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Covenant of Care

Newark Beth Israel and the Jewish Hospital in America

Alan M. Kraut and Deborah A Kraut

Publication Year: 2006

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. Newark Beth Israel Hospital is 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.


Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-x

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pp. 1-12

The history of Newark Beth Israel Hospital and Medical Center chronicles the transformation of a twentyeight- bed converted house in the midst of a teeming immigrant neighborhood to a modern regional medical center serving the city of Newark and the state of New Jersey. ...

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Chapter 1: “Trouble in the Betch Israel Hospital Association”

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pp. 13-35

In Newark, New Jersey, as in other U.S. cities of the early twentieth century, the evening newspaper was the key source of metropolitan news. The Newark Evening News appeared on Newark’s streets late each afternoon, filled with racy headlines that newsboys could shout to passersby. ...

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Chapter 2: The Formative Years

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pp. 36-60

Lucifers, locofocos, flambeaus, torches, fusees—early twentieth-century nicknames of the little wooden stick with the dab of sulfur at one end. With one swift striking movement against a hard surface, the tip could glow incandescent for a second and ignite the kindling in stoves, the oil in lamps, the wicks of candles—and the corners of pinafores. ...

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Chapter 3: From Little House on the Hill to Modern Institution

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pp. 61-78

On Friday, May 30, 1924, the Jewish Chronicle, Newark’s weekly Jewish newspaper, printed a full-page advertisement that proclaimed a new era for the Newark Beth Israel Hospital. The advertisement was a drawing of a young woman wearing a nurse’s uniform whose short hemline revealed her legs, a nurse’s cap atop her flapper bobbed hair, her smile made more alluring by lipstick. ...

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Chapter 4: A Modern Hospital Surviving Depression and War

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pp. 79-104

In the 1920s, the skyscraper epitomized modern urban construction. In his 1929 report to the Newark Beth Israel Board of Directors, President Frank Liveright informed his colleagues that the opening of the skyscraper hospital tower in Weequahic marked the beginning of a new era for Newark’s Jewish hospital as a modern institution. ...

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Chapter 5: Medicine at the Beth, 1928–1947

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pp. 105-128

At noon, on May 15, 1929, the switchboard of Sinai Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, lit up with frantic telephone calls, alerting the Jewish hospital that its staff was about to receive the victims of the worst disaster “in the annals of hospitals.” Within a few minutes a caravan of ambulances, taxicabs, delivery trucks, and drays converged at the emergency room entrance. ...

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Chapter 6: The Modern Institution at Midcentury

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pp. 129-161

In the historian Rosemary Stevens’s introduction to her study of American hospitals in the twentieth century, she recalled a childhood memory of her hospitalization in 1945 for scarlet fever, seriously ill and unable to receive penicillin for treatment. In Great Britain, penicillin was rarely available for civilians, ...

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Chapter 7: Medical Research at Midcentury

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pp. 162-184

By mid-century, Newark Beth Israel’s buff-colored Spanish style tower building had been a part of Newark’s skyline for nearly a quarter century. Those who had worked through the night in the tower could sip their morning coffee looking out across the city. ...

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Chapter 8: Redefining the Beth’s Community

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pp. 185-207

By 1969, scarcely twenty years had elapsed since World War II veterans, including physicians and nurses from Newark Beth Israel Hospital, had returned to the bustling, noisy neighborhood surrounding the Beth. Much had changed. There were different sights, smells, and sounds in the neighborhood around the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. ...

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Chapter 9: The Changing Shape of Health Care

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pp. 208-223

Those who fully comprehended that late twentieth-century medicine was increasingly organized according to an industrial model understood that hospitals must chart their courses for the future accordingly. Gaining strength in the world of industry often required consolidation to control costs and maximize profits. ...

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pp. 224-230

A century after the birth of Beth Israel Hospital, Newark is once again a city of economic opportunity and a city of immigrants. While the tanneries and breweries are gone, banks, insurance companies, and small businesses flourish. ...

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pp. 231-234

This history of Newark Beth Israel Hospital Medical Center was commissioned by the Jewish Historical Society of MetroWest (JHSMW) with funding from the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey. The independence of the authors to pursue our scholarship in whatever direction it took us was contractually guaranteed, ...


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pp. 235-248


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pp. 249-288

A Note on Sources

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pp. 289-294


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pp. 295-304

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About the Authors

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pp. 305

Alan M. Kraut is a professor of history at American University in Washington, D.C. His research interests combine immigration and ethnic history with the history of medicine and public health in the United States. He is the author or editor of seven books and many articles. ...

Gallery of Images

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813542393
E-ISBN-10: 0813542391
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813539102

Page Count: 318
Illustrations: 13
Publication Year: 2006