Decision to Award HRC Causes Stir at Jewish Women's Organization

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT


Jerusalem (CNS) – The decision by a leading Jewish women's organization to bestow its highest award on Hillary Rodham Clinton has caused a stir among some life members, who say it represents an endorsement both of her allegedly unfriendly stance toward Israel, and her senatorial ambitions.

Hadassah has announced it is to present the First Lady with its Henrietta Szold award at its 85th national convention in Washington D.C. on July 25, in recognition of her commitment to health and human rights issues.

The decision was made by an elected body representing the membership of the 300,000-strong organization.

CNSNews.com has obtained copies of letters sent by disgruntled Hadassah members to its national president, Marlene Post.

In one, California life member Helene Klein recalled Rodham Clinton's much-discussed statement last year in support of an independent Palestinian state – a remark that went beyond official U.S. policy on the matter.

Klein said the Hadassah award would boost the First Lady's chances in her prospective Senate bid for New York state, increasing "her chances to win against the present mayor of New York City [Rudi Giuliani], who, by the way is one of the best friends Jews and Israelis ever had."

She also questioned Rodham Clinton's suitability as a role model, questioning her "unlimited ambition to be on top," and "her public acceptance of her husband's philandery."

Another Hadassah life member, Mildred Karler of El Cerrito, CA, said in a letter to Post that Hadassah was a "Zionist Jewish organization, with emphasis on Zionist."

As such, she wrote, "certainly someone in your office must be aware that Mrs. Clinton is extremely pro-Palestinian and has shown herself to be anti-Israel."

Citing "Filegate, Travelgate and Whitewater," Karler, too, questioned the appropriateness of the First Lady receiving Hadassah's highest award.

She argued that it was not Hadassah's "place" to be "putting out imprimatur" on Rodham Clinton's political ambitions.

"Until she decided to run for the New York Senate and recognized the importance of the New York Jewish vote, [Rodham Clinton] supported a Palestinian State despite the perils that would represent for Israel," wrote Harriet Templer Moskovit, a life member from Boulder, CO.

" It is shameful for Hadassah to lend its name and prestige to the campaign of any political candidate, much less to one unfriendly toward Israel."

Moskovit also took a swipe at the First Lady's trip earlier this year to Egypt, which she said "gave prestige to a country whose professional organizations refuse to allow their members to visit Israel and whose media daily engage in hostile and vicious anti-Israel rhetoric. . . ."

She called the award decision "a betrayal of Henrietta Szold's work and vision and of the professed goals of Hadassah."

The writer's husband, Dr. Leonard Moskovit, added that the award was tantamount to "intervening in a political election in violation of Hadassah's own internal policy."

He suggested that if the decision to give Rodham Clinton the award was taken before she announced her intention to explore the possibility of running for the Senate, this was "certainly grounds for withdrawing the award at this time."

"If Hadassah has a shred of self-respect, Jewish pride or self-interest left, it will
find a way to reverse its original decision," urged Ari Levy, a member of the vocal lobby group, Americans for a Safe Israel, in another letter to Post.

AFSI's national office in New York City has also criticized the decision, calling it "a clearly preposterous and offensive choice of a woman who has openly endorsed the creation of an Arab state within Israel's sovereign territory."

CNSNews.com invited Hadassah to comment on the protests and the issues raised by the concerned members.

Instead, public affairs officer Lauren Gelfond sent a copy of a Hadassah press release on the award, adding: "We will not be commenting further."

Dated June 8, the release said Rodham Clinton would be given the award "for her vision and commitment to women's health, children's welfare, and human rights issues."

The statement gave no direct indication that Hadassah was aware the decision may prove controversial, although it did state that the First Lady was "nominated for this award by the National Board of Hadassah, a democratically elected body that represents the more than 300,000 members of Hadassah."

Hadassah described itself as "a volunteer women's organization, whose members are motivated and inspired to strengthen their partnership with Israel, ensure Jewish continuity, and realize their potential as a dynamic force in American society."

The Henrietta Szold award is named for its founder, a "Jewish scholar and activist, who was dedicated to Judaism, Zionism, and the American ideal."

Previous recipients have included Eleanor Roosevelt, Elie Wiesel and Supreme Court Justice William Douglas.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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