Where were you born? Were you born at the Beth? Many thousands of Americans - Jewish and non-Jewish - were born at a hospital bearing the Star of David and named Beth Israel, Mount Sinai, or Montefiore. In the United States, health care has been bound closely to the religious impulse, as is the case for Newark Beth Israel Hospital, a distinguished modern medical institution in New Jersey whose history opens a window on American health care, the immigrant experience, and urban life. Alan M. and Deborah A. Kraut tell the story of this important institution, illuminating the broader history of voluntary nonprofit hospitals created under religious auspices initially to serve poor immigrant communities. Like so many Jewish hospitals in the early half of the twentieth century, "the Beth" cared not only for its own community's poor and underprivileged, a responsibility grounded in the Jewish traditions of tzedakah ("justice") and tikkun olam ("to heal the world"), but for all Newarkers. Since it first opened its doors in 1902, the Beth has been an engine of social change.
Jewish women activists and immigrant physicians founded an institution with a nonsectarian admissions policy and a welcome mat for physicians and nurses seeking opportunity denied them by anti-Semitism elsewhere. Research, too, flourished at the Beth. Here dedicated medical detectives did path-breaking research on the Rh blood factor and pacemaker development. When economic shortfalls and the Great Depression threatened the Beth's existence, philanthropic contributions from prominent Newark Jews such as Louis Bamberger and Felix Fuld, the efforts of women volunteers, and, later, income from well-insured patients saved the institution that had become the pride of the Jewish community. The Krauts tell the Beth Israel story against the backdrop of twentieth-century medical progress, Newark's tumultuous history, and the broader social and demographic changes altering the landscape of American cities. Today, the United States, in the midst of another great wave of immigration, once again faces the question of how to provide newcomers with culturally sensitive and economically accessible medical care.
"Covenant of Care" will inform and inspire all those working to meet these demands, offering a compelling look at the creative ways that voluntary hospitals navigated similar challenges throughout the twentieth century.
Publisher: Rutgers University Press