Conference brings incoming Hadassah national president to town

BY MIKE SHERWIN, STAFF WRITER

Among the numerous speakers at the Midwest Area Cooperative of Hadassah’s conference in St. Louis over the weekend was Nancy Falchuk, the incoming president of the Hadassah National organization.

For many of the 230 attendees, the conference was their first opportunity to speak with Falchuk, who will begin her term as president of the 300,000-member organization in July. She spoke at two workshops during the conference.

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Falchuk said that as Hadassah starts its 95th year, it needs to continue to take a close look at the business side of the organization operates.

“Hadassah is as strong as we ever were,” Falchuk said. “But what we have been beginning to do the past couple of years and what we hope to continue to do is make our business structure work better,” Falchuk said.

The challenge, Falchuk said, is to make sure that people within the organization and volunteers understand that applying better business practices will not affect Hadassah’s overall mission.

“Improving our business practices won’t diminish our mission as a Zionist, Jewish education and humanitarian organization,” she said.

“It just means that you can do it and make it easier for your volunteers to do what they do best, to make your donors feel that you’re accountable.”

In order to improve those business practices, Falchuk said she plans to examine both the national Hadassah organization, and the way regional and chapter offices are run.

“What we do in New York is often a microcosm of what happens in the field, and at the same time, we need to look in the field to see what we can learn from them,” she said.

The overall goal, Falchuk said, is continuing to develop strategic fundraising plans, and build membership, reaching out particularly to young members.

Another main priority will be marketing Hadassah, to build awareness of the organization. She said Hadassah needs “to find the best ways for more people to know what we are doing and how great we are.”

Falchuk pointed to the St. Louis Chapter as a model for running the organization on the local level.

“You have a volunteer leader, Teree Farbstein, who comes in with a strong skill set, and is supported by a strong professional, Joan Denison, who enables her to do what she wants to do.”

The St. Louis Chapter has been particularly sucessful in building coalitions within the community, which helps to get the message out about Hadassah, she said.

Falchuk said she was particularly impressed with the structure of the MAC conference, which was divided into two simultaneous ‘institutes:’ one geared toward younger women, and the other for older women, because it found a way to cater more directly to the different interests of the two groups.

Finding a way to be relevant is key for continuing to build membership, and attracting the next generation of Hadassah members, Falchuk said.

“People have a lot of choices today of where they want to put their time and their money,” she said. “By paying attention to the next generation, and saying, ‘we’re listening to you and to what it would take to have you be part of what we’re doing,’ we will be able to bring new people in.”

Joan Denison, executive director of Hadassah, said having the regional conference, which happens about every two years, allowed many St. Louis members of Hadassah to attend.

Denison said Falchuk has already made strong contributions to Hadassah, in her current role as director of development for Hadassah national, and in her previous post as head of the Hadassah International organization.