Healthcare is a topic that is frequently in the news these days and is a major part of the current public discourse.

Before it became standard practice for governments to fund public hospitals, most hospitals were under religious auspices. (Thus, the heroes of historical fiction are often cared for by sympathetic nuns.)

Because of both religious discrimination and the specific needs of the community, it was not uncommon to find specifically Jewish hospitals in major cities. One excellent example of the development of Jewish hospitals in America is The Jews’ Hospital of New York (now known as Mount Sinai Hospital), which was founded in 1852.

Although there were nine representatives of Jewish charities who agreed to the creation of a charity hospital for Jews, the name most closely aligned with the launch of The Jews’ Hospital is Sampson Simson (1780-1857), an American born Jewish philanthropist. Not only did Simson donate the land on which the hospital was built (West 28th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues), he also served as the first president of the Board of Directors.

The Jews’ Hospital of New York accepted its first patient on June 5, 1855. While people of all faiths were welcome, the majority of patients were immigrant Jews. With the outbreak of the Civil War, however, the demands for the hospital’s facilities greatly increased.

Having expanded its mission to accommodate the demands of the war, The Jews’ Hospital formally retired its sectarian charter in 1866 and renamed itself The Mount Sinai Hospital. The formerly Jewish hospital was, however, still better able to care for the religious needs of its Jewish patients (kosher food) and offered opportunities that Jewish medical professionals might not have found elsewhere in those times when Jews were barred from certain professions and suffered academic quotas.

Today, Mount Sinai Hospital continues the tradition of providing opportunities to Jewish patients as can be seen in the hospital’s brochure entitled, “Resources for Jewish Patients and Visitors.” Please click here to see the brochure.

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