Out & About

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The New York Sun

The lapels said it all, for placed on almost every man and woman in the room was a new pin, uniting for the first time four symbols of humanitarian assistance: the Star of David, the Red Crystal, the Red Crescent, and the Red Cross. The pin, less than an inch wide or tall, popped from those lapels as if it carried one of the most important messages in the world: More lives can be saved when people from different countries and of different religions join together.

The Star of David represents Israel’s emergency medical, health, blood, and disaster service, Magen David Adom, which has sent its workers to trouble spots around the world. The Red Crystal is a new, neutral symbol to be used by Magen David Adom to identify itself as part of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. The Red Crescent is used by 29 Islamic countries, while the Red Cross is perhaps the most universally recognized symbol of emergency aid in the world.

The pin was made possible just last week, when the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movements voted to include Magen David Adom. The vote took place in Geneva, but not until 3 in the morning, because of last-minute resistance in the form of filibustering.

Such a victory, more than 50 years in the making, certainly merited celebration. The chairwoman of the American Red Cross, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, joined the chairman of Magen David Adom, Dr. Noam Yifrach, for a gala dinner in Jerusalem. Hours later in New York, the city’s decisive leaders on this issue gathered for breakfast at the Jewish Museum. New Yorkers played an integral part in getting this done, so the stories told spanned many years, organizations, and people.

The voice of history belonged to the president of American Friends of Magen David Adom, Mark Lebow. He noted that the organization formed in 1940, eight years after Magen David Adom, and eight years before Israel became a nation. “Today is a red-letter day,” Mr. Lebow, who is married to Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris, said. His organization raises a large portion of the funds MDA requires to operate in a region marred by terrorism.

The chief executive of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Michael Miller, remembered the day his boss asked him to follow the issue – one day after he started at the council, 22 years ago.

The American Red Cross in Greater New York shared its experience as a partner with the Magen David Adom in Jerusalem. It has sent several crews to work alongside its Jerusalem counterparts. The former chairman of Magen David Adom, Avi Zohar, noted that Red Cross organizations in Tulsa, Okla., and Cincinnati have similar partnerships with Israeli cities, but only New York could be matched with Jerusalem.

One of the most important points made was that Magen David Adom workers treat everyone in need. The pin handed out at the event captured that principle.


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