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North Caldwell man, head of the 35,000-strong Hadassah Associates, reflects on Hadassah’s Centennial Convention in Israel

Mark Roth of North Caldwell, President of the 35,000-strong National Committee of Hadassah Associates, reflects on Hadassah’s Centennial Convention in Israel.

Mark Roth, President of the National Committee of Hadassah Associates, is used to having eyebrows lifted when he says he leads Hadassah “men.”  He likes to point out that Associates aren’t only check-writers for their activist wives, mothers, and daughters —they contribute ideas and energy to the movement which has shaped Israel’s health and education. But, Roth says, the recent Founders Dinner at Hadassah’s Centennial Convention in Jerusalem was an eye-opener—even for him.

“What was a huge surprise was the realization at the Founders Dinner that so many of the Hadassah devotees, offering truly heartfelt comments and making very generous gifts, were men,” said Roth.  “Some were with their wives, but many were speaking on behalf of themselves only.  This is the power of Hadassah, and this is what we as leaders of Hadassah Associates are trying to build.  When we speak of the potential for Associates, we mean the potential to be equally as passionate, equally as committed, and equally as generous as the Hadassah women.”

Roth, of North Caldwell, and his wife, Loren, are both active in Hadassah.  Loren Roth is President of the Northern New Jersey Region of Hadassah, and also a Life Member. Roth works as a global manager and executive director with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

Men can’t join Hadassah as members, but they can become Associates and even life member Associates of the world’s largest Jewish women’s organization—330,000 strong today. As Hadassah celebrated its 100th anniversary last month in Jerusalem, Mark and Loren Roth took part in the festivities which included the dedication of the 19-story, $363 million Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower at Hadassah Medical Center’s Ein Kerem campus.

Watch a video of Mark Roth's speech at the Centennial Convention.

Below, Roth participates in a Q and A on his and his family’s Hadassah experience:

How does the household work with two Hadassah presidents working out their schedules?

At home, we describe ourselves as living in a ‘community of Presidents’ because our youngest daughter, Gaby, is also president of the New Jersey Region of United Synagogue Youth.  Hadassah has been a key part of our lives since Loren first joined the organization as a way to meet other women when our oldest daughter, Sarah, was a baby 22 years ago.  Many an evening, I come home late from work, or Loren comes home even later from yet another Hadassah meeting, and we discuss our days.  I problem-solve because I’m a man and that’s what we do; Loren listens sympathetically and solves her own problems in a generally far superior fashion.  It can be intense at times, but we are a very close couple and sharing this drive for the work of Hadassah and this belief in the organization is just one more avenue that brings us closer.

Your own background is in financial services.  Do you think the Associates can be particularly helpful in this area?

Our industry also tends to focus on charitable activities within our communities, so a Zionist organization with a key focus on Israel is a harder sell.  With that said, we have some key Zionist leaders in our industry -- especially in some of our larger hedge funds -- and we have to find a way to network to those leaders. This is one example where the best way to reach a man is through a woman, namely that leader’s wife.

What is your dream of what the Associates can and should do?

It’s time to step up our game.  I believe that Associates can be a key fundraising and recruitment arm for Hadassah, working in partnership with Hadassah women. I think that for these critical efforts, especially in terms of recruiting younger members and attracting major givers, the artificial separation between men and women is counterproductive.  We all support the same work, and we know that that work knows no boundaries between genders, nor do the illnesses or terrorist attacks that drive our work.  There is no way that men and women can be as effective working separately as they can be as a team, holding separate events when appropriate, but more often convening jointly and delivering that consistent message about the importance of Hadassah and Israel.

Each person has his own approach. If someone wants to focus on a topical issue, Hadassah is a good place to explore it.  If someone else wants to explore a program, say in supporting Youth Aliyah children, we had a wonderful example in the young Russian-born teen who ran carrying the Hadassah Centennial torch into Safra Square where 2,000 red-shirted Hadassah members were gathered. We all hope he’ll represent Israel at the 2016 Olympics, and we can be part of that effort.  Each of us needs to reach out to our network and beyond our immediate circle.  We are getting some of our best ideas from young men who don’t yet know about the Associates, but know Hadassah and believe in the work. Hadassah needs to become the target of giving for the next generation of volunteers and philanthropists.

What were the highlights of the Centennial Convention for you?

Associates and Members were together for all of Convention other than the business meetings.  We thus experienced the same thrills as the women -- the march into Safra Square, the events at the Convention Center with President Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu, the emotions at the Keepers Reception and the Founders Dinner, and surpassing all, the wonder that is the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower.  Our Business Meeting featured the installation of our new slate of Board Members, the recognition of Jack Wiadro as our Centennial Associate of the Year, my State of the Union video and a panel discussion on High Tech in Israel.  We had over 400 Associates at Hadassah, and a high percentage of them attended our Business Meeting.

And just when we thought it could not get any better, we left Jerusalem for the Hadassah Associates Post-Trip to the Negev.  Let’s just stay it started with day after day of sublime weather, and great camaraderie followed from there!  

I urged Associates to use our time in Israel, and on the plane ride home, to think about our legacy.  We need to remember the powerful legacy that Bill Davidson has bequeathed to the people of Israel by contributing the seed money for the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower, named for his mother.  Each of us needs to find the area of Hadassah that is most meaningful to us: healthcare, education, the environment, children or advocacy, and get involved.

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