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The Jews’ Hospital

Lawrence Bush
June 4, 2017

New York’s 45-bed Jews’ Hospital opened for patients on this date in 1855. It would change its name to the Mount Sinai Hospital after the Civil War. Founded by Sampson Simson, a philanthropist, on land that he owned on 28th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues in Manhattan, the hospital found its resources especially taxed by the war-wounded of the Union Army and by the draft riots of 1863, which took the lives of scores of black New Yorkers. Mount Sinai began appointing women to professional positions in 1872, and founded a school of nursing in 1881, which graduated 4,700 nurses (only one man among them) in its ninety years of existence. Mount Sinai was also the first hospital to use kidney dialysis in the U.S., to combine chemotherapy with radiation to combat breast cancer, to use a cardiac stress test, and to perform a fetal blood transfusion, among many other medical firsts. During the Holocaust, Mount Sinai gave jobs to many doctors fleeing Nazi Germany as early as 1933 and became a new home for a large number of émigrés. In 2005, Mount Sinai established one of the leading stem-cell research centers in the U.S. In 2013 Dr. David L. Reich became the first openly gay physician to serve as president of the hospital.

“During the first few years that it functioned, most patients were immigrants to the U.S. As the Jews’ Hospital was a charitable enterprise, its directors depended on donations from Jewish friends and members, as well as payments from the government, to provide enough to subsidize care. . . . [In 2013, the] hospital boasted 2,510 physicians, 1,097 residents and fellows, 2,278 nurses, 58,332 inpatient discharges, 644,527 outpatient and 102,639 emergency room visits. . .” --Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, Jerusalem Post

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.