Greater Detroit Hadassah sees changes with new hires.
It’s not your bubbie’s Hadassah. At least not if Randi Richmond has anything to say about it.
In April, Richmond started her new job as Hadassah Midwest’s senior manager for member outreach and community engagement. She replaced Evelyn Diskin, who retired in March after 28 years as executive director for Greater Detroit Hadassah.
More than 100 years old, Hadassah is the largest women’s organization in the country, with more than 330,000 members. Established to provide medical support to Jews in Palestine in the early 1900s, it is now an influential champion of Israel and an advocate for women nationally and internationally.
Greater Detroit has more than 3,850 members, impressive but down from more than 5,000 30 years ago. Richmond and her colleagues on Hadassah’s professional management staff hope to reverse the decline by making the organization more attractive to women in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
Hadassah has been restructured under its national umbrella so that expertise in membership, fundraising, programming and other functions can be shared, with professional staff operating out of six national offices. Smaller cities will be able to get staff support they never had before. In Hadassah Midwest, which stretches from Pittsburgh through the Great Plains and Upper Midwest, only one person has the title executive director, Ronna Ash, who works from Hadassah’s Chicago North Shore office. Like Ash, Richmond is responsible for all chapters in Hadassah Midwest, not only for Detroit.
The other Greater Detroit staff positions have also evolved. Emily Morgan, 36, of Huntington Woods, administrative assistant, has replaced special projects manager Bobbie Malin, who retired in 2017 after 30 years. And when office manager Gail Katz retires Oct. 5 after 19 years, her position will be redefined to put greater emphasis on social media and digital communication.
Richmond, 53, grew up in Southfield and graduated from Southfield-Lathrup High School. She became a life member of Hadassah in the mid-1990s, when her children were young, and quickly became president of the now-disbanded Ruach chapter. She recently served as president of the Aviv chapter, resigning when she joined the staff.
She previously worked as office manager for Jewish Senior Life’s Fleischman Residence, assistant manager of the Coville Apartments and general manager of dining services for Unidine, which served senior residences in Redford and Bloomfield Hills. From 2016 until earlier this year, she was on the program staff at Temple Israel.
Richmond has two children, Ian Bensman, 28, of Ferndale and Carly Simko, 23, of Auburn Hills. She was married in February to J.D. Richmond, director of environmental services at Jewish Senior Life. They live in Livonia.
Outreach And Engagement
She says she hopes to create more family-friendly programming and more evening events that working women can attend. She also wants younger women to realize that volunteers, as well as donors, are welcome.
“As a young mom, I didn’t have a lot of money, but I always felt appreciated as a volunteer,” she said. Richmond won the national Judith Epstein Memorial Award for young leaders for her work on the Ducky Derby, a family-friendly fundraiser held for several years in the 1990s.
Richmond wants to publicize Hadassah events by upgrading the email system, making better use of social media and advertising in the Jewish News. She also wants to work with other Jewish groups vying to attract the same pool of younger adults. She’s planning a joint soiree with Israel Bonds in December, where participants will buy a bond and then donate it to Hadassah — a win for both organizations.
Richmond participated in a Hadassah “young leaders’ mission” to Israel in 1999; she credits the trip with cementing her dedication to the organization. Now she is planning a similar mission to Israel for young moms in November 2019, in conjunction with the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project. Hadassah will subsidize a trip to Israel for 13 women with children younger than 18. In return, participants will commit to a year as Hadassah volunteers.
Richmond recognizes that adults in the millennial generation are non-joiners, as most organization and congregation leaders can attest. So, she hopes to tap into the well of local women who are already Hadassah life members through gifts received at their birth, bat mitzvah, graduation or wedding. Richmond’s challenge will be to show them how Hadassah is relevant to them and get them involved.
“Randi has big shoes to fill,” said Greater Detroit Hadassah President Carol Ogusky of Sylvan Lake. “Evelyn [Diskin] was here for 28 years and was very beloved and admired. Randi has come in with new, fresh creative ideas. She has lots of enthusiasm and wants to make a difference and build on Hadassah’s strengths and take us further. Change is difficult, but Randi is trying to make it as seamless as possible.”
Fran Heicklen of West Bloomfield, who will succeed Ogusky as Greater Detroit Hadassah president in January, agreed. “Hadassah is building a new structure and direction, with the lead coming from the national office,” she said.
“This will help all Hadassah units to expand membership and work more consistently between regions. Change is imperative and welcome to keep up with the dynamics of our community and our country. Randi has many great ideas and enthusiasm, and she will help the Greater Detroit Region of Hadassah reorganize and reach its goals.”