Women in 20s and 30s inject energy into Hadassah

When she got home, Rosnow transformed her image of Hadassah forever by forming a group specifically for women in their 20s and 30s. Rosnow hasn't had to twist any arms to recruit.

"Word of mouth sort of spread," she said. "People have been calling me and calling Hadassah and asking to receive information."

Since its first meeting in August, the group regularly attracts 20 to 30 prospective members. They're calling themselves L'Atid, which is Hebrew for "to the future."

Besides learning about Hadassah, deciding how to raise money for it and getting to know one another, L'Atid members want to become active in the community.

Concerned about breast cancer, they decided to visit high schools throughout San Francisco starting this spring to educate junior and senior girls about the disease. On Sunday, members participated in the American Cancer Society's Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Golden Gate Park.

L'Atid members also want to start an afterschool tutoring program for youngsters with reading problems.

"We're trying to just find out what things are important to us," said Rosnow. "All the women are completely excited about it."

So are Hadassah leaders, who say they welcome the energy injected by younger members.

"I don't think there's a Hadassah chapter anywhere in the United States that doesn't open its arms and embrace these young women's groups," says Beverly Pincus, president of Hadassah's Central Pacific Coast region. "They really and truly are enhancing the existing groups and chapters."

Karen Fahn, a 30-year-old account representative for an insurance agency, is drawn by the group's camaraderie as well as its interest in social activism in the broader community.

"I like being involved in a Jewish organization, but I like that we don't just work with Jewish causes," said Fahn, who also belongs to the Young Adults Division of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation.

Though her grandmother gave her a lifetime membership in Hadassah for her bat mitzvah, Fahn said she never got involved until now. "To me, it was just a group of older women having luncheons and functions," she said. Instead, she's found that "it's a wonderful organization that gives back to the community."

L'Atid members are getting help from San Francisco Hadassah's Link group, which is composed of women aged 40 to 60.

"We know we have to get younger women in," said Helene Edelman, who is serving as Rosnow's mentor. "The older women have done a wonderful job and we have to just continue the legacy."

Edelman applauds the group's early commitment to community service. "These young gals are saying, `We want to do something for our society,'" she said.

Young women's groups currently operate in Pleasanton, Palo Alto, Contra Costa County and Oakland. A retreat is planned this month for young Hadassah leaders from this area.

Of 8,500 Hadassah members in the region stretching from Fresno to the Oregon border, as many as 300 are young women, according to Pincus. "We're starting young leader groups all over the place," she said.

And Ruth Levy, president of Hadassah's chapter in San Francisco, says she's starting to see three generations of women at national meetings.

For Leslie Gordon, a 30-year-old legal journalist, the start of L'Atid comes on the heels of a March trip to Israel. "I was really affected by it," she said. "I came back with a specific commitment to get more involved in the Jewish community."

She jumped at the chance to join Hadassah when she heard about the new group from a former sorority sister. "It's a group of very dynamic, very busy career women," she said.