Above: Georgia Gov. Ernest Vandiver presents Hadassah’s Atlanta chapter with the state flag to be flown at the dedication of the new Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Accepting are Sara Alterman, Sara Levin, Louella Shapiro and Laurel Weiner. 

One autumn afternoon in 1916, Becky Jacobs opened her house for a meeting. Seventeen other women joined her to discuss the Atlanta charter of a new women’s Zionist group called Hadassah.

Local legend has it that Sadye Jacobs, who later served as chapter president, had a sister-in-law who was Hadassah’s national president in New York, and that is why Atlanta was first introduced to Hadassah.

Atlanta’s 1916 Charter Members  Sara Breman  Becky Jacobs  Lil Buchman  Mrs. E.A. Joseph  Lily-Sara Cohen  Rose Kahanow  Dora Eplan  Nahama Koplin  Mrs. I. Fineman   Rebecca Levy Bertie Hellman  Mrs. H. Mendel   Mrs. Dave Hirsch   Mrs. Mose Stein   Lizzie Jacobs  Sara Zaban  Lena Jacobs  Sara Zion

Atlanta’s 1916 Charter Members
Sara Breman
Becky Jacobs
Lil Buchman
Mrs. E.A. Joseph
Lily-Sara Cohen
Rose Kahanow
Dora Eplan
Nahama Koplin
Mrs. I. Fineman
Rebecca Levy
Bertie Hellman
Mrs. H. Mendel
Mrs. Dave Hirsch
Mrs. Mose Stein
Lizzie Jacobs
Sara Zaban
Lena Jacobs
Sara Zion

The stand-in president, Lil Buchman, provided an outline of the organization’s cause. Dr. Hyman Solomon described the work of Hadassah in what was then still the Ottoman province of Palestine. A call was made to charter the chapter, elect officers, schedule meetings and collect monthly dues. The first dues collection among the 18 charter members totaled $4.75.

On Nov. 1, 1916, the Alliance Chapter of Hadassah was official.

A century later, more than 3,600 Atlanta-area women are members of Hadassah, an organization known for its dedication to medical advances, political advocacy and research in Israel and throughout the world.

As the Alliance Chapter thrived that first decade, Hadassah members beautified and improved the growing city around them. The women planted trees on Stone Mountain Road. They placed milk fund containers in Davison’s Department Store on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta to ensure a glass of milk each day for each Jewish child in Palestine.

Sewing circles produced supplies and organized clothing collections to ship to the Palestine Supplies Bureau.

During the late 1920s, the chapter minutes noted that despite hard times, quotas for all projects were met, including the local Infant Welfare Fund.

In 1933 Hadassah opened the Hadassah-Hebrew University Hospital on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. As World War II began in Europe, Hadassah launched emergency shipments of medical supplies, drugs and clothing to Palestine. Mobilized to support the U.S. war effort, the Alliance Chapter embraced National Hadassah’s campaign to sell $200 million in U.S. war bonds.

The Alliance Chapter movers and shakers included Rae Rosenberg Frank, Annie Levy, Ida Levitas and Bert Travis.

Atlanta members were continually recognized for zealous efforts in fundraising. The Alliance Chapter women surpassed national goals to the benefit of Hadassah Hospital and Jewish National Fund. The chapter received high praise from the Palestine Supplies Bureau for the expert workmanship, quality and quantity of supplies created by the 135 members of the six Hadassah sewing groups, which spanned from brides-to-be to great-grandmothers.

Israel’s War of Independence created strenuous demands on Hadassah’s resources, but in 1948, Atlanta Hadassah joyously celebrated the declaration of the new Jewish state.

Sadye Jacobs, the Atlanta chapter president in 1931 and 1932, became Atlanta’s first life member — a term that holds high esteem in modern-day Hadassah membership. Jacobs was known as an indomitable worker in membership and fundraising.

From 1945 to 1950, Hadassah bounced between massive losses and monumental celebrations. Notably, Hadassah founder and visionary Henrietta Szold died in 1945. Her passing was mourned worldwide.

On April 13, 1948, 78 Jewish doctors, nurses and hospital personnel were killed when their convoy to Hadassah Mount Scopus was ambushed. Dr. Haim Yassky, the director of the Hadassah Medical Organization, was among those who died. He had spoken at an Atlanta Hadassah luncheon a few years prior.

Israel became a nation in May 1948, and at the May 20 meeting of Senior Hadassah both the American and Israeli flags were presented. Local membership totaled 1,556. Fundraising chairs reported $11,532 for the emergency drive and $4,157.13 for JNF. The Southside Grandmothers Sewing Circle produced nearly 2,000 garments for Hadassah Supplies, which shipped out of Beth Jacob Synagogue on Boulevard near downtown Atlanta.

Helen Spiegel carries the Olympic torch for the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Helen Spiegel carries the Olympic torch for the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Atlanta members held a letter-writing campaign to urge senators to vote for the 1948 Displaced Persons Bill to protect survivors of the Nazi reign of terror from further persecution.

In 1949, Golda Meir visited Atlanta. The chapter continued to grow in size and in fundraising efforts, supporting children, the Hadassah Medical Organization and JNF.

With Israel established and four decades of existence behind it, the Alliance Chapter had a relatively quiet decade in the 1950s. National Hadassah pledged to sell $30 million in Israel Bonds and to concentrate on fundraising for a new medical center. Bon voyage parties celebrated every visit to Israel, which were rare at the time.

The 1960s saw the Hadassah Bargain Store open on Marietta Street in downtown Atlanta, and Camp Judaea came to fruition through the efforts of Lila Reisman, Laurel Weiner and Malcolm Minsk of the Atlanta Zionist Council.

In November 1967, 1,000 Atlanta Hadassah families and friends joined Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. and Israeli Consul General Zeev Boneh in welcoming Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek. As a remembrance of his visit, Kollek, an archaeology buff, was presented with a pottery relic from the Etowah Indian mounds in Cartersville.

Atlanta was one of only three U.S. cities visited by Kollek.

In 1970, Hadassah Atlanta chapter President Hazel Karp led the charge with new Mayor Sam Massell, Atlanta’s only Jewish mayor, for a beautification project at the Civic Center as a tangible link to growth and development in Atlanta.

When catastrophic Hurricane Fifi (later named Hurricane Orlene) devastated Honduras in 1974, the Hadassah Bargain Store provided clothing and blankets to the victims. The Atlanta chapter was consistently recognized for fundraising and growth, winning awards at conferences and conventions.

In 1976, JNF honored longtime Hadassah advocate Weiner with the dedication of the Laurel Weiner Forest in Israel.

Kicking off the yearlong centennial celebration Nov. 1, 2015, (center from left) centennial chair Phyllis Cohen, Greater Atlanta Hadassah President Paula Zucker, then-National President Marcie Natan and exhibition chair Ruthanne Warnick cut the ribbon on Hadassah Atlanta’s centennial exhibit at the Breman Museum. Joining the quartet in the middle are Southeastern Region President Toby Parker (left), Israeli Consul General Judith Varnai Shorer (scheduled to speak at the convention), Breman Executive Director Aaron Berger and exhibition display designer Dale Brubaker.

Kicking off the yearlong centennial celebration Nov. 1, 2015, (center from left) centennial chair Phyllis Cohen, Greater Atlanta Hadassah President Paula Zucker, then-National President Marcie Natan and exhibition chair Ruthanne Warnick cut the ribbon on Hadassah Atlanta’s centennial exhibit at the Breman Museum. Joining the quartet in the middle are Southeastern Region President Toby Parker (left), Israeli Consul General Judith Varnai Shorer (scheduled to speak at the convention), Breman Executive Director Aaron Berger and exhibition display designer Dale Brubaker.

Atlanta’s booming population demanded a change in Hadassah’s structure. To meet the needs of members, the chapter created interest groups. In 1983 those groups transitioned into five chapters with individual presidents.

Three-time chapter President Phyllis Cohen lived through the growing pains. She recalled that groups were based on location, interests and age.

“At some point there were so many groups it was difficult to deal with programming and leadership. So we tried several large chapters with no groups. But there was one big disadvantage: There was no single large voice and face of Hadassah,” she said. “It was confusing for the community.”

Atlanta caught the attention of National Hadassah, which realized the great potential for growth and leadership in the city and the Southeast. Reorganizing as one large chapter, the group was renamed Greater Atlanta Hadassah in 1994 to address an evolving membership. National Hadassah financially supported a new office in Sandy Springs, professional administrative staff and outreach measures.

Atlanta became the first city and staff placed in a hub and served cities across the Southeast. Greater Atlanta Hadassah reached members from Alpharetta to Riverdale.

Current Greater Atlanta President Paula Zucker said: “Like any major organization — and we have watched it happen with the Federation, the JCC and ORT — as you restructure, change is hard. Sometimes the organization has to shift to survive and thrive. If you never change, you’re going to die.”

Zucker added that members struggled with the decisions to reorganize. “Members asked why we did it this way, why we moved the building, why we are regrouping. Despite the feeling that it is personal, they’re trying to make Hadassah better. It’s almost like having children. If you don’t let them try something and allow for failure and experimentation, they never learn to improve.”

The 1990s were a pivotal decade for Greater Atlanta Hadassah. Three major programs were established: the Chesed Student Awards, an annual event to recognize exemplary students in Jewish day and religious schools; Check It Out, a breast cancer prevention program for high school girls in partnership with Northside Hospital; and Training Wheels, a Jewish education program for preschoolers and their families.

Greater Atlanta Hadassah joined the League of Women Voters of Atlanta/Fulton County to sponsor a political forum featuring candidates for the U.S. Senate and the 4th and 5th congressional districts.

Hadassah remained firmly planted in the political arena as Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act.

The original Atlanta Hadassah minutes book welcomes visitors to the centennial exhibit at the Breman Museum.

The original Atlanta Hadassah minutes book welcomes visitors to the centennial exhibit at the Breman Museum.

Weiner, a fearless and beloved Hadassah leader, died in 1996 from cancer. The same year, numerous Hadassah members volunteered for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, including Holocaust survivor Helen Spiegel, who ran with the torch. The Israeli Paralympic team was honored by Greater Atlanta Hadassah and the Atlanta Jewish Federation.

Greater Atlanta Hadassah was one of 10 chapters selected in 1998 to participate in the Hadassah Leadership Academy, a pilot of a multiyear program in Jewish women’s history, Zionism, community leadership and social advocacy.

In 1999 Greater Atlanta Hadassah, along with the Atlanta Jewish community, observed National Hadassah’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Atlanta received the National Award for Excellence in Women’s Health Education for its initiatives in health issues. Two thousand national delegates descended on Washington for the largest Day on the Hill event in Hadassah’s history.

In the first decade of the new millennium, Greater Atlanta Hadassah’s health professionals group led community forums on women’s health topics, including genetic disease, heart disease and breast cancer.

Today, Hadassah in Atlanta is a source of continuity and leadership. Members advocate gender equality in medical research, women’s preventive health care, affordable child care and laws to stop human trafficking. Hadassah stands for mission trips, education and Zionism. Hadassah stands for all.

As Ellen Hirshkin, Hadassah’s national president, said: “You don’t have to be Jewish to sign on to our programs and advocacy efforts. Hadassah is for everyone. We reflect at every level: age, economic stratum, religious observance. We reflect the power of women who do.”

A Century of Leaders

Atlanta Chapter Presidents

1916-24 Lil Buchman

1924-29 Annie Levy

1929-31 Ida Levitas

1931-32 Sadye Jacobs

1932-34 Esther Taylor

1934-36 Annie Levy

1936-38 Bert Travis

1938-40 Charney Abelson

1940-42 Rose Klotz

1942-44 Dena Chait

1944-46 Belle Rosenfeld

1946-48 Pauline Manning

1948-50 Jean (Benamy) Turry

1950-52 Jennie Fitterman

1952-54 Irene Schwartz

1954-56 Sarah Levin

1956-58 Dora Smith

1958-60 Sara Alterman

1960-62 Alice Caplan

1962-64 Joyce Levow

1964-66 Virginia Saul

1966-68 Colleen Weston

1968-70 Hazel Karp

1970-72 Sonya Rabinowitz

1972-74 Helen Spiegel

1974-76 Rae Sternberg

1976-78 Betty Selfridge

1978-79 Roz Levey and Virginia Saul

1979-81 Ernie Dreyer

1981-83 Leslie Jablow


Hadassah in Atlanta split in the 1980s into five groups: Ein Kerem, Ketura, Mount Scopus, Neurim and Nitzanim. 

Ein Kerem

1983-85 Susan Tourial

1985-87 Carol Rubin

1987-89 Linda Weinroth

1989-90 Janice Nodvin and Debbie Sonenshine

1990-92 Janice Nodvin

1992-94 Gerry Taratoot

Ketura

1983-84 Phyllis M. Cohen

1984-85 Rita Loventhal

1985-87 Carol Lynn Birnbaum

1987-89 Nancy Isenberg

1989-92 Arlene Glass

1992-94 Judy Viness and Susan Schlansky

Mount Scopus

1983-84 Shirley Michalove

1984-86 Rachel Schonberger

1986-88 Manuela Bornstein

1988-90 Fritzi Lainoff

1990-92 Sandie Beskind

1992-94 Martha Sanders

Neurim

1983-85 Margie Franco

1985-87 Vicki Newman

1987-89 Elaine Antman

Nitzanim

1983-84 Marilyn Perling


Greater Atlanta Hadassah was renamed and reorganized in the 1990s.

1992-93 Phyllis Cohen

1993-95 Arlene Glass

1995-96 Arlene Glass and Susan Schlansky

1996-98 Susan Schlansky

1998-2001 Marsha T. Shulman

2001-02 Judy R. Viness

2002-04 Anita Levy

2004-06 Rachel Schonberger

2006-08 Ruthanne Warnick

2008-10 Toby Parker

2010-12 Diane M. Fisher

2012-14 Sue Rothstein

2015-today Paula Zucker