Dr. Chales David Spivak
A Jewish Immigrant and the American Tuberculosis Movement
Publication Year: 2009
Part biography, part medical history, and part study of Jewish life in turn-of-the-century America, Jeanne Abrams's book tells the story of Dr. Charles David Spivak - a Jewish immigrant from Russia who became one of the leaders of the American Tuberculosis Movement. Born in Russia in 1861, Spivak immigrated to the United States in 1882 and received his medical degree from Philadelphia's Jefferson Medical College by 1890. In 1896, his wife's poor health brought them to Colorado. Determined to find a cure, Spivak became one of the most charismatic and well-known leaders in the American Tuberculosis Movement. His role as director of Denver's Jewish Consumptives' Relief Society sanatorium allowed his personal philosophies to strongly influence policies. His unique blend of Yiddishkeit, socialism, and secularism - along with his belief in treating the "whole" patient - became a model for integrating medical, social, and rehabilitation services that was copied across the country. Not only a national leader in the crusade against tuberculosis but also a luminary in the American Jewish community, Dr. Charles Spivak was a physician, humanitarian, writer, linguist, journalist, administrator, social worker, ethnic broker, and medical, public health, and social crusader. Abrams's biography will be a welcome addition to anyone interested in the history of medicine, Jewish life in America, or Colorado history.
Published by: University Press of Colorado
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When I interviewed Deena Spivak Strauss, the daughter of Dr. Charles David Spivak, in 1982 when I was working on my doctoral dissertation on the history of the Jewish Consumptives’ Relief Society of Denver (JCRS), I had no premonition that more than twenty-five years later I would be completing a biography of her father....
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Although more people probably came to Colorado for their physical health than for mineral wealth, the armies of “lungers” and “chasers” pursuing Colorado’s renowned climate cure for tuberculosis, asthma, and other lung disorders never captured the attention that chambers of commerce and historians have lavished on gold and silver...
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“Anything my father needed for his patients . . . he got somehow. He was their miracle man, that’s all I can say about my father.” Although undoubtedly not an impartial observer, this is how Deena Spivak Strauss, the ninety-three-year-old daughter of Dr. Charles David Spivak,1 recalled his life and work in a 1988 interview.2 Charismatic, ambitious, highly intelligent, and articulate, but prone to pursue idealistic...
2 Out of Russia
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Turbulent Tsarist Russia, home to the largest number of Jews in Europe in the late nineteenth century,1 provided a heady atmosphere for reformers and revolutionaries. As Orthodox Jewish customs and institutions came under assault by liberal Haskala, or Jewish Enlightenment, ideology filtering in from Western Europe and Russian officials offered limited opportunities to Jews to promote selective integration...
3 The Philadelphia Story
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If the streets of New York, the textile mills in Maine, and the agricultural colonies in New Jersey provided Charles David Spivak’s “elementary” education in America, the ten years he resided in Philadelphia served literally and figuratively as the time of his “higher” education—the location in which he developed his leadership skills, refined his political views,...
4 Heading West to “Chase the Cure”
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Today, most people in the United States consider tuberculosis a disease of the past and view it with clinical detachment. Others may be vaguely aware that tuberculosis still affects a number of U.S. citizens, mainly those who are impoverished, elderly, or have compromised immune systems. It also continues to pose a considerable threat in underdeveloped countries. Yet at the end of the nineteenth century tuberculosis,...
5 The Genesis of the JCRS: Creating a New Type of TB Institution
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...This is how Dr. Charles David Spivak began his chronicle of the modest origins of the Jewish Consumptives’ Relief Society (JCRS) in his secretary’s report, published in the JCRS’s First Annual Report of 1905.1 Spivak’s close friend and colleague, JCRS president Dr. Philip Hillkowitz, described the progress of this small group of Jewish “poor dwellers...
6 Becoming a Westerner
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The early discovery of gold in Colorado and the coming of the railroads were central to the transformation of Denver from a wilderness to a burgeoning metropolis, but the pivotal impact of tuberculosis on the area should not be underestimated. The search for health that focused on tuberculosis and other respiratory ailments was critical to the economic and population growth of the Mile High City in the first...
7 Overseas Mission to the European Front and the Final Years
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In the early 1920s Dr. Charles David Spivak took a leave of absence from the Jewish Consumptives’ Relief Society (JCRS) and his private medical practice to step onto the international stage on behalf of the American Jewish community in the role of special medical commissioner to Poland through the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). The JDC was a powerful Jewish relief agency created during World War I that aided...
8 Conclusion: The Spivak Legacy
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Dr. Charles David Spivak approached his final illness in the same manner in which he had faced the many vicissitudes of life: with determination to rise above his challenges and move forward, buttressed by the company of family and friends. Indeed, adaptability and versatility, coupled with a quest for knowledge and empathy for others, were the fundamental elements of his personality. Even in his last days...
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Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 15 b&w photos, 1 line art illustration
Publication Year: 2009