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Hadassah women’s group works to care for Jewish ‘peoplehood’

Barbara Goldstein, photographed in downtown Spokane on Nov. 11, was visiting Spokane to speak to a group at Temple Beth Shalom. (Jesse Tinsley)
Barbara Goldstein, photographed in downtown Spokane on Nov. 11, was visiting Spokane to speak to a group at Temple Beth Shalom. (Jesse Tinsley)

Organization raises funds for health care, education

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, raises money and awareness for programs in Israel, especially in the fields of health care and education.

Barbara Goldstein, 70, is deputy executive director of Hadassah’s office in Israel, where she lives. The former New Jersey resident travels throughout the world on behalf of Hadassah.

Goldstein spent the past several years working on the release of Gilad Shalit, the captured Israeli soldier released a month ago in exchange for nearly 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

She helped organize visits by Shalit’s parents to Hadassah conferences throughout the United States.

Julie Morris, of Spokane, has known Goldstein for three decades through Hadassah, and when she and her husband, Jeff, recently led an interfaith group to Israel, Goldstein served as an unofficial tour guide.

Group members invited Goldstein to Spokane to speak at Temple Beth Shalom. She was here a week ago and stopped by The Spokesman-Review before her talk at the temple

Here are excerpts from the interview:

About Hadassah

We have 300,000 women in the United States. We are a bridge to peace. We take care in our (Hadassah) hospitals of Muslims, Armenians, whatever group. They get the same treatment. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

The terrorist is in one bed in the trauma unit and his victim is in the other bed. One of our plastic surgeons is an expert in burns. He’s a man whose grandfather and father fought for the independence of Israel. He goes around with a gun. He keeps it in his back pocket. He takes it into the operating room. He’s never without it.

He says, “When that patient is on the table, I don’t look at anything but to save his life.”

 Seventy percent of those who give to (Hadassah) will never see Israel. It’s part of their belief in the establishment of a Jewish state in our lifetime. Judaism isn’t a religion, it’s a peoplehood.

On post-traumatic stress

It was invented in Israel. We’re a whole country with post-traumatic stress. We’re a leader in the field to how we deal with it. I worked with 2,500 families during the Intifada (from 2000 to 2006). You are never the same.

There was a woman who was in one of the buses blown up. She had just given birth before. When she was finally released after almost a year, her child wouldn’t come to her. That was the worst moment. Her child didn’t know her.

We party hard, because we live under constant stress. We have nowhere else to go. We’re not going anywhere. Sometimes it’s worse than others. We’re a very hyper people. You’ve got to enjoy life when you have it. We live in those highs and lows.

At the beginning of the Intifada, I told my husband, “Morty, we’re going to eat every meal out.”

People were afraid to eat in restaurants. They wanted to break our spirit and if anybody wants to break our spirit, you say, “No way you are going to do that.”

About Gilad Shalit’s release

That moment was probably the most difficult moment for the people of the state of Israel, and the most joyous moment. The bitter and the sweet. We paid the price few countries would ever pay for one son. And I say one – not one soldier – but one son.

These are our children. There are no degrees of separation. It’s hard for Americans to understand. The family would not give up. This prime minister saw one moment when there was a chance to do it.

Did we get peace after? The next day, they were throwing rockets.

My children live in the south (of Israel). They called me and said, “We got the sirens, and we’re in the safe room.” Every house has a safe room or a shelter. One (released Palestinian prisoner), a dynamic young woman, goes back to Gaza and speaks to all the high schools and says, “I’m going to start again.”

Our prime minister took heat from every direction. But he told the family: “I will bring him home.”

But to see that moment, when a son returns to his parents, that was 6 million Jews saying, “This is the family.”