Hadassah Davidson Tower
Hadassah Davidson Towercourtesy

Patients at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital will soon be able to stretch out – as a new “healing tower” gets the final touches before officially opening in March of next year. “The construction is basically complete, paid for largely by donations raised by Hadassah chapters in the U.S.,” says Marcie Natan, the newly-installed President of the organization. “We're very proud that except for the funding provided by the Israeli government, we were able to raise the money for the tower ourselves.”

The 14 floor tower will replace the 50 year old “round building” as the new center of patient care,  says Natan, who is here for Hadassah's semi-annual board meeting in Israel. Natan, installed as president in July, will also be meeting doctors and executives at the Haddasah hospitals and research centers, and will, along with other board members, be hosted next week by President Shimon Peres.

Although everyone knows the name “Hadassah,” most people don't realize how important the American volunteer group is to the Israeli hospital system, says Natan. “We are not just friends of the hospital, but basically its owners, so it's essential that we have a close working relationship with doctors and staff. We will be using the new tower for all patient services except emergency care and obstetrics, while the vacated space in the old building will be used for research and administration,” she says.

Hadassah sees itself not just as a group that raises money for an Israeli hospital, but as a central component of Jewish identity for many American Jews – secular and religious. While she realizes that many Jews from the Orthodox community in Israel and the U.S. see Hadassah as a strictly secular organization – that cannot or is unwilling to accommodate the Orthodox lifestyle – nothing could be further from the truth, Natan says. “We pride ourselves on being open to all streams of Judaism, especially Orthodoxy. All our events are kosher, and no events or travel takes place on Shabbat or holy days. We try to be open to all, religious and secular.”

One reason that religious Jews are not attracted to Hadassah, at least in the U.S., is because of the “competition,” the many charitable groups and volunteer organizations that were begun in the Orthodox community and are on their “wavelength,” says Natan. “There are some great organizations that focus specifically on the Orthodox, and they feel more comfortable there.” Nevertheless, she says, “some of my closest friends in Hadassah are members of the Orthodox community, and they have never complained of a problem in respecting their lifestyle,” she adds.