The organization known as Hadassah was first formed in 1912 in New York by American Henrietta Szold and the Daughters of Zion. The goal of the organization was to promote the Zionist ideal through education, public health initiatives, and the training of nurses in what was then Palestine, a region of the Ottoman Empire. As the founding of the organization coincided with the holiday of Purim, the group took the name Hadassah, the Hebrew name of Esther, one of the central figures in the celebration of that holiday.
1917 was a significant year in Hadassah and in Canadian Hadassah history. It was the year of the Balfour Declaration, the British Parliament’s recognition of Palestine as the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people. It pledged that Palestine would once again become the Jewish national home. It was also the year in which the first official chapter of Canadian Hadassah was established, with a chapter opening in Toronto. The first Vancouver Chapter, the Lillian Freiman Chapter, was officially recognized in 1918. Mrs. J.B. Jaffe was named first president of the Vancouver Chapter of Hadassah.
In 1920, Dr. Vera Weizmann, wife of Israel’s first president Dr. Chaim Weizmann, founded the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), an internationally recognized organization dedicated to the social welfare of women and children in Israel/Palestine, advancement of the status of women, and Jewish education in Israel and the Diaspora. In 1921, she visited Toronto and persuaded National President of Hadassah, Lillian Freiman, to affiliate with WIZO. Thus, in 1921, the Canadian chapter of Hadassah changed its name to Hadassah-WIZO.
The Vancouver Chapter of Hadassah-WIZO was popular from the start. Hadassah-WIZO was one of the first feminist organizations to appear on the Canadian scene as the organization allowed women to organize and participate in events and activities outside of the home. After the Lillian Freiman Chapter was recognized in 1918, a second Chapter, the Rachel Goldbloom Chapter, was formed in 1924. However, Vancouver was unable to sustain two chapters, and the Rachel Goldbloom Chapter merged with the Lillian Freiman Chapter in 1927.
In the early 1930s, in order to accommodate growing membership of Vancouver Hadassah-WIZO, Jessie Allman formed the Menorah, Henrietta Szold and Junior Hadassah Chapters. Over the next few decades, more chapters were formed, including the following: Atid Chapter; Aviva Chapter; Ben Zvi Chapter; Deborah Chapter; Eilat Chapter; Elana Chapter; Hadassim Chapter; Hatikvah Chapter; Herzlia Capter; Kadima Chapter; Maccabian Chapter; Marchar Chapter; Massada Chapter; Naomi Chapter; Nordau Chapter; Royal City Chapter; Ruth Chapter; Sabra Chapter; Shalom Chapter; Tel- Aviv Chapter; Tel-Hai Chapter; Tssabar Chapter; Weizmann Chapter; and the Ziona Chapter.
In 1933, the Youth Aliyah Chapter was founded. Although considered a Chapter of Hadassah-WIZO, it has a slightly different history than the other chapters founded in Vancouver and in Canada. During that same year, Recha Freier, the wife of Rabbi Freier in Berlin, Germany, recognized Hitler’s and the Nazi Party’s malevolent intentions towards the Jewish people of Germany. She organized a movement to send Jewish children, first from Germany, and later from Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Yugoslavia, and Russia, to Palestine in order to protect them from Nazi persecution. After World War II, 10,000 child immigrants, mostly Holocaust survivors, arrived in Israel and settled in various Youth Villages. It is estimated that since its creation in 1933, approximately 400,000 children and youth have been rehabilitated and educated within the Youth Aliyah framework. Today, it is estimated that 1 in 20 Israelis are a graduate of Youth Aliyah.
The Youth Aliyah Chapter in Vancouver has been active since its inception in 1933. As early as 1937, the Chapter held their first Men’s Youth Aliyah Drive. They have held many fundraising events over the decades, including events such as fashion shows, canvassing drives, talent shows, and dinners/luncheons.
Membership to Vancouver Hadassah-WIZO reached its peak during the 1950s through to the 1980s, but has been in decline since the 1990s. Many Chapters were forced to close as membership dwindled. In order to attract new members, Vancouver Hadassah-WIZO has attempted to reinvent themselves while maintaining the organization’s original objectives and vision. In 2012, two new chapters were formed in Vancouver: the Kehillah Chapter, a chapter for women in their 20s to mid 30s, and the Gilad Chapter, a Chapter organized by Mimi Grad.
The aims and purpose of Hadassah-WIZO, even from the beginning, has been to promote the education, health and welfare of women and Children in Israel/Palestine, and to promote the welfare of Jewish women and awareness of women’s issues in Canada. Vancouver Chapters of Hadassah-WIZO have been achieving these objectives since the year they were founded. As early as 1918, women from Vancouver Hadassah met regularly to sew clothes for the chalutizm in Palestine. Some of the projects in Israel and Palestine supported and/or created by the Vancouver Chapters of Hadassah-WIZO include the following:
• Sponsorship of the Agricultural and Secondary School in Nahalal in 1926;
• Youth Aliyah: Canada Hadassah-WIZO becomes the official representative of Youth Aliyah in 1933;
• Hadassim Children and Youth Village, east of Natanya in 1947;
• Hebrew University of Jerusalem, starting in 1948. Some of the projects Vancouver Hadassah WIZO has contributed to include the establishment of the Chaim Weizmann Memorial Biological Laboratories; Canada Hall; Vincent Massey Hall; Canada Research Centre; Canada House Student Dorms; the Rose and Abe Schachter Student Centre; the Library Reading Hall, School of Education, plus more;
• Asaf Harofe Hospital in Sarafond in 1953;
• Child Guidance Clinic and Research Institute in Jerusalem in 1965;
• Magdiel Comprehensive Secondary School and Youth Village in 1968;
• Acco Educational and Vocational Youth Village in 1970;
• Neri Bloomfield Community College, in Haifa in 1971;
• 12 creches, 2 kindergartens, 4 women’s clubs, and various youth clubs.
In addition, Hadassah-WIZO has undertaken projects in cooperation with Magen David Adom, the Jewish Fund of Canada, and various projects in Vancouver and Canada.
In order to raise funds for projects for Israel/Palestine, as well as Canada, an annual Bazaar was organized and held. The first Hadassah-WIZO Bazaar was held in Toronto in 1924. The first Bazaar in Vancouver was held in 1935, but it was a much smaller affair than it would later become. The first Vancouver Bazaar was organized by the Lillian Freiman Chapter, and was held on April 25, 1935 at the Jewish Community Centre. Admission was 10 cents, and the event ran only from 8pm to midnight.
Although annual Bazaars were held, it was not until 1952 that it grew to city wide, multi-day event. Marjorie Groberman, inspired by magnitude of the Toronto Hadassah-WIZO Bazaar, wanted something similar in Vancouver. She moved the location of the Bazaar from the Jewish Community Centre to the Seaforth Armouries, and organized all the Hadassah-WIZO Chapters in the Lower Mainland to contribute to the Bazaar in some way, either by providing baked goods, pickles or preserves, cooking at the cafe, sewing/knitting clothing, donating gently used clothing, shoes or household items, and/or contacting commercial exhibitors and merchants for further merchandise. All Chapters were expected to volunteer their services at the Bazaar. The Bazaar became a day long event, and visitors had a chance to win a new car through a raffle. The new “Big” Bazaar was a success as it netted approximately $10,000.
In 1955, under Anita Waterman, the Bazaar moved to the PNE grounds, where it remained until the 1990s. By 1955, the Bazaar had grown to a day and half event, and also featured an auction and a fashion show. By 1976, the Bazaar grew to be a two day event, and occupied two and a half buildings of the PNE Ground.
The Bazaar remained a popular event throughout the 1970s to the 1990s. However, in the early 2000s, due to the aging population of Vancouver Hadassah-WIZO and a declining membership, the Bazaar became increasingly difficult to organize and run. The Bazaar was downsized in the early 2000s, moving from the PNE Grounds to the Italian Community Centre. By the mid to late 2000s, it was downsized once again, moving to the Hellenic Community Centre. The last Bazaar was held in 2007. Today, Vancouver Hadassah-WIZO’s major fundraising event is the annual Pro-Am Golf Tournament.
On November 10, 1975, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 3379, which, in essence, decreed that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination ”(United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zionism_is_racism). The resolution was instantly contested, and was condemned by many western nations, including Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe. In 1991, Israel made a revocation of Resolution 3379 as a condition of its participation in the Madrid Peace Conference, and it was officially revoked in 1991 by UN General Assembly Resolution 4866.
Partially in response to these events, and in order to educate the public about Judaism, Zionism, and the State of Israel, the Vancouver Hadassah-WIZO established a Public Affairs Department who dedicated themselves to this task. From the 1970s through to the early 1990s, they held many seminars and luncheons on interfaith dialogues, and on issues pertaining to Judaism, Zionism, and Israel in the media.
Many women from Vancouver Hadassah-WIZO have held high ranking positions within Canadian Hadassah-WIZO Executive Council. Many of these women have been recognized both nationally and internationally. Some of those women include Lily Frank, who was appointed as National Executive Director of Canada Hadassah-WIZO in 1967, and was also appointed as National Executive Vice President in 1979; Naomi Frankenberg who became National President of Canada Hadassah-WIZO in 1987, and was honoured by the CHW when they named a cultural centre in Hadassim after her; and Judy Mandleman who became National President in 1993 and was honoured by the Canadian Hadassah-WIZO when they named a daycare centre at Kiryat Sharett after her. Other prominent Vancouver Hadassah-WIZO women include Blossom Wine, the first life long member of Vancouver Hadassah-WIZO, Lil Shaperio, the first Council President of Vancouver Hadassah WIZO, Marjorie Groberman, visionary of the Hadassah-WIZO Bazaar in Vancouver, and many other women who contributed tirelessly and selflessly to their community, their country, and to Israel.
Around 2013, Hadassah-WIZO changed their name to CHW (Canadian Hadassah-WIZO).