August 31, 2000
Hadassah Kvelling Over Hadassah
For activists in North America's largest Jewish women's organization, the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles was like a marketing dream come true.
With Hadassah Lieberman's rise to fame as wife of vice-presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman, the name Hadassah had become a household word even in non-Jewish homes. On national television, an entire hall of convention delegates waved signs saying simply "Hadassah," as Mrs. Lieberman delivered a speech.
Media commentators discussed the origin of the name (Hebrew for Esther), the young Jewish queen who, according to the Bible, lived in ancient Persia and saved the Jews from extermination. Esther's story is retold each year at Purim.
While discussing Hadassah Lieberman, some commentators made references to the 88-year-old organization, which has slightly more than 300,000 members and is best known for its hospitals in Jerusalem.
Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, chose the name so the organization would look to Esther, the Jewish heroine, for inspiration.
Hadassah is also mentioned in the Bible as a hardy plant that is considered similar to a myrtle.Hadassah, the would-be veep's wife, is a member of her namesake group, and after she entered the national limelight, was given an honorary lifetime membership.
Meanwhile, Hadassah leadership say they hope to get their own "convention bounce" as a result of the new publicity.
"Between now and election day, our name will be repeated hundreds of times in every media market in the country," said Bonnie Lipton, Hadassah's president.
"This could be the biggest P.R. bonanza we've had in years," Lipton said. "But now, like politicians and pollsters, we need to ensure that our raised visibility brings results. In our case, that means enrolling more members. Check back in a few months."
Is there any concern that the organization will somehow be seen as endorsing the Democratic party ticket?Despite the temptation of having four, or even eight, years of their name being repeated, Hadassah officials insist theirs is a nonpolitical organization.
"Hadassah in no way endorses any candidate or any party or any aspect of partisan politics, but we do believe everyone should do [her] civic duty and get out and vote," said Lipton.