A Life Devoted to Strengthening Israel
By Barbara Spack
When I was growing up we had family living in Israel, my father’s cousins, who had two daughters just younger and older than I, so Israel was a place where FAMILY was.
We would collect clothing and religious articles and send them, and I am sure that there was money stuffed in pockets! We also exchanged Birthday presents, some of which I still have. I have stayed in touch with my cousins, (the children of my Dad’s cousin) and their children over all of these years.
And once we started to visit, they are always here and we are always there.
I remember sitting at the radio waiting for the UN results that would create the state. I ran home from Hebrew school just so I would not miss it. There was much dancing and singing that night, and maybe even some great Scotch!
There was never a time when Israel was not a focal point in my life, however when my husband Eliot and I were married about 7 years we moved to the suburbs of Nassau County in New York, and I chose Hadassah naturally to be my vehicle of expression for my Zionism. I say naturally, because I grew up as a Hadassah brat, going to meetings with my mom, helping to stuff envelopes or sell clothing at the bazar, so there really was no doubt about my avenue of expression!
Once when I was Region President of Southern New Jersey, our youngest daughter at age 10 answered the phone and when she was asked “is your mother home” she just naturally replied, “No she is out saving the Jewish People!” And we all believed it with a passion.
Through that relationship I learned what it truly means to be a Zionist and to have Israel as an integral part of my life. As our family grew, it certainly became a “family” thing.
The most important truth about Israel I wanted to be sure my children learned was the concept that Israel is the National homeland for the Jewish People, with all the rights to exist that it earned in 1948, through the UN, which has never been as supportive of Israel since then as it was then. A place for the ingathering of Jewish exiles, a great place to visit, have fun and even to live. Our oldest daughter made Aliyah in 1988 and our eldest grandchild has opened a file to make Aliyah this August.
Our favorite thing to do when we are there is to find some place or experience we have never had in the over 50 times we have been in our favorite vacation spot and then do it! Our special agent, Daughter number one, is always on the lookout to fill this mattarah. And always to try a new restaurant, but never forget our faves. Oh and did I mention Shopping? My wardrobe wouldn’t know what to do without a few new items from Hagarrah!
I have been involved in many projects for Israel over the years and it is very difficult to choose which I am most proud of. It really is a tie between:
1) the incredible activities of Hadassah, from the Hospitals to the Youth Aliyah Programs, supporting Young Judaea Israel programs to the Hadassah College. Over the years there have been life changing experiences for those that we have assisted to reach their dreams and change the world of medicine and child care, to my being there and feeling and touching the works of our hands.
2) As a member of the Education Committee of the Jewish Agency for Israel, there were many opportunities to create new materials, to identify the needs of the diaspora and to help to fill them through our efforts in Hadassah, be it Jewish education or Zionist education, or missions to Israel to understand the reality on the ground and not what is read in the newspapers..
If I could pass on a message to teenagers and young adults who may not understand why Israel matters in their lives I would say, first of all they need to go to Israel and then having the conversation becomes more meaningful. I would ask them to imagine a world without our beloved Israel and how secure they would feel as Jews without the comfort of knowing there is a place that they can always call home, no matter what, an Israel.
I would ask them to take out their cell phones and imagine the plane old flip-phones, with no apps or gadgets and ask them how it would feel if these world changing innovations hadn’t been designed and dreamed up, right there in Israel. I would ask them to imagine when the USA was refusing to get involved in stem cell research twenty years ago and Israel owned 6 of the 10 stem cell lines in the world, so that now there are potential cures for ALS, MS, Parkinson’s Disease, Age related Macular Degeneration and so much more at Hadassah Medical Organization.
And finally I would challenge them to help to create an Israel that they would love as much as their parents and grandparents, who fought to make it what it is, and what they are going to do to make it the place that they will teach their own children to love as much as I do?
Barbara Spack has devoted her life to strengthening ties to Israel both personally and professionally. As a volunteer with Hadassah, Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Barbara has utilized her passion for Israel to the Jewish nation thrive.