same time, Brandspiegel emphasized Hadassah Medical Organization’s policy about treating everyone — Jews, Arabs, and anyone else seeking care. “If you come, they will not turn you away; they are going to take care of you,” she said.
Bortnick also praised the policy, but added, “Unfortunately it is difficult when you don’t have people paying for services to come up with money to pay for services.”