By ALAN SMASON, Exclusive to the CCJN
With grace, charm and her usual efficiency, Lazelle Alexander was honored by her fellow Greater New Orleans Chapter of Hadassah members in a grand gesture granted only three times previously. By accepting the title of honorary vice president, Alexander became the only living member of Hadassah to be so recognized.
The event held on Sunday, June 3 at Ralph’s at the Park honored Lazelle, a past president, for her tireless work through many decades and especially for all of the mailings she has handled for the chapter in more recent years.
Previous honorary vice president titles were bestowed by the local chapter to three former presidents – Rosalie Cohen, Libbye Gordon and Cecile Levine, – all of blessed memory. Patti Ungar, a former Hadassah president herself, recounted the heralded work of all the previous honorees and then spoke about Alexander’s remarkable and dedicated career.
Ungar credited Lazelle’s outreach through mailings with having been responsible for Hadassah reaching a goal of $70,000 for breast cancer research and other women’s programs they have shepherded.
Alexander, with the aid of “her extremely capable daughter Becky,” Ungar acknowledged, has also been responsible for sending out copious emails too. “Our communication is only as good as our ability to reach out to our members,” Ungar stated, pointing out that Alexander’s efforts have been stellar through the years.
Hadassah members bestowed several gifts upon Alexander including a commemorative plaque and a piece of Judaica which incorporated the Magen David and the all-seeing eye. “You’re an extraordinary woman who has served Hadassah New Orleans during extraordinary times,” Ungar said.
Ungar noted Alexander’s previous awards as a Woman of Valor, the National Leadership Award and the Southern Region Woman of the Year.
Alexander called the title “an incredible honor.” She said she considered the three previous recipients. “I was fortunate to know all three (previous recipients): Roasalie, Cecile and Libbye,” she acknowledged. “They had many things in common: their love for Israel, their love for Hadassah, their love for their family and their love for their community,” she continued.
“I also want to point out they all lived into their nineties,” she jested with the crowd. “I’m taking this as a very good sign.”
Alexander revealed that a number of her cherished possessions had been lost to the floodwaters associated with the levee breaks caused by the passing of Hurricane Katrina. One of these was a letter from her mother advising her that a young Dan Alexander, the man destined to become her future husband, was interested in seeing her.
“I really think Hadassah made a good investment with me,” she admitted, describing how she helped spearhead the B’not Shalom women’s professional auxillary group members to all become life members of Hadassah. “I really was a fan of Henrietta Szold, our founder,” Alexander stated. “She was a Jewish scholar, an editor, a pioneer Zionist and she was a dreamer and a doer.”
Finally, she shared a letter, stating it was from someone who could not be with them today. The letter stated how special she was for her years of dedication to the organization. “‘Mazel tov from me and Saul,'” Alexander read, stating they hoped to be at the luncheon. “‘Your children and grandchildren are most proud of you. Hugs. Love, Jackie.'”
As she ended her talk, Alexander became emotional along with the crowd, who recognized the words had come from recently deceased Jackie Gothard, herself a tireless worker for Hadassah.