Hadassah past President is upbeat on St. Louis visit

Nancy Falchuk

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Nancy Falchuk, immediate past national president of Hadassah, the world’s largest Jewish women’s organization, was upbeat about the group’s national, global and local strength a year after it took a major “hit” from the Bernard Madoff scandal. She also is embroiled in another controversy that alleges she and another at the organization’s national office misused Hadassah credit cards.

Falchuk was interviewed prior to her participation in an event sponsored by the St. Louis Chapter of Hadassah, “Framing Our Future Encore: A Love Story – Linda Jayaram, David Barish and Hadassah,” which showcased the remarkable recovery of an MS patient from Houston who was treated with stem cell replacement at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Falchuk, whose energy and enthusiasm belie her 68 years, and who is a member of a family involved with Hadassah for generations, was eager to give her side of the story regarding the press reports in the JTA and the Forward with the ominous headline, “Hadassah probing top officials on allegations of misusing funds.” According to the JTA story, the “probe was launched after board members of Hadassah were sent a letter on Jan. 12 by the organization’s chief operating officer, Larry Blum, alleging that Hadassah national president Marcie Natan and former national president Nancy Falchuk had used organizational assets for personal use.”

Blum himself has been on administrative leave since last fall following allegations that he had misused his corporate credit card. In his letter, Blum denied the allegations. The Jewish Light has been unable to reach Blum for comment.

For its part, Hadassah issued a statement stating that it has retained an external, independent investigator to look into Blum’s allegations, adding that the probe of Blum’s alleged misuse of his corporate credit card continues.

Falchuk and Natan wrote, in a letter to Hadassah board members, “We welcome this review and we are confident that the committee has in place a sensible and fair process for reaching a conclusion as to the allegations. We ask for everyone’s patience during this time.”

In her interview with the Light, Falchuk acknowledged that the allegations by Blum had been “very stressful for Marcie and me and our national leadership and we hope that it will be resolved promptly so that Hadassah can move forward with its mission unimpeded.” She declined to speculate on whether Blum made his charges against Natan and her as a form of retaliation. “I think it is best for me not to comment further while the investigation is ongoing,” she said.

On other Hadassah matters, Falchuk, who resides in Newton, Mass. was more than willing to express her assessment of the organization both in Israel and with its local chapter.

“Back in 2009, when you last interviewed me while I was still Hadassah president, we and other Jewish organizations had been hard hit by the Bernard Madoff scandal.” she said. “I am pleased to say that we have more than made up for the shortfall created by the losses we suffered because of the Madoff matter.”

Falchuk said she is excited about the $260 million raised for the new state-of-the-art Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower at Hadassah, which will be completed within several months. “It is Hadassah’s gift to the city of Jerusalem in honor of Hadassah’s 100th anniversary of service to the Jewish people and the people of Israel and its neighbors,” Falchuk said. The amount raised for the new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower exceeds the original goal by over $8 million. The new facility has four floors beneath street level to meet the security needs of Israel in the event of a catastrophe.

Falchuk took note of the rising tensions in the Middle East and the ongoing threats from Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, which could result in a major military conflict in the region. “Of course we hope and pray that war will not break out, but Hadassah has learned that we must be prepared for any eventuality. Back in 1948, a terrorist ambush killed over 80 of our doctors and nurses and our director general. This tragedy taught us that we must be prepared to deal with any emergency.”

Falchuk stressed that “Hadassah is a major contributor to peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, with many of our patients being Palestinians who are more than willing to express how grateful they are to the Hadassah Medical Center for the expert and life-saving treatment they have received there.”