The Hadassah Women's Organization has sold its Jerusalem-based Merkaz Hamagshimim, an educational and communal facility that has provided a first home to hundreds of new immigrants arriving from English-speaking countries since the mid-1990s, it was reported by e-Jewish Philanthropy on the Internet Tuesday.
The center, which sold for close to $9 million, is located in the capital's trendy Emek Refaim neighborhood and houses more than 20 single-room apartments, an English-speaking theater and a community hall, used for a wide variety of events.
Hadassah spokeswoman Barbara Sofer confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that Merkaz Hamagshimim had indeed been sold, but refused to comment on the buyer and was reluctant to discuss how such a loss will impact the Anglo community in Jerusalem.
"People always get upset when we make changes such as these, but we are living in the real world and this is what we do, we often move programs from one place to another," she said, adding: "We will move all Hamagshimim activities to our new center in Baka, where our Year Course program is now being held."
She was referring to the former premises of the Jewish Agency for Israel's Ulpan Etzion. Sofer added, however, that while Hamagshimim community activities will continue as normal, there is no residential option at the new center.
Originally, Merkaz Hamagshimim was meant to have been a place for alumni of the Hadassah-funded Young Judaea youth movement to begin a new life in Israel. Over the years, however, it has welcomed young English-speaking Jews from around the world. Its central location and sense of community spirit has made it popular among many new immigrants and those seriously considering aliya.
However, the North American-based Hadassah, which provides funding to numerous projects in Jerusalem including the construction of a new tower at Hadassah-University Hospital in Ein Kerem, was badly affected by Bernard Madoff's Ponzi investment scheme last fall, losing a rumored $90 million and several of its key donors. The 97-year-old Zionist organization has been involved in a process of downsizing ever since.
"The world has been turned upside down," Hadassah National President Nancy Falchuk told The Jerusalem Post in an interview earlier this year. "But out of every crisis rises an opportunity, and I truly believe that when the dust settles, we'll be an organization that has continued to stick to its core mission."
She admitted that the organization had been forced to seek buyers for several of its properties, including Merkaz Hamagshimim and the multi-million dollar Young Judaea Youth Hostel on the outskirts of the city, built only two years ago.
Sofer did not say when Merkaz Hamagshimim would close its doors.