BR, N.O. Hadassah members go to Israel

On Monday, Susan Smolinsky, of Baton Rouge, and five people from New Orleans will be among 2,000 people in Israel attending the Centennial Convention of Hadassah.

Smolinksy said Hadassah was founded on Feb. 24, 1912, by Henrietta Szold, who had visited what was then the Palestine region of the Ottoman Empire. Horrified by the health conditions suffered by the people living there, Szold started Hadassah to provide health and medical care to the people of that area.

The name “Hadassah” was chosen because it was formed about the time of Purim, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the biblical Queen Esther. Hadassah is the Hebrew name for Esther.

Hadassah has 330,000 members and male associates, its website said, adding that number makes it the “largest women’s, largest Zionist and largest Jewish membership organization in the United States.”

Smolinsky said the Baton Rouge chapter is about 10 years old and has about 100 members.

“The New Orleans Chapter of Hadassah is much older than the Baton Rouge Chapter. It has a large membership and is involved in many more activities,” she said.

The website lists the group’s work in Israel and the United States.

In Israel, the group provides “pacesetting medical care and research, education and youth programs, and reforestation and parks projects,” says.

“Hadassah is the largest employer in Jerusalem,” Smolinsky said.

Hadassah runs hospitals and Hadassah College in downtown Jerusalem.

She said the goal of the group is to “provide modern medical care to serve anyone in need of medical care, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or political persuasion.”

She said the Hadassah Medical Organization was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

Smolinksy added that Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden toured a Hadassah hospital during a trip the Holy Land in 2008. She said Holden said he was interested in bringing some of its technology to Baton Rouge.

The website said Hadassah’s work in the United States includes promotion of “health education, social action and advocacy, volunterism, Jewish education and research, Young Judaea and connections with Israel.”

“During the convention, we will be meeting with the mayor of Jerusalem,” Smolinsky said, adding that Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu will also be there.

Several of the convention’s events will be live-streamed on the Internet at

Sources:, The Advocate files

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