Kicking off Hadassah’s centennial celebrations, Hadassah major donor, Katherine Merage, of Newport Beach, led the first dedication ceremony, cutting the ribbon of the Katherine Merage Pavilion in the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower at Hadassah Medical Organization’s Hadassah-Ein Kerem Thursday in Jerusalem.
Since 2005, Merage and the Andre and Katherine Merage Foundation have helped fund the building of the 19-story central pavilion on the Ein Kerem campus, which houses indoor healing gardens, balconies, and the hospital’s first intermediate care center.
In an emotional ceremony in the circular Moshe Saba Masri Synagogue, surrounded by family members, friends and Hadassah supporters from the United States and Israel, Merage was honored by Hadassah for enabling the medical organization to build an essential pavilion in Israel’s newest, most high-tech facility for patients.
“When you come in through the atrium, you feel the power, permanence and strength of this building,” said Hadassah National President Marcie Natan. “The ambiance of beauty and warmth in your pavilion, the breath of fresh air, and nature from the gardens here help the healing and renewal of our patients.
“It is from the bottom of my heart and with the greatest pleasure that I pay homage to this lady of the hour, and lady of the community,” Natan continued. “If you go to a meeting, you know where Katherine is because everyone will be gathered around her. They know her value as we do.”
When former HMO Director General Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef began approaching major donors seven years ago to build a new tower at Hadassah, Merage was one of the first to step forward.
“This is the first dedication and should be the first dedication,” he said at Thursday’s ceremony. “This is a huge contribution to the city of Jerusalem, the state of Israel, and our daily healing activities. It is our pride that her name will last forever in Jerusalem.”
Current HMO Director General Ehud Kokia said Merage’s contribution made an essential difference to Hadassah and serves as a metaphor for her life-saving philanthropy.
“The central pavilion connects two wings—making connections is so keeping with your values. I have been so privileged to witness your unforgettable hospitality and helping people improve their lives over and over,” he said.
Merage’s son, David Merage, who flew in from the United States with many family members, stood by his mother’s side through the ribbon-cutting ceremony, revealing her name inscribed in sandstone.
“I grew up watching my mother give food and clothes and assistance to the needy in the United States and in her native Iran,” he said. "First and foremost, it is for me a point of pride to stand next to my mother who was a role model all these years. And, the powerful women leaders who built Hadassah—I have never seen anything like this in my life,” he said.
“Katherine Merage’s contribution funded the building of the central pavilion, where ‘healing gardens’ representing the elements of earth, water, air and greenery, give patients a place for quiet contemplation, nature, fresh air, good energy, and an opportunity to feel far away from the medical experience,” said Tali Dweck, Hadassah Medical Organization development director.
“The intermediate care unit housed in the pavilion enables patients after surgery to get a lot more attention and it allows surgical units have a lot more available beds and staff,” she said.
The Merage family started coming to the United States from Iran in 1962. Katherine Merage and her husband, Andre, left Tehran in 1972, moving to Orange County in Southern California.
Initially, the family worked in the food industry, growing a business that eventually included 2,000 employees. Since selling the business, the family has dedicated itself to investment and philanthropy, supporting dozens of projects in Israel and the United States.
Merage has been a Hadassah member for 38 years. She created the first Beverly Hills chapter 25 years ago and has been a major donor for three decades.
“I remember when this building was a tent,” she said at Thursday’s ceremony. “I want to remind and thank all of you who worked so hard for this. Without my children and everyone at Hadassah, this would not have been possible. God bless everybody.”