Hadassa was born Helen Halperin and grew up in Jersey City, N.J. in the United States. She attended Douglass College, Rutgers University and attained a B.A. in Sociology. Some years later she attained an M.S. in Education and a Teachers’ Certificate for N.Y. State from Hofstra University in N.Y.
She married Ervin Birnbaum and they have three sons, Aiton, Liel, and Daniel. The family came to live in Israel in 1970 and settled in Midreshet Sde Boker where Hadassa taught English in the Israeli high school, Teachers’ Seminar and the Netiv Klitati. Ervin was director of the Netiv Klitati, a very successful high school that enabled English-speaking teenagers to complete 12 th grade and prepare for and pass the bagrut examinations. After seven eventful years during which, says Hadassa “we were privileged to meet Ben Gurion several times and Golda Meir once when she came to make “sholem” with B.G.,” the Birnbaums moved to Netanya.
In 1978 Hadassa began working as a social worker for the Kadima Municipality, earning the MSW degree from Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University in N.Y. She worked in Kadima for 21 years, helping families and children; she had a special interest in aiding women whose life was very difficult. Her last 11 years she was Director of Services for the Aged and Head of the Committee for the Nursing Law in Kadima. Her work included supervising many students and new social workers.
After retiring from her position as social worker in 1999, Hadassa began engaging in volunteer work as a social worker many hours a week for the Disability Dept. of the Office of Social Services in Netanya, as well as being in charge of projects for ESRA. These included managing a social group in Netanya for seriously disabled young people which she did for 10 years; being one of the founders and leaders of the Hand in Hand Food Pantry; helping found the Students Build a Neighborhood (later named Students Build a Community), the dream of Netanya Council Member Ofer Orenstein, with the help of Debby Lieberman and other leaders of ESRA’s Project Committee ten years ago.
Hadassa is currently still volunteering as an English tutor in a local school and privately teaching Hebrew to other Anglos, and as social worker for Café V’Siach, a group, under the auspices of Hadassah Israel and the Social Services Dept. for Prevention of Violence in the Family, that aides women who have suffered violence in the family.