When she was in high school, Michele Friend took an “exodus” from Europe to Israel with Young Judea, the youth group of Hadassah. For six weeks, she and other Jewish-Americans ex-plored the country’s sights and culture, but what stayed with her the most, Friend said, was the group’s visit to the Hadassah Medical Organization.
HMO is partly supported by Hadassah chapters throughout the United States, which raise money to support medical research in Israel, advocacy work at home, and networking and social events for young Jewish women. During her trip, Friend saw the results of Hadassah’s efforts firsthand.
“I saw what the organization did, and how all the fundraising and everything helped support [the hospital’s] programs,” Friend said. “Maybe that’s part of the reason why I said yes to being president.”
Earlier this year, the Dayan Lilah Group of Hadassah installed Friend, Rebecca Tepper and Susan Schlossberg as its new presidents. Dayan Lilah is the young leaders group of the Merrick-Bellmore Pnina Chapter of Hadassah.
In the past, two presidents headed the group’s operations, but the three women now at the helm decided to divvy up the responsibilities. Friend serves as programs president, Tepper as membership president and Schlossberg as fundraising president.
Friend, of Merrick, is a lifetime Hadassah member, and most recently was Dayan Lilah’s recording secretary. She attended Hadassah’s national convention last summer, which gave her a broader perspective on the organization’s work around the world, she said. Friend is a certified public accountant and an active member of the Merrick Jewish Centre.
Tepper, who was honored as Dayan Lilah’s 2019 Woman of the Year, is a special education early intervention provider. A lifetime member of Hadassah, she was the group’s membership vice president for the past two years. In that role, she helped recruit new members and chaired various events. Tepper lives in Merrick with her husband and three children.
Before becoming president, Schlossberg was Dayan Lilah’s fundraising vice president. In this role, she helped with children’s events, assisted the raffle committee and coordinated mailings. She is also a lifetime Hadassah member, and received the Myrtle Wreath Award for Membership Development from the Nassau Region of Hadassah in 2019. Schlossberg is a lifelong resident of North Bellmore, and works in the medical field.
A Hadassah for the ‘new generation’
Dayan Lilah’s 300-person membership includes women in their early 30s to late 40s. The group sponsors a variety of events such as bingo, Chinese auctions, mah-jongg nights, fitness and sports programs, book discussions and dinners. The aim of their two-year term, the presidents said, is to offer new programming to the community and expand the group’s membership beyond its current demographic. By recruiting new members and hosting new events, the presidents hope to reinvigorate Hadassah.
“One thing we’re trying to accomplish is to modernize the meaning of Hadassah,” Friend said. “It’s for all ages, including the new generation.”
A few upcoming programs Tepper highlighted were a family crafting event on Feb. 16, a chocolate-making night on March 5 and a Passover recipe swap on March 23. Newcomers can check out an event before becoming a member; annual memberships cost $36 a year, and lifetime memberships cost $250.
“We’re trying to reach out to a younger demographic,” Tepper said of the new programs, “and we also have events for kids, so mothers can come with their kids and get involved, too.”
Hadassah connects women from “all different backgrounds and all different temples,” Friend said. “This is a place where anybody could fit in and feel comfortable and join us,” she added.
A point of pride
While leading a local Hadassah is not easy, the new presidents are determined to keep the Merrick-Bellmore chapter going.
The group “represents Judaism, and nowadays with . . . all the anti-Semitic incidents, it’s a reminder to be proud to be Jewish, and not to back away from it,” Tepper said. “It’s an environment of warm, friendly, like-minded women.”
“Come and check us out,” Schlossberg added.
Hadassah invites all women who share its interests and passions to join. For more information about Merrick-Bellmore’s Dayan Lilah Group, or upcoming events, email firstname.lastname@example.org.