National Nurses Day 2015

Posted on May 6th, 2015 by

Today is National Nurses Day and in appreciation we are sharing a “sneak peek” from our exhibit-in-progress Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America from our section on nursing. Enjoy these snippets from the unfinished exhibit script – and thank a nurse today!

Gift of Bobbi Horwitz for the Sinai Hospital Nurses Alumni Association, JMM 2010.20.8

Gift of Bobbi Horwitz for the Sinai Hospital Nurses Alumni Association, JMM 2010.20.8

The Nursing Station

The first formal training program for nurses in the United States was initiated in 1872 at the Women’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Spurred by committees of laywomen, several other hospitals soon followed suit. Physicians, however, were slow to support the training of women to assist in medical procedures.

As medical technology advanced, however, hospital administrators realized how the in-house nurse training program benefited the hospital. Educated nurses were urgently needed to aid in the care and treatment of patients with increasingly more complex conditions and needs. Nursing students, who often worked and lived under harsh conditions, were willing to trade their labor for professional training. By 1900, 432 nurse-training programs had been established in hospitals around the country.

1909 photo of graduating class. Gift of Bobbie Horwitz for the Sinai Hospital Nurses Alumni Association, JMM 2010.20.47.

1909 photo of graduating class. Gift of Bobbie Horwitz for the Sinai Hospital Nurses Alumni Association, JMM 2010.20.47.

By 1919, the Hebrew Hospital had built the Hecht Memorial Nurses Home, where nurses lived and studied. Trainees were required to furnish their own uniforms and expected to work regular shifts in the hospital, described in the school prospectus as the students’ “laboratory.” In return, they were given room and board, and were paid $10.00 per month (equivalent to approximately $135.00 today). A rigorous schedule of coursework in medical sciences and clinical practice are also set forth in the brochure.

 

 

Nursing and the Jewish Woman

Jewish women did not flock to nursing as Jewish men did to the medical, dental and pharmacy professions. There are no solid numbers to bear out the anecdotal evidence, but where Jewish physicians have been over-represented as a proportion of the United States population, Jews have historically been under-represented as a percentage of nurses. As a result, while Jewish hospitals filled a need for Jewish nurses, but they were never staffed solely by Jews.

“An Angel of Mercy,” Hal Hurst. C. 1914-1918, Michael Zwerdling "Postcards of nursing" collection, National Library of Medicine.

“An Angel of Mercy,” Hal Hurst. C. 1914-1918, Michael Zwerdling “Postcards of nursing” collection, National Library of Medicine.

 

Why were there fewer Jewish nurses, proportionally? The Christian narrative underpinning the nursing profession may have discouraged some. According to the National Library of Medicine: “Images of nurses in the European art traditions of the 19th and early 20th centuries are often based on ancient Classical and Christian feminine archetypes such as healer, handmaiden, mother, angel, and guardian or warrior.” But many among those who proudly serve see Jewish roots to their profession.

“I cannot count the number of times I have been told that I am a fine example of Christian nursing. It is always meant as a compliment, but it drives me to distraction.” (From an interview with a Jewish nurse)

 

 

 

 

 

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A Curator’s Wish List

Posted on January 28th, 2015 by

A Collecting Wish List For

Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America

 Our curator, Karen Falk, needs YOUR help! We’re working on our next original exhibit, Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America. The exhibition spans the late 19th century until today, with an emphasis on medicine’s “golden age” in America, roughly the 1920s through 60s.* As with all our exhibits we started with our own collections but we need more. Check out the lists below and see if you, your family or any of your friends have examples of the items below that you would be willing to lend (or donate!) to us here at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

If you think you’ve got something, please contact Karen right away at kfalk@jewishmuseummd.org or call her at 410-732-6402 x227.

Envisioning a Jewish Medicine

Envisioning a Jewish Medicine

Memorabilia from Jewish fraternities:

*Phil Delta Epsilon, Phi Lambda Kappa, Aleph Yod He (medical)

*Alpha Omega, Sigma Epsilon Delta (dental)

*Alpha Zeta Omega, Rho Pi Phi (pharmaceutical)

 

Section 2 Banner

“My Son, the Doctor”

Health professions education:

*acceptance/rejection letters

*school and lab notebooks

*study guides, devices to help memory

*instruments/equipment required or helpful for coursework

*memorabilia from white coat ceremony

*photos of students at work: dissection/cadaver, study groups, classroom, laboratory and clinical settings

*memorabilia from body donor ceremonies

*graduation photos, announcements

 

A 'Golden Age' of Medicine?

A ‘Golden Age’ of Medicine?

Health professions practice:

*journals or diaries

*pneumothorax machine, other early treatment equipment for TB

*photos of physicians, nurses, technicians, and others in hospital settings, working with patients or working with equipment

*early 20th century white coat

* early x-ray equipment or components

 

The Care of Strangers

The Care of Strangers

The image of the Jewish doctor in the American imagination:

*cartoons

*posters

*greeting cards

*humor books

*“my son the doctor” jokes

*“physician’s oath” plaques or inscriptions

*songs

*kitsch and shtick

 

Body Work

Body Work

Health, hygiene, diet, and exercise:

*materials in Yiddish

*posters, pamplets, signs aimed at Jewish opinions or behaviors

 

*Note: We will remove names and other identifying characteristics from anything that includes protected health information prior to display. We normally use your name to attribute quotations, and to acknowledge loans or donations of materials used in the exhibition. You have the option to remain anonymous by request.

 

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Buried Alive: Eighteenth Century Terror and a “Superstar” Jewish Doctor

Posted on November 13th, 2014 by

“Oh God of faithfulness, place in the heart of the sick trust in me and my work, and an ear to listen to my advice. Remove from their bedside every quack [and all] heralds and saviors who come forth regularly… [and] dare to rise up and criticize the work of a doctor.” –Physician’s Prayer, written by Marcus Herz, 1789

I am indebted for the substance of this post to John M. Efron’s Medicine and the German Jews: A History (2001) 

Title page, Uber die fruhe Beerdigung der Juden (On the Premature Burial of the Jews), by Marcus Herz, 1787. Courtesy of The National Library of Israel, Jerusalem.

Title page, Uber die fruhe Beerdigung der Juden (On the Premature Burial of the Jews), by Marcus Herz, 1787. Courtesy of The National Library of Israel, Jerusalem.

Among Dr. Harry Friedenwald’s magnificent collection of books and manuscripts documenting the activities of Jewish physicians through the ages (selections of which  will be displayed in our upcoming exhibition on Jews and medicine in America, scheduled to open in fall 2015) is a sixty-page pamphlet titled Uber die fruhe Beerdigung der Juden, On the Premature Burial of the Jews. Its riveting cover illustration cries out for explanation from the world of the author, Dr. Marcus Herz (1747-1803).

Marcus Herz, c. 1790s at the height of his reputation. Painted by Friedrich Georg Weitsch.

Marcus Herz, c. 1790s at the height of his reputation. Painted by Friedrich Georg Weitsch.

Herz was a sought-after physician, philosopher and friend of Immanuel Kant, and wealthy socialite who, together with his brilliant and beautiful wife Henriette, opened his home to the literati of his time, Jewish and Christian. Son of a poor sofer (Torah scribe), the precocious Herz first studied for the rabbinate, then became a clerk in a commercial concern, and at age 19 began to attend lectures at the University of Koenigsberg. He could not then afford to continue his studies, but made such an impression while there that Kant asked Herz to act as his “advocate” in the defense of his dissertation. Several years later, having acquired a patron among the Jewish reformers of the city to support him, he completed degrees in medicine and philosophy. While his education and social contacts led him to abandon ritual observance (and his persuasively rationalist lectures caused, in the words of a contemporary, “many an orthodox Jew…to doubt the teachings on miracles”), Herz remained proudly Jewish, a pioneer in a model of Jewish communal leadership and philanthropy we would recognize today. A proponent of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment), his sincere concern was to lead his Jewish brethren out of the ghettoes and into European citizenship.

With all the authority of his position in the community and status as a physician, Herz stepped into a raging controversy of the day: the medical uncertainty in determining the death of an individual and the resulting fear of premature burial that scholars have described as “pathological” and “a vast anxiety [which took] hold of the collective consciousness” (Ingrid Stoessel and Philippe Aries, quoted in Efron). Having learned how to resuscitate a drowning victim, scientists of the day began to question formerly agreed upon signs of death: lack of respiration and pulse, skin pallor, rigor mortis. Many insisted one could be sure death had occurred only with the onset of decay. As scientists argued and public feeling ran high, the state began to weigh in with legislation requiring burial be delayed until that point.

Henriette_Herz_by_Anna_Dorothea_Lisiewska_1778

Henriette De Lemos Herz, 1778 around the time of her marriage to Marcus at age 15. Painted by Anna Dorothea Lisiewska. For more information about this interesting and independent woman, see the entry on her in the Jewish Women’s Archive’s online encyclopedia http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/herz-henriette

Among Christians burial several days after death was normal custom, but Jews are enjoined by Torah (Deuteronomy 21:22-3) to bury the dead within twenty-four hours. The first official action affecting Jewish burial customs came in 1772 when the Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin decreed that Jews be required to wait three days before burying their dead. Moses Mendelssohn, the great interpreter of secular and Jewish culture, interceded for the community by suggesting that a physician be required to certify death before burial, a solution uneasily accepted by both sides of the controversy. The issue created lasting rifts within the Jewish community because physicians of the haskalah such as Herz, for reasons articulated in his 1787 pamphlet, tended to side with the state, while traditional authorities maintained that burial society members were quite expert in recognizing death.

Detail, Uber die fruhe Beerdigung der Juden. You may need to enlarge this image to see how the man’s entire upper body seems to be emerging from the mound of dirt on his grave in the background. Courtesy of The National Library of Israel, Jerusalem.

Detail, Uber die fruhe Beerdigung der Juden. You may need to enlarge this image to see how the man’s entire upper body seems to be emerging from the mound of dirt on his grave in the background. Courtesy of The National Library of Israel, Jerusalem.

The cover of Herz’s pamphlet is macabre. An engraving by Wilhelm Chodwiecki shows a mourner contemplating Moses Mendelssohn’s headstone while behind him in the moonlight, hands reach out, begging for liberation from a newly covered grave. Herz, at least partially motivated by a near-death illness of his own, gives passionate voice to the scene depicted on the cover: “My brothers, you simply can never have imagined the true horror of what it must be like for someone to awake in the grave!…He opens his eyes, around him everything is dark and desolate….He groans, cries, pleads with all the powers that he has struggled so hard to regain: to no avail, he languishes unheard.”

Herz proposed that Jews wait two to three days before burying their dead, with the alleged deceased resting in a mortuary and visited by a physician trained to recognize the signs of returning life or of decay. In the interim, the body was not to be considered a corpse or prepared for burial. In this he was opposed, as one might expect, by traditional Jewish authorities. But Herz was also challenged by conservative members of his own movement, who saw things differently. These opponents, also medically trained, argued—with some justification—that premature burial was not only a Jewish problem, that to single out Jewish practice for legislation was an act of discrimination by the state, and that, in fact, early burial was more hygienic than delayed burial, a claim backed by a Berlin College of Medicine study of victims of smallpox and other contagious diseases.

Is this story an example of official discrimination against the Jews, or of the struggle between Jewish traditionalists and reformers? In either case, it is a powerful demonstration of the ways in which medical arguments were mustered by those on both sides of the debate, suggesting the complexity of the relationships between medicine and the Jews.

 

A blog post by Curator Karen Falk. To read more posts from Karen click HERE.

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