(photo credit: Courtesy)
Bernice Tannenbaum, the former national president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, died on Monday in New York at the age of 101. Although she had one four-year term as national president (between 1976 and 1980), she was involved with the largest Jewish women’s organization in the world for some 70 years.
Tannenbaum graduated from Brooklyn College with a BA in art and English literature and became a member of Hadassah – established in 1912 – in 1944.
Hadassah national president Marcie Natan announced Tannenbaum’s passing on Tuesday in a message to all members. “We mourn the loss of a great leader, not only of Hadassah, but of the Jewish people. Bernice was one of the most beloved and productive Hadassah figures of the past half century. She was a tower of strength and a font of wisdom. The legacy of accomplishment and inspiration that she leaves is immeasurable.”
Natan noted that it was Tannenbaum who in 1978 launched the idea of an annual convention in Jerusalem; the first one was held in 1978.
She also was chairman of the Hadassah Medical Organization – which owns and runs the two university hospitals in Jerusalem and the medical, dental, and nursing schools – from 1980 to 1984. She also established Hadassah-International, expanding the organization’s activities from the US to Europe and other areas, to a total of 21 countries outside North America.
Tannenbaum was active in pro-Israeli political activities, including the fight in the US against the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism, until it was repealed in 1981. In 2003, she was awarded Hadassah’s most esteemed prize, the Henrietta Szold Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Service, named for the organization’s founder.