Hadassah SoCal executive director retires

After more than 14 years as executive director of Hadassah Southern California, Laura Kaplansky stepped down on Aug. 19. Elissa Berzon, former director of the Metro Area of Hadassah of Southern California, has replaced Kaplansky, taking on the new title of director of Hadassah Southern California.

“I’ve been thinking about retiring for a very long time, and I’ve watched mentors, former colleagues retire early, and I always thought that would be a good thing to do,” Kaplansky said in an interview.

During her tenure, Kaplansky oversaw the organization’s activities from San Diego to San Luis Obispo. She fondly recalled the bond between the women who make up the membership-base of the organization. “The climate of sisterhood amongst the members, what the members do for each other was most inspiring,” she said.

Kaplansky plans to devote her time to her hobbies — reading, volunteering and spending time outdoors.

My goal is “having fun while I’m still able to do it,” the Sherman Oaks resident said.

Kaplansky has been “a wonderful executive director,” Berzon said. “She mentored all of the staff, and it’s big shoes to fill, and I’m going to miss her.

“My goal is to really continue the work that Laura started,” Berzon continued, including fostering “relationships with our volunteers.”

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, counts approximately 300,000 members nationally and 20,000 members locally. It runs the Hadassah Medical Center in Israel, conducts advocacy campaigns and offers education, youth services and more.

Founded in 1912, the organization will celebrate its centennial next year.

Sue Urfrig, governing cabinet chair of Hadassah Southern California, pointed to Kaplansky’s humble attitude in the workplace: “She doesn’t like to be getting all of the kudos. She’s in the background.”

Recalling all the years she spent at Hadassah, Kaplansky sounded content with all she’d achieved. “I feel pretty good about my tenure,” she said. “There is always the next challenge, but that isn’t mine to accomplish anymore.”

A retirement party for Kaplansky is scheduled for Sept. 12 at the Luxe Hotel in Bel Air.