Maier takes over Hadassah reins

BY ELIZABETH SLONIM MACANUFO, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Six years ago, Diane Maier moved from northern California to St. Louis. Her husband’s former employer, the St. Louis Cardinals, relocated him to the Redbirds’ hometown. When new friends ask her the traditional area question, “where did you go to high school,” she responds “Hollywood, Florida.” Despite her newcomer status, Maier has become the president of St. Louis Chapter Hadassah after less than two years volunteering with the organization. She was installed in spring of this year.

Shortly after moving to her new home, Maier befriended Suzy Esstman, whom she describes as her “exploring partner,” helping her navigate a new city. When Esstman became diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, she shared her vision of a fundraising walk with Hadassah members. Maier attended a committee meeting and Esstman suggested her friend manage the event.

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Maier helped make “Walking on Sunshine” a successful annual fundraiser, drawing in its first year 650 participants and raising over $30,000 for the neuroncology department at Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO). St. Louis Chapter Hadassah Executive Director Joan Denison was impressed with Maier’s efforts.

“She galvanized the troops. She was phenomenal, so we invited her onto the Hadassah Board.”

Maier joined the board as vice president and oversaw event programming for the remainder of her term. In May, she was nominated for president. Her installation occurred at the end of that month.

Living in New York City during her twenties, Maier gained experience in event management — including managing a tour by the outlandish rock band Kiss out of a storage room-turned office in a law firm next to Carnegie Hall.

“I ran Kiss’s ‘Crazy Nights’ tour out of a closet,” she admits.

Her philosophy, “taking every opportunity that’s offered,” also led her to help form 1980s hair band Winger, produce a broadway review, and tour Japan as a makeup model. Now the mother of 7-,11-, and 16-year-old sons, Maier brings her tour management skills to her home life.

“Keeping track of my family is more challenging than managing a band,” she observes.

Maier, who attends Central Reform Congregation, is also proud to bring her skills to Hadassah. Passionate about medical wellness in the community, she describes Hadassah as the thread through the needle of her life.

“Hadassah combines my love of Judaism, Israel, environmental awareness, and health care advocacy.”

Among Hadassah’s achievements, she cites HMO, which provides health care to 600,000 patients a year and trains medical personnel and public health professionals around the world.

“It’s amazing that a group of Jewish women in St. Louis are helping those in another country,” she said.

The Israeli hospital has also made an impact closer to home. Saint Louis University faculty attended a terror medicine workshop at the Israeli hospital, learning principles of disaster management.

“The United States is not the leader in all medical technology,” she said. “We need to learn from other countries that are so far ahead of us.”

Through Hadassah, Maier is also able to advocate for another health care issue — stem cell research.

“There is power in numbers,” she says, explaining the collaboration among Hadassah, National Council of Jewish Women, and the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures. The groups travel to Jefferson City campaigning for stem cell science, which Maier continues to make her personal mission. At the National Hadassah Convention this past summer in New York City, she witnessed the effects of stem cell research firsthand. A woman with Parkinson’s disease visibly stopped shaking with the help of stem cell treatments.

“The stem cell amendment passed in 2006,” states Maier, “but not by enough.”

She hopes to communicate to the St. Louis community that “Hadassah is not sinking money into a dark hole. Medical advancements are happening so quickly.”

“I can sit at home moaning and groaning, but I get greater satisfaction being in Hadassah,” Maier says. Leading a 90-year-old chapter of a 95-year-old organization feels empowering to her, and she hopes to influence other women in the community to join.

“I want women of every generation to get involved. It’s a great organization for people who want to be around passionate women.”

In addition to area women contributing to Hadassah, Maier feels lucky to learn from them.

“I’m surrounded by unbelievably brilliant women who bring their strengths to the organization.”

According to Denison, “our members enjoy working with Diane. She is a great example of the younger women who are running this organization.”

Maier is happy to now be situated in the middle of the country.

“I feel like I’m in the best possible place,” she said. “St. Louis is a highly intellectual community.”

Maier hopes her neighbors will help her reach her goals of bringing Hadassah’s mission to the masses.

Denison is optimistic about the remainder of Maier’s term, “I hope that the organization will continue to grow up around her with her encouragement and leadership.”

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