WASHINGTON (JTA) – Hadassah is reopening its Washington office nearly a decade after the women’s Zionist group closed its operations there in the wake of its unwitting involvement in Bernard Madoff’s investment fraud.
Ellen Hershkin, the president of the group, has named Karen Paikin Barall as the director of Hadassah’s new government relations office in the capital.
Its focus will be on educating lawmakers about the record of Hadassah’s namesake hospitals in Israel, as well as Israel, anti-Semitism and women’s health, Hershkin and Barall said in a release.
“By educating policymakers on both sides of the aisle about the work of the Hadassah Medical Organization and Hadassah’s policy priorities, the DC office will magnify our voice in Congress, as well as with federal agencies and partner organizations,” Hershkin said.
Barall was most recently director of mid-Atlantic advocacy for the Orthodox Union. She was a political appointee in the President George W. Bush State Department’s anti-Semitism monitoring office.
“Health equity,” or closing the gaps between men and women in research, funding and quality of care, will be a priority of the new office, the statement said. In 2016, Hadassah convened a 28-member Coalition for Women’s Health Equity to address the issue.
“I am proud to be representing Hadassah as we make the case for Israel, fight increasing anti-Semitism around the world, and promote women’s health equity at home,” Barall said in the statement.
Hadassah scaled back operations after the Madoff scandal blew open in late 2008, and eventually shut its Washington office, among other measures. In 2011, Hadassah returned $45 million to other investors, just under half its earnings under the fraudulent scheme, which paid early investors from money garnered from more recent investors instead of from actual earnings on the investments.
Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for his crimes.
As a result of its scale-back, Hadassah focused more on fund-raising for its hospitals and withdrew to a degree from lobbying on domestic issues. The reopening of the Washington office appears to mean the group plans to reassert its voice in that area. Hadassah claims 300,000 members in the United States.