A Teacher at Heart, Even at Hadassah

Bobbi Kraft can't exactly explain why she's always felt a certain pull toward Israel. "I was born when Israel was born, and my parents were Zionists," said Kraft. "Israel was always an important part of my life. As I got older, in my 20s, I thought 'I'm not living in Israel but I want a connection.' "

So Kraft joined Hadassah and, for the past 27 years, she has held almost every position within the local organization and has been active in many projects and on committees.

To cap off her involvement, last year, she was installed as president of Hadassah of Greater Philadelphia, the umbrella group that encompasses 10,000 members of 40 local groups from eight counties in the area.

"When I retired, I knew I'd have the time to devote to Hadassah," said the former supervisor of the Burlington, N.J. school system. "The position is unpaid but it's very much a full-time job."

Dedicating her free time to Jewish causes is nothing new for Kraft. As a reading teacher in Burlington, Kraft created a Holocaust course back in the 1980s for seventh and eighth graders after a student drew a swastika on her blackboard. At the time – before Holocaust education was mandated by the state – she was the only Jewish teacher in the middle school and took the incident personally.

"When the student came to apologize, I realized he really had no idea what the symbol even meant or the effect it had on me or my family," said Kraft, who resides in Northeast Philadelphia, where she was born and raised. "Since I was a reading specialist, I knew I could teach the Holocaust using literature."

Kraft's course became part of the Burlington curriculum, and later she was part of a team that worked on the Holocaust courses for the entire state. She also visited schools throughout New Jersey to help those teachers implement the new lessons.

Recently, Kraft had a chance to see firsthand some of the places that she'd spent years telling her students about.

As part of a Hadassah mission, Kraft visited Warsaw and Krakow in Poland and then "came home" to Israel. The purpose of the trip was to see Poland from a Jewish perspective – all the culture and life that once existed there, as well as the obligatory visit to Auschwitz – and end with a stop at Hadassah projects in Israel.

This month, Kraft returned to Israel as part of the Hadassah delegation to the 35th World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, her 18th trip to the country.

In fact, one of her most exciting experiences with Hadassah, she said, stemmed from a trip to the Jewish state back in 1995. She was sent there to celebrate the 3,000 anniversary of Jerusalem and had to commit to bringing a project back to the women in the Philadelphia area.

With her mother's help – something that she said made it even more special – Kraft designed a study group for her Northeast Philadelphia Hadassah group about all things Jerusalem: the culture, the food, the history, the places. The response was so positive that women from other groups wanted to be involved, and Kraft set up training sessions for them on how to teach the same topic.

In 1996, Kraft was awarded the Hannah Goldberg Study Group Award, which honors excellence in peer-led study groups. While she said that being recognized for her work is rewarding, she contended that just being able to be involved with Hadassah and give back to the country she feels so connected to is enough.

"I feel like I do good not only by raising funds for colleges and hospitals but for the things I stand for," she said. "We have a voice, a substantial voice, for the Jewish community."



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