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The struggle to establish the London Jewish Hospital: Lord Rothschild versus the barber

Gerry Black

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The struggle to establish the London Jewish Hospital: Lord Rothschild versus the barber* GERRY BLACK At the beginning of this century there were many in the Jewish community who thought there was a need for a specifically Jewish hospital for the Jewish poor. One correspondent of the Jewish Chronicle1 a Manchester doctor, said that many poor uneducated Jews refused, or at least hesitated, to enter non-denominational hospitals in England as well as abroad, because they had a presentiment that the absence of Jewish sympathy and ministration would bring about death instead of a cure. The belief that some sick poor failed to enter hospital for this reason was a theme repeated throughout the struggle to establish a Jewish hospital in London. If, at the beginning of this century, one required hospital treatment, the choice, insofar as there was any, was between entering a workhouse infirmary financed by the rates, or a voluntary hospital funded by donations from the public. Almost all the money raised for the voluntary hospitals came from the rich. The infirmaries were undoubtedly inferior, in terms of the number and quality of their doctors and nurses, and their equipment and medicines, but they were improving. The voluntary hospitals, although providing superior treatment, were facing increasing financial problems. The last quarter of the nineteenth century saw great advances in medical knowledge, techniques, medicine and equipment, but all of these involved increased costs, and the expectations of their patients rose. At no time were the voluntary hospitals free from financial worry, and occasionally beds, wards, wings and even whole hospitals were closed. Although the National Health Service did not come into operation until 1948 the signs were already clear at the start of the century that voluntary hospitals could not survive on public donations alone, and that some form of government or local authority financial intervention would become necessary. London was generally better provided with hospital facilities of both types than the rest of England; and the East End of London better so than the rest of London. The workhouse infirmaries mainly used by East End Jews were the Whitechapel Infirmary in Vallance Road, and the Mile End Infirmary in Bancroft Road, which compared well with the best in the country. Right at the heart of the * Paper presented to the Society on 13 December 1990. 337</page><page sequence="2">Gerry Black Jewish East End was one of England's greatest voluntary hospitals, the London Hospital (now the Royal London Hospital) in Whitechapel. From its inception in 1741 the London Hospital received generous financial support from the Jewish community, and in return it made special facilities available to its Jewish patients.2 Kosher food was available from the outset; not direcdy, but by a payment of 2^d per day to Jewish patients so that they could purchase and bring in their own meat and broth. Over the next 200 years there was no reasonable request by the Jewish community which was not granted by the hospital. In addition to kosher food, arrangements were made for Jewish patients to observe the Sabbath and all Festivals, there were separate kosher kitchens, Jewish wards from the middle of the nineteenth century, special visiting hours, arrangements for conducting circumcisions, facilities for official watchers, a Jewish almoner, Jewish members on the House Committee of the Hospital and on its Board of Governors, and even a separate mortuary and ice chambers for deceased Jews awaiting post-mortem examination. The Jews of the East End were also within easy reach of the German Hospital in Dalston, where the German-speaking staff made matters much easier for Yiddish speaking patients. Similarly, the Metropolitan Hospital in Kingsland Road had Jewish wards and employed a Yiddish-speaking doctor in its out-patients department. By the beginning of the twentieth century the Jewish community had established a network of social services of which it could justiy be proud - a welfare state in its own right, and well ahead of its time. However, the suggestion that there should be a Jewish hospital in London was greeted with passionate opposition, particularly from the wealthier and more established section of the community. One corre? spondent of the Jewish Chronicle said: I have often asked myself why things should be so very different in London from those, for instance, in Berlin, or Vienna, Budapest, Frankfurt, or New York. I should like to know why synagogues which are nearly empty for 300 days in the year, may be erected by the dozen, but Jewish hospitals, for which there is the most urgent daily need, must not be thought of; why all the philanthropic and social institutions ... may be under our name and supervision, but why just the support of a Jewish hospital might disseminate anti-semitism.3 The idea of a Jewish hospital was not a new one. The first and only Jewish hospital in London had been the Beth Holim, established by the Spanish and Portuguese Congregation in Leman Street in 1748. In 1792 it transferred to Mile End Road, but by 1880 its function as a hospital had largely ceased, except for occasional maternity cases.4 In 1824, The Society for Supporting the Destitute Sick {Meshanat Lecholim) was founded and supported by subscriptions of one penny per week. In 1835 many of the Society's supporters felt that there was a need for a specifically Jewish hospital, and drew up a manifesto advocating this. But this scheme was later 338</page><page sequence="3">The struggle to establish the London Jewish Hospital dropped in favour of one agreed with London Hospital for the setting up of Jewish wards there.5 There was a Jewish Hospital in Manchester. The movement to establish it began in 1900, and support for and opposition to the scheme divided along class lines. The rich and established, the ministry, the Jewish Chronicle, and all those connected with existing voluntary hospitals as donors, visitors, members of the House Committees or the Boards of Governors, were against. The poor, and particularly the foreign-born Yiddish-speaking Jews, favoured it, and so did the local general practitioners. Despite much communal in-fighting, a Jewish hospital was opened four years later, and it proved successful. The one vital difference between Manchester and London was the lack of special facilities for Jewish patients in the general hospitals in Manchester. If its main voluntary hospital, the Manchester Royal Infirmary, had agreed to establish a Jewish ward when asked to do so, perhaps the Manchester Jewish Hospital movement would not have suc? ceeded. But once a Jewish hospital was firmly established in Manchester, would London follow. The movement for a Jewish hospital in London began in January 1907, at a meeting held in the back room of a basement flat in Sydney Street, in the East End of London.6 The meeting had been called by Isaac (also known as Isadore) Berliner, who had been born in about 1871 in Poland, was educated probably in his village school, and had come to England in about 1895. He was stricdy Orthodox, and earned his living as a barber in the East End. In about 1905 he entered a hospital, probably Whitechapel Infirmary, but because of a lack of consideration for his Jewish ritual practices, he suffered more pain and discomfort from his non-Jewish environment than he did from his illness. Most importandy, he realized that others would also feel that the kind attention and patience of the nurses and the skill of the doctors could not overcome the anxiety felt constantiy by the totally observant Jew, particularly the foreign Jew who spoke only Yiddish, Polish, Romanian or Russian, and who felt bewildered in a non-Jewish atmo? sphere. Berliner resolved to spend all his spare time in attempting to found a Jewish hospital in London. For a poor East End barber this was to indulge a dream. Those present at the Sydney Street meeting were all working men, who formed themselves into a committee, and called a public meeting to be held at Cannon Street Road Synagogue. There it was argued that Jews who could not speak English needed a Jewish hospital. It was emphasized that the large number of Jewish applicants for medical relief and treatment who queued outside the Philpot Street Medical Mission - the most successful of the ten or eleven Christian medical missions operating in the East End - was a crying evil, and one which, it was contended, the existence of a Jewish hospital would defeat. The Jewish Chronicle reported7 that the majority of those present joined the movement. Subscriptions were to range from a penny a week, and considering the poorness of the locality 339</page><page sequence="4">Gerry Black the financial results were particularly gratifying. One working man donated a sovereign, and his practical support encouraged others to hand over their mite. There has long been a feeling, its reporter added, that an institution of this nature was much to be desired, and the progress of the scheme would be awaited with great interest. There was an immediate and crushing editorial commentary the next week in the Jewish Chronicle which reversed the sympathetic report of the week before.8 In the interests of the Jewish community, and of the Jewish poor, it said, it hoped the new committee would pause to consider the immense difficulties and dis? advantages they faced. Although they admired the working man who donated a sovereign, had the committee calculated how many sovereigns would be needed to found a hospital, and how many to maintain it? Even if they could raise the funds, was a Jewish hospital needed in the East End, and would it have any chance of successfully competing with the larger hospitals already in existence? Every pro? vision for the sick Jewish poor, including provision for their religious require? ments, was already made in the London Hospital and Metropolitan Hospital, to name but two. Existing hospitals already had up-to-date facilities which the new committee could not provide unless a multi-millionaire came to their support. And as for the conversionist argument, that carried no weight. There was sufficient provision for Jewish out-patients at the major hospitals, and if some Jews still went to the missionary dispensaries, this only proved that some preferred missions to hospitals, and for them a Jewish hospital would be no counter. Despite these comments the officers of the committee decided to continue their work. They were gaining the impression that the support and need were there. They said they did not imagine their pennies would produce a hospital to vie with any of the existing ones. They intended to start in a very small way, and would be more than satisfied with three small wards, with, say, fourteen beds. At a crowded meeting held on 16 June 1907, at St George's Hall, Cable Street, with Berliner presiding, it was announced that they already had over 3000 members, and that more were joining daily. Three branches had been established and others were projected. The name 'The London Jewish Hospital Association' was adopted, and the balance sheet showed they had received ?35 from penny subscriptions alone. The Revd S. Levy of Great St Helen's Synagogue, who had had twelve years experience as a visiting minister at London Hospital, later made some telling points against the committee's arguments.9 He said that the language difficulty was gready exaggerated. Of the 1500 Jewish in-patients admitted to the London Hospital in 1908 many of them knew only English, and could not speak or understand Yiddish; many spoke both languages. Comparatively few spoke Yid? dish only; and it was remarkable with what rapidity the second generation entirely discarded Yiddish. What guarantee, he asked, was there that the Jewish doctors who might help would also speak Yiddish? He added that the Jewish population of the East End was either stationary or diminishing, as was reflected by a 10 per cent 340</page><page sequence="5">The struggle to establish the London Jewish Hospital fall in the number of Jewish in-patients at the London Hospital in the previous twelve months. On the other side of the argument another correspondent said he was sure that the governors and members of the house committees of hospitals did all they could to ensure equal treatment for Jews and non-Jews, but it was not enough that those who were behind the scenes should be sympathetic and high minded. In a hospital it was necessary that these sentiments should also sway house surgeons and physicians, sisters and nurses, even attendants and porters. It was they who had relations with Jewish patients, not the house committees: 'I make bold to say that the British working man - or unemployed - who staggers into a casualty depart? ment late on Saturday night suffering from a scalp wound sustained in a drunken brawl, is infinitely more welcome than the uncouth immigrant Jew who shuffles in, in a piteous plight, complaining of something which the medical officer on duty cannot understand.'10 The Jewish Chronicle reported that, as they had anticipated, the scheme was not being looked on favourably by 'the community'.12 It is not quite clear exacdy whom the Jewish Chronicle had in mind when referring to 'the community', but it did not appear to encompass the working-class Jew. It was their view that the question of a specifically Jewish hospital could not reasonably come within the range of practical politics. The first part of 1908 was one of quiet progress. Then, at a committee meeting in November 1908, at King's Hall, Commercial Road, Berliner announced that they were negotiating for a 22,000-square-foot site in Stepney Green, close to the heart of the Yiddish-speaking section of the community, easily accessible from all parts, and less than a mile from the London Hospital. Mr F. W. Charrington, of the brewery family, was the owner, and he had offered to sell for ?6500, which they bargained down to ?5750. They had ?950 in hand, and as soon as they had raised ?1000 to pay the deposit, the balance, Berliner said optimistically, could quickly be realized by means of bazaars and concerts. A month later Berliner was able to announce that they were on the point of exchanging contracts. In only eighteen months, he said (it was actually nearer twenty-four), they had raised ?1100, and weekly subscriptions now totalled ?40. We do not wait for the support of our rich co-religionist - that will come along in good time; it will be by our own efforts and our own enthusiasm that we must achieve success. We are full of gratitude to the London Hospital and other hospitals for what is done for our brethren, but we want a Jewish hospital with Jewish doctors, and Jewish nurses, and even a Jewish porter, in order that our brothers and sisters who are afflicted can make themselves easily understood and can gain the confidence engendered from the converse in a tongue with which they are familiar. We all realise the hostility with which such a movement will be regarded by the richer Jews, but I am quite confident that once we are established help of all kinds will come from all quarters.11 His speech showed remarkable ebullience, confidence and, considering the diffi 341</page><page sequence="6">Gerry Black culties which faced them, an almost childlike innocence, since after nearly two years they had collected less than a fifth of the cost of the land, had nothing towards the cost of the building, and the grand total of ?40 per week subscriptions towards the maintenance of a hospital in London and all that this entailed. But they had a burning determination and a willingness to face the odds. The opposition had not yet fully opened fire - there had hardly been any need, as the advance towards the projected goal was so slow. But who was the leader of the opposition? Beyond any doubt it was Lord Rothschild, who behind the scenes had already made it clear to his friends that he did not intend to support the scheme and did not wish them to do so either. Rothschild took a deep interest in the sick poor and was associated with the work of a number of hospitals, including the London Hospital. As Treasurer of King Edward VIFs Hospital Fund he became friendly with Sir Sydney Holland, later Viscount Knutsford, the Chairman of the London Hospital. Like Knutsford he was especially interested in the work of this Fund, which aimed at promoting uniform, economical and efficient administration among the hospitals. He had very strong views on the subject, and in particular set his face against what he conceived of as unnecessary new institu? tions and the multiplication of charities with identical objects. The Jewish com? munity, not least as a result of his efforts, had obtained many concessions from the hospital service in general, and from the London Hospital in particular, and he was very anxious not to jeopardize these by creating a specifically Jewish hospital which, he feared, might diminish Jewish support for the older charities. In addi? tion, although he was proudly Jewish, he believed that Jews should accept the traditions of the country in which they found themselves and harmonize with them, rather than separate themselves from them. He was recognized as the undoubted leader of the community, and his word was, for many, particularly in wealthier circles, law. He set his mind and considerable influence against the establishment of a Jewish hospital in London. It would need a bold, brave and perhaps naive or foolhardy opponent to take him on. Knutsford, who supported him, had been elected chairman of the London Hospital in 1897, a position he held until 1931. He had raised more than ?5 million for his beloved 'London' and was known as 'The Prince of Beggars' or, in Jewish circles, as 'The Prince of Schnorrers'. He ruled autocratically, almost always getting his way, since he lacked neither ability nor modesty, later dedicating his autobiography to 'the MAN I have known longest and loved most, MYSELF'. Rothschild and Knutsford made a formidable combination. On 25 December 1908 the Jewish Chronicle gave space to an interview with E. W. Morris, the Secretary of the London Hospital and right-hand man to Knutsford. He damned the scheme with quiet condescension, and said that 'these good folk', as he called them, were underestimating the obstacles and difficulties they would face. They would be unable to afford the equipment, and there would be too few sufficiendy qualified Jewish doctors available to them. Existing hospitals 342</page><page sequence="7">The struggle to establish the London Jewish Hospital had already engaged the few consultants and nurses who were Jewish. He said that anything tending to cripple the finances of existing hospitals would bring the day nearer when the hospitals would have to pass under state control, which would be a great national disaster and a gross waste of public money. He suggested that a conference be held between the representatives of the LJHA and his committee to talk matters over. This interview was followed by an article12 in the diary columns of the Jewish Chronicle by 'Tatier', the nom de plume of the Revd A. A. Green, the minister of Hampstead Synagogue. He disapproved of the scheme, and advised the promoters to consider Morris's words most care? fully. It was then learned that Henry Barnato, Barney Barnato's brother, had left a legacy of ?250,000 to his executors for the funding of a hospital, and there were rumours that they were considering using these moneys for the purposes of a Jewish hospital in London. This raised the committee's hopes, for until this point it was clear that the promoters were little nearer to achieving their aim; the ?1100 they had collected was but a drop in the ocean. Then a most remarkable change in events occurred. The very next week, on 8 January 1909, in the issue immediately following the Revd Green's article, there was a complete reversal in the editorial attitude of the Jewish Chronicle, as unexpected as it was sudden. Having opposed both the Manchester scheme and the London Jewish Hospital Association, here was an editorial which came down firmly on the side of the promoters. The writer dismissed the arguments that had been raised against the hospital movement, and said that the rich should support the formation of the hospital, adding that they, and a strong medical element, should join the committee. He also threw out a hint to the Joel family that they should not only use Henry Barnato's legacy for the hospital, but should add to it some of their own money. The editorial was written by Leopold Jacob Greenberg who had taken control of the Jewish Chronicle two years before. He was described as inflexible in pursuit of what he believed right, a man of absolute integrity and strong convictions, and he made the Jewish Chronicle a force in the country as well as in Jewish circles. He particularly threw himself heart and soul into the defence of poor Russian-Jewish refugees. The possession of wealth and rank counted for nothing when he came to appraise his fellow man. From those to whom power and riches had been granted, he demanded an appreciation of the responsibility which was theirs. Communal leaders were castigated by him with the utmost fearlessness if he thought it appropriate. The editorial had cleverly tried to allay the fears of both sides, effectively telling the communal leaders that they could take over the committee, but only if they would genuinely work for a Jewish hospital. It was also typical of Greenberg to 'throw out a hint' to the Joel family as to what they should do with their money. He was never backward in using the columns of the Jewish Chronicle to provoke the rich into supporting charitable causes he thought desirable. In appropriate cases 343</page><page sequence="8">Gerry Black he headed details regarding the wills of the wealthy 'To charity, nil', in an effort to shame those who would follow to avoid such posthumous bad publicity. As for the Revd A. A. Green who had opposed the hospital scheme, shortly afterwards his column ceased, and Greenberg took over, writing under the nom de plume of 'Mentor'. A few weeks later Berliner gave details of a conference which had been held with the authorities of the London Hospital. Knutsford had told the representa? tives of the Association that he was absolutely sure a Jewish hospital was not needed. Even if currendy needed, it would not be required in a couple of years when the Aliens Act would be strengthened. He thought an alien should learn the language of his adopted country, and if he did not, that was his lookout. It was ridiculous to spend a quarter of a million pounds on a few people who could not be bothered to learn English. He said that the London Hospital could easily cope with the 50,000 Jews it treated annually. A Jewish hospital would not be able to obtain a sufficient number of Yiddish-speaking doctors and nurses. Mrs Levy, the vice-president of the Association, assured Knutsford that there would not be the slightest difficulty about that, for she was already promised the services of two or three eminent physicians and a number of nurses. Berliner asked if they could be accommodated in a corner of the building where only Yiddish-speaking patients would receive attention from a Yiddish-speaking doctor, for which privilege the Association would gladly pay. But Knutsford replied that they had no available space. These disclosures were greeted with indignation, and the Association resolved to forge ahead with its scheme despite the opposition with which it was being greeted. If only the London Hospital had seen its way clear at this stage to house the new hospital - probably the provision of just ten to twenty extra beds for Yiddish speaking patients would have sufficed to satisfy the promoters - the conflict could have ended then and there. This would have had the advantage of bringing to the London Hospital even greater financial support from the Jewish community. But Knutsford was not a man to compromise, particularly when he was winning, for the promoters were almost as far away from succeeding in their ambitions as they had been when they had started two years earlier. Once this moment had passed, a fight to the finish was inevitable. Lord Rothschild's position also needed to be made clear. Now that the Jewish Chronicle was giving its support, and there was the possibility that a donation of a quarter of a million pounds would firmly establish a Jewish hospital, he could no longer delay, and had to make his opposition known publicly. The moment he chose was the Golden Jubilee Festival Dinner of the Jewish Board of Guardians held in February 1909, at which he said: 'The people who propose to set up this new charity are discontented with the work of perhaps the greatest and most charitable institution in the world, the London Hospital. I am not betraying any confidence when I say that their hope that the hospital may be endowed with the 344</page><page sequence="9">The struggle to establish the London Jewish Hospital money left by the late Mr. Henry Barnato is a futile hope. I am sure it will not be given for this purpose.'13 He said he was 'sure' of his ground, and was clearly speaking with inside information. He would not otherwise have said so at a public meeting. He was 'not betraying any confidence', which must have meant that he had the executors' authority to make the statement. Rothschild continued: 'I only wish to tell these kind-hearted but misguided people that blue pills ... [have] no religion .... I have ventured to address you on this subject in the hope that those who have influence will put their face against a mischievous innovation, and will justify our gratitude to institutions like the London Hospital and the Metropolitan Hospital who have attended the Jewish sick with so much devotion and success.' There was an immediate counter-attack in the Jewish Chronicle: 'Blue pills ... it is true have no religion. But neither have coals and blankets, nor, indeed, as the gathering which Lord Rothschild was addressing was an eloquent reminder, has charity itself. Yet we have specifically Jewish organisations for these. It really requires a Talmudist to explain why it is right to nurse people back to health and strength in a specifically Jewish convalescent home,14 and wrong to do so in a specifically Jewish hospital.' Knutsford had shown he would not cooperate. Lord Rothschild had now publicly set out his views to an audience which included the community's wealth? iest and most influential people. Any hope of money from the Barnato legacy was gone (it later went to the Middlesex Hospital for cancer research). The financial difficulties were so formidable that many of the supporters must have felt that the prospects of ever seeing a London Jewish hospital were severely limited, and many must have been tempted to fold their tents and quiedy slip away. But these pioneers believed in their vision, and they continued the struggle. Dr Anghel Gaster, brother of the Haham, became Treasurer. In a fighting speech made at a meeting held at the Pavilion Theatre he said: Are we called a 'stiff-necked people', for nothing? Will we submit blindly and be dictated to by some of the rich as to what is good for us? We will show them by our deeds and works of self-sacrifice that we are independent of the rich, and that we are determined to have a hospital of our own. Are we going to give it up and sit still because our Lord -1 refer to our financial Lord - has pronounced it unnecessary, and whose words I understand have deterred the trustees of a late millionaire from giving us what would have been an everlast? ing monument to his memory - a Jewish hospital for the poor of his brethren, from whose ranks he himself had sprung. I ask you not to be disheartened; we will show the rich by our noble example what we can do.15 There followed a period of hard financial grind. One scheme tried was the issue of 22,000 shares at half a guinea each, 'so that the humblest supporter will have the satisfaction of knowing that by taking a share he has paid for at least a foot of ground'. Eventually it was announced in December 1909 that contracts had been exchanged for the purchase of the land. Dr Anghel Gaster said that what had 345</page><page sequence="10">Gerry Black looked like a fairy tale or a casde in the air some time before, was near realization. There were over fifty doctors in London who were ready to devote their lives to the poor, enough to stock three or four hospitals. And so the year 1909, which had produced so many setbacks for the promoters, ended on a note of high hope and buoyant confidence. The movement then gained a most important and much needed supporter, the Haham, Dr Moses Gaster. Gaster obtained his doctorate at Leipzig University with a thesis on the changes of the letter 'e' in the Romanian language, indicating that he was a man gifted with the ability to concentrate on a subject. He identified himself with the cause of Jewish emancipation, bringing himself into conflict with the Romanian government which expelled him in 1885. He came to England and, following one particularly brilliant lecture delivered in 1887, was offered and accepted the post of Haham to the Spanish and Portuguese community, notwith? standing his Ashkenazi birth. It has been said that he was not a man accustomed or fitted by temperament to play a minor role, and was accustomed to express his opinions on a variety of subjects with vehemence. He was not always submissive to criticism, no matter from which quarter it came: a personality no one could overlook. Ever watchful over the interests of the Jewish immigrant community, and particularly sympathetic to them because he was ar^immigrant himself, he strongly identified with their desires. It might be the case that if such desires happened to be opposed by the Jewish establishment, that fact would by itself ensure his support. He gave added depth and credibility to the movement. If Rothschild and Knutsford were against it, its friends could do no better than to have Gaster on their side. Almost all the speeches he made were hard hitting, and showed scant respect for other communal leaders. In one of the very first he lambasted the 'self-styled' leaders of the community: These men are well-meaning as far as they understand, but they do not understand the soul of the Jews in the East End. They have grown rich by God's blessing which they now abuse. Money is round, and it easily rolls from one to another. Who knows where the money will be in a generation? So we are not frightened by these people who will not give themselves, and try to prevent others from giving. They are either ignorant or hard-hearted, and their attitude is a tyrannical interference with the sympathies of the poor Jew of the East End.10 There was little progress in 1910, but in 1911 Berliner forecast that the foundation stone would be laid within eighteen months. They had plans which provided for the opening of the out-patient department without waiting for the main hospital building to be completed, and it was hoped that the cost of the site would shordy be paid off and building operations started. By March 1912 a sub-committee was busy drawing up the constitution of the hospital, which was to be formed on the lines of the best general hospitals in London. Both Jews and Gentiles would be catered for. 346</page><page sequence="11">The struggle to establish the London Jewish Hospital In another speech, delivered that month, the Haham Dr Moses Gaster made the following declaration: I will now deal with what, from many points of view, is the real, if not the only, reason for the establishment of the hospital - the whole Jewish atmosphere . . . There is a language of the mouth; but there is also a language of the heart which cannot be translated into words. The language of the heart is that of people in common with one another, and is more eloquent than any words spoken from the mouth. This creates kinship, and it is one of the reasons why a Jew feels himself as alienated in a Christian hospital. Their way of feeling is different to our way of feeling. Their way of thinking is different to our way of thinking. No less sincere; no less true, but not akin. A patient already easy at heart is already half-way to cure. By May 1912 the freehold site was its property, and the building costs were estimated at ?15,000 to ?20,000. The cost of the equipment, which would depend on gifts, would be ?3500, and the upkeep was estimated at ?4500 per annum. It was at this time that Knutsford was complaining that it had never been harder for hospitals to raise money. He was a master of the art of fundraising, but was himself finding that difficult. Events began to move a little more rapidly in 1913. At the Sixth Annual General Meeting of the Association, Berliner said that they had ?2000 in the bank, and in their six years had collected a total of ?9500. But they must, despite all their public optimism, still have had some doubts about their ability to finance the operation, because in April 1913 a further approach was made to the London Hospital. A member of the Association called on its Secretary and asked whether the House Committee would be willing to agree that the Jewish hospital should come under its aegis and be a Jewish branch of the London Hospital. But the House Commit? tee would not agree.16 The year ended on a high note, with the announcement that work was about to begin on the demolition of the existing buildings on the site, and the laying of the foundation stone. So at long last the perseverance, patience, and hard work of the founders, of its central and branch committees, and of the thousands of members who had raised the necessary moneys by means of whist drives, boxing tourna? ments, dances, dinners, river trips, fetes, cinema performances and many other activities over a period of nearly seven years were, against all the odds, about to reap their reward. There appeared to be no doubt that 1914 would see the opening of the London Jewish Hospital for which they had fought so hard and long. At the beginning of January 1914 the old house on the site was demolished. At the seventh AGM in early May, Berliner said that work would already have commenced but for a building strike, and that it would begin in a short while.17 The Jewish Chronicle made a last-minute attempt to bridge the gap between the oppos? ing parties, inviting the wealthier members of the community to change their minds and to support the movement, but to no avail. Indeed it was remarkable how unyielding both sides had been for so long - the promoters in continuing despite 347</page><page sequence="12">Gerry Black all the setbacks; the wealthy in refusing to help even when it seemed inevitable that the scheme would succeed without them. In the last week of July 1914 Berliner reported, to great enthusiasm, that a contract had been signed and building would begin on Wednesday 5 August. But far greater events intervened: the First World War started, and subscriptions immediately fell from ?60 per week to ?20. In October the building sub-committee decided that owing to the crisis, the Council of Management be recommended to suspend building operations for a short period. This was accepted and it was agreed that all energies were to be channelled into the war effort. As the war progressed the hospitals became overcrowded with the military wounded, allowing even less accommodation for civilians. Then there was an influx of French and Belgian Jews into the East End, and many began attending the missionary dispensaries. This created uneasiness among members of the Association, and they brought pressure to bear on the committee to do something about it. Some even threatened to withhold all future contributions unless building was resumed. Under this pressure the building sub-committee, after long con? sideration, resolved to restart work, which began again in April 1915. Just a few weeks earlier their chief adversary, Lord Rothschild, had died. After allowing for the lapse of a decent interval after the funeral, Greenberg, under his pseudonym 'Mentor', addressed himself to the question why Lord Rothschild had so strongly opposed a Jewish hospital.18 He dismissed the suggestion that Roths? child opposed it because it was an East End rather than a West End movement. He said that Lord Rothschild was 'an East End man' in Jewish politics, that is to say he regarded the needs of the East End Jews as of great importance. So why then, he asked, did Rothschild oppose the erection of a Jewish hospital in London so bitterly, so relentiessly, so unswervingly? He said: Lord Rothschild was ... a loyal man. If he hated anything more than another it was the doing of a mean trick or an unfair action. As lay head of the Jewish community, he had to a large extent pledged the Jewish community to support the general hospitals, chief among them being the London Hospital, the bargain being that the general hospitals would throw their doors open freely to our people. The appeal was, therefore, made by the authorities of the London Hospital to Lord Rothschild upon two points, about which the latter was very keen. One was the capacity of Jews for enjoying the public institutions of the country without discrimination from the rest of its citizens, and the other his loyalty to an institution which he had pledged himself and the community to support. This, it would seem, was all there really was in the opposition of Lord Rothschild to the scheme. Greenberg said Rothschild had become violentiy opposed to the movement once Knutsford had told him that the establishment of a Jewish hospital would be contrary to the interests of the London Hospital, and hence would be to some extent an abrogation of the understanding under which the London Hospital had done so much for Jewish patients. Greenberg knew most of the important people 348</page><page sequence="13">The struggle to establish the London Jewish Hospital connected with the controversy, and had a journalist's insight and information. His analysis of Lord Rothschild's reasons must have been based on more than guess? work, and his explanation is credible. However a different reason for Lord Roth? schild's opposition was given four years later, by his son, who said he and his father had held aloof because they thought it was a separatist movement that would tend to emphasize the differences between Jews and their fellow-countrymen. This explanation also has the ring of truth. It was always the purpose of the establish? ment to anglicize recentiy arrived immigrants as soon as possible, and every means available to this end was used. In the minds of Lord Rothschild, and others who fervendy desired anglicization, a movement such as that for the London Jewish Hospital would prima facie be detrimental to their aims, and had to be opposed. Moreover, a reading of Lord Rothschild's correspondence with his Paris cousins shows that at the time the Jewish hospital movement started he was involved in the overwhelming problems of the Jews in Russia, the impositions put on them, their lack of freedom and rights, and the pogroms. He received, almost daily, emissaries, official and private, feeding him information on the latest posi? tion. Others came from the Russian government, pressurizing him to make loans in return for possible improvements in the conditions of the Jews, proposals he regarded as blackmail to which neither he nor his cousins of the Paris branch were prepared to submit. They told the Russian government that it was putting the cart before the horse, and that it should improve the lot of the Jews before asking for loans to be considered. It is therefore not surprising that Rothschild opposed a potentially separatist and divisive move such as the London Jewish Hospital, dealing as he was with Jewish matters on so grand a scale. He was acutely aware of the difference between the treatment of Jews in Russia and the advantages the Jews enjoyed in England, particularly in the hospitals where special provisions were made for them. Greenberg had not yet finished his attack. He turned to the part still being played by Lord Knutsford. And though Lord Rothschild is no more, we must not forget the authorities at the London Hospital who helped him to the position he took up. The authorities at the London Hospital have adhered, and still adhere, to the same illiberal, narrow, and ill-considered policy which has been theirs from the very first. Lord Knutsford, who has been far more responsible for the opposition, Jewish and non-Jewish, to the Jewish Hospital movement than any man, has only been able to see with the eye of a grocer the possibility of a rival establishment starting in the same street. He knows nothing, and therefore cares nothing, about the depth of Jewish spirit, the real religious sentiments which animate Jews when such an institution as a hospital begins its work. Knutsford immediately issued a denial, and said it was a malevolent invention, and in his defence set out the facilities which the Jews at the London Hospital enjoyed. It was noteworthy that he did not deal direcdy with Greenberg's assertion that there was a secret agreement between him and Lord Rothschild. 349</page><page sequence="14">Gerry Black On Sunday 14 November 1915, the foundation stone of the London Jewish Hospital was laid by Mrs Flora Sassoon. Work started in earnest early in 1916, and by May of that year the out-patient department was completed. But for three more years, until after the war ended, the hospital remained closed, because almost all of the appointed staff were serving in the forces and awaiting demobilization. A short report of possibly great importance then appeared in the Jewish Chronicle of 27 January 1919. 'A private conference to consider enlarging the interest of the community in the London Jewish Hospital was held at the residence of Mr &amp; Mrs Maurice Cohn, at 21 Grosvenor Place, SWi. Lord Rothschild presided.' Who called the meeting, who attended, who persuaded a Rothschild to come, let alone to chair the meeting, and what was discussed and decided are unknown. I have been unable to trace any further record of the meeting, or of the events leading up to it. Then, at last, it was reported at the Annual Court of Governors held on 9 May 1919, that, some twelve years after the movement had started, the London Jewish Hospital was to open its doors, to out-patients only. Until they were ready to receive in-patients Guy's Hospital would accept any that presented themselves. The consecration of the out-patient department took place on Sunday 13 July 1919, followed by the official opening in October. The Haham took the opportunity to issue a warning to the promoters to beware of the rich because, he said,19 the addition of large subscriptions harboured a danger that it might slacken the enthusiasm of the poorer subscribers, and might introduce again a spirit of dependence on the rich which, in the long run, could prove a very serious check on the prosperity of the hospital. The rich might take control. Possibly the warning was connected with the meeting of 27 January at the home of Mr Cohn. Understandable as it was for the Haham to point to these so-called 'dangers', and unwilling as he must have been to see the fruits of the work of the pioneers taken out of their hands, it is difficult to agree with him. The writing was clearly on the wall for voluntary hospitals. At this very moment the Metropolitan Hospital was facing the genuine possibility that it might have to close, and the London Hospital was having trouble paying its milk bills. The Jewish Chronicle was probably being much more realistic in its editorial of 18 July when it said that the opening of the hospital was a moral and spiritual, as well as a material, triumph, but again called on the rich to assist. Over the years of struggle the view had been expressed by many of the promoters of the scheme, particularly by Berliner, that although the rich had held back, they would join in once the hospital was open. Whether they would or not, time would tell. On 2 October 1919 the Jewish Chronicle carried an advertisement for a banquet to be held at the Savoy Hotel in the Strand on Tuesday 28 October 1919, to celebrate the opening of the London Jewish Hospital. Tickets were ?1 is od each (inclusive of wines). 'The Right Honourable Lord Rothschild will preside.' How 350</page><page sequence="15">The struggle to establish the London Jewish Hospital the wheel had turned! At the next monthly meeting of the Council of Management Lord Rothschild was elected a Vice-President, and the Jewish Chronicle welcomed this. At the banquet, which the Chief Rabbi attended, Berliner was loudly cheered, and recalled that an early meeting to inaugurate the movement had been held at the Savoy Hotel, not the one in the Strand but the one near Morgan Street Market in the East End. Lord Rothschild in proposing the toast 'Success to the Hospital', said the hospital deserved to succeed, because while the great bulk of charitable institutions owed their inception and culmination to one man, or a few men, the London Jewish Hospital owed its inception and culmination to the efforts and sacrifices of the main body of the Jewish people of the metropolis. It was essentially a movement started by the people for the people. The event provided the opportunity for Greenberg to say what he really felt about those who had opposed the scheme. His article reads as though he was expressing something which had been bottled up inside him for years. He com? mented on the shameful absence of those who purported to lead the community; Lord Rothschild was alone. Apart from the Chief Rabbi and the Revd A. A. Green, both belated converts, of the ministry there were none; only one or two of the Zionist movement were there. The Hospital movement, which began in the humblest way, was frowned upon and denounced by men who purported to lead the community. They not only cold-shouldered the idea; they ridiculed it. They jeered at the patient efforts of these humbler folk. They exhausted their vocabulary of abuse, gibbeting the promoters of the Hospital as either meshugga or endowed with a double dose of Jewish chutzpa. They decried them as anxious to maintain an 'alien' spirit between Jews and non-Jews, and thus as disloyal segregants. The movement was tabooed as retrograde, as foolish, as impracticable, as everything it ought not to be and nothing that it should. We were assured that no one would give any money to the scheme - at least no one who had any money. That has proved to a large extent true. The rich members of the community have closed their pockets, with their hearts, and both are being but gradually released. But those who banked their opinions upon this cash deficit, forgot that twelve pennies from twelve persons are precisely of the same financial value as one shilling from one man - and are of infinitely more moral worth. And the pence of the many have been substituted for the pounds of the few. It is a lesson, this magnificent revolt of the Jewish proletariat against the Jewish plutocracy, of Jewish Jews in support of an essentially Jewish institution, to serve those who desire one, of which the wise should take timely note.20 The first list of donations at the dinner totalled ?4302 10s 6d, exceeding in one evening the amount the Association had collected in the previous two years. The name of Rothschild had already worked its magic. The culmination of all their work came when the in-patient department was officially opened by Lord Rothschild on Sunday 11 December 1921. That meeting in a basement in Sydney Street had led to its goal. The dream was fulfilled. The hospital was always well funded. The number of beds, originally twenty 351</page><page sequence="16">Gerry Black five, was increased to 108 by 1930. Non-Jews accounted for between 20 per cent and 35 per cent of in-patients, but after the Second World War the non-Jewish cases increased, and the London Jewish Hospital found itself catering mainly for a class other than that for which it was founded. The medical staff was almost entirely Jewish, with an occasional non-Jewish doctor; it was the reverse of the normal situation. Overall, about half the staff were Jewish. Their greatest difficulty was in attracting Jewish nurses, although this improved as refugees arrived from Germany. Refugee nurses made a particularly valuable contribution to the work of the hospital, and for some time they con? stituted the bulk of the nursing staff. Two of the porters were a Mr Cohen and a Mr Solomon. Isaac Berliner died in December 1925, aged about fifty-four. The Jewish Chronicle described him as a humble man carrying on a humble vocation, but yet one who managed to carve for himself an enduring monument of which any prince might be proud. Without him the movement would probably never have started. Life in the hospital was described to me by two of its eminent doctors, Dr Ian Gordon and the late Mr Israel Prieskel.21 Both said it was a happy hospital: one in which the Jewish patients were not frightened or inhibited as some were in the general hospitals, and in which there was a strong affinity between staff and patients. There was always someone in the place who could speak Yiddish. Mr Prieskel said that some of the patients suspected there was a current of anti Semitism in some other hospitals. To what extent it was justified he did not know, but he was sure they feared it. Dr Gordon said 'the atmosphere was marvellous, marvellous, no question about it. It was absolutely unique.' Indeed both men emphasized the word 'atmosphere', which the Haham, seventy years earlier, had said was the real, if not the only, reason for the establishment of a Jewish hospital. Of the various arguments raised during the debate, in retrospect some seem mistaken or oversimplified. The language problem was probably always exag? gerated, and it is likely that those who claimed that there was always someone on hand at the general hospitals to translate, were right. Doctors quickly found a way of establishing symptoms from non-English-speaking patients. The Hospital did not stop the work of the missionary societies or their medical missions, or gready reduce the number of poor Jews who attended them. The rich did not, as the Haham feared, displace those who had struggled to establish the Hospital. Instead they took up the role of generous supporters, as Berliner had forecast they would, particularly the Rothschilds and Bernhard Baron. And far from causing anti Semitism, as some had foreseen, the existence of the London Jewish Hospital provoked admiration, and non-Jews sought its services in ever-increasing numbers until, indeed, they formed the majority. The Revd A. A. Green described the story of the hospital as one of the most remarkable, most touching, and most glorious in the history of the London Jewish community.22 All along it had been a triumph of patience, of loyalty, and of tenacity 352</page><page sequence="17">The struggle to establish the London Jewish Hospital of purpose. Yet the Hospital, eventually successful, was partially a failure, and for two reasons. Firsdy, because the supporters were struggling to start a voluntary hospital at the very time when voluntary hospitals were in decline, as indeed was the Jewish population of the East End. Secondly, because it was out of its time in another respect. It provided a much-desired addition to the tally of hospital beds for the inhabitants of the East End, but it had been most needed fifty years or more earlier. It would then have been a boon for the first generation of poor Jews of the East End who flooded in from Eastern Europe from 1880 onwards, and much unnecessary distress would have been avoided. The Hospital closed its doors in the late 1970s and the building was demolished in 1985. A secular private hospital, the London Independent Hospital, was erected in its place, at a cost of ?18 million. NOTES 1 Jewish Chronicle (hereafter JC) 14 Septem? ber 1900. For a more detailed account of the rise and fall of the London Jewish Hospital see the author's unpublished PhD thesis, Health and Medical Care of the Jewish Poor in the East End of London, 1880-1939 (Leicester University 1987) 251-320. 2 E. W. Morris, A history of the London Hospital (London 1926) and A. E. Clark-Ken? nedy, The London. A Study in the Voluntary Hospital System (London 1962). 3 JC 12 June 1914. 4 Albert M. Hyamson, The Sephardim of Eng? land (London 1951, reprinted 1991) 59, 82. 5 Documented in Royal London Hospital Archives, Whitechapel, London Ei, and Morris and Clark-Kennedy (see n. 2). 6 According to Mrs A. Levy, reported in^C 9 May 1919. 7 JC 15 February 1907. 8 JC 22 February 1907. 9 JC 22 January 1909. 10 JC 5 February 1909. 11 JC 18 December 1908. 12 JC 1 January 1909. 13 JC 19 February 1909. 14 There was the Baroness de Hirsch Home at Hampstead (Tudor House) and the much smaller Judith Montefiore Home at Brighton. The Samuel Lewis Convalescent Home at Walton-on-the-Naze was in the course of construction. 15 JC 20 August 1909. 16 Minutes ofLondon Hospital House Committee, 14 April 1913. 17 JC 15 May 1914. 18 /C21 May 1915. 19 A copy of his speech is in the Gaster papers. 20 JC31 October 1919. 21 In interviews recorded on 23 March 1982 and 13 April 1982 respectively. 22 JC 17 July 1925. 353</page></plain_text>