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The White Plague in the City of Angels

Caroline Luce, Author
Mount Sinai Path, page 3 of 4

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Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 1961

Following World War II, the Jewish population of Boyle Heights steadily declined. Five freeways were constructed in and around the neighborhood between 1943 and 1960, resulting in the removal of almost 3,000 dwellings and the displacement of some 10,000 residents. Those who could afford to left the neighborhood, leading to a reduction by 1955 of over seventy-two percent of the Jewish population.[12]  Most Jewish residents settled in other neighborhoods west of downtown and in the new suburbs of the San Fernando Valley. The Fairfax district near the Miracle Mile quickly became an emergent population center, and many of the Jewish institutions in Boyle Heights relocated their headquarters to the surrounding area. By the late 1950s, the Jewish Centers Association, the Workmen’s Circle, the Federation of Jewish Charities, and the Jewish Community Council of Los Angeles all made their headquarters in and around Wilshire Boulevard near the Fairfax district, Park LaBrea, and Pico-Robertson.

The leaders of Mount Sinai Hospital and their “Associated Organizations” completed construction on their out-patient clinic in Boyle Heights just as the population shift began to peak in the 1940s. Because of their commitment to serving all of the neighborhood’s residents at their clinic regardless of “race, religion or creed,” the leaders of Mount Sinai Hospital continued to operate their out-patient facility well into the 1950s. But after receiving an incredible gift of three and a half acres of property on Beverly Boulevard from supporters Emma and Hyman Levine, they also began construction on a new hospital closer to the emerging population centers of the postwar era, including the Fairfax district, the Miracle Mile, and the Pico-Robertson corridor. Like the leaders of the City of Hope and Cedars of Lebanon, they wanted to build a comprehensive medical center, rather than a long-term care facility for “Incurables,” a place for cutting-edge medical research and technology. By 1955, the new Mount Sinai Hospital on Beverly Boulevard was open for business.

In 1959, after years of discussion and debate, the Jewish Community Council and the Federation of Jewish Welfare Organizations finally consolidated to create the Jewish Federation Council of Los Angeles, their leaders pledging to join their resources and programs in the hopes that they might accomplish more together. Steve Broidy, the newly appointed President of the Federation Council, called for similar consolidations of the organizations' various social service programs. He proposed to merge Cedars of Lebanon Hospital with Mount Sinai Hospital and to centralize their efforts to better serve the community's needs. Broidy's proposal was at first rejected by the governing boards of both organizations and members of their medical staffs, who cited the differences in the philosophies of the two institutions. But Broidy was resolute, and by February, 1961, they had successfully negotiated a compromise.  

The newly formed Board of Directors of Cedars-Sinai then faced the daunting task of deciding what form their merger would take. They commissioned the Stanford Research Institute to conduct an in-depth study to (1) assess the health care needs of the Jewish community as well as those of the rest of the city's residents and (2) identify the most effective location to build the new medical center they envisioned.  The study determined that the best course of action would be to expand the existing hospital on Beverly Boulevard by purchasing the adjoining lots (owned by Arden farms and Buzza-Cardozo). President Broidy announced the Board's plan to build "the largest non-governmental health facility in the western United States" in 1964 and a decade-long fund-raising effort began. To lead the effort, a "Campaign Cabinet" of local business leaders was formed, with Louis Siegel of Union Bank, Stanley Stalford of Fidelity Bank, and Theodore Cummings, President of Food Giant Markets, Inc., among its members. [13] 

Construction on the new facility began with the Louis M. and Birdie Halper Research Clinic and Building and by 1971, the first phases of construction on the Thalians Community Mental Health Center, a 96,000 square foot building for psychiatric services, had started. Following a generous $4 million gift from the Max Factor Family Foundation, ground was broken on the 1.6 million square foot medical center, designed with 1,100 beds for patients and two floors dedicated entirely to the Obstetrics and Pediatrics Departments. Finally, in June, 1976, the new Cedars-Sinai Medical Center was officially dedicated. Governor Jerry Brown and Mayor Tom Bradley attended the ceremony and toasted the efforts of the Jewish community, as did First Lady Betty Ford, who remarked that to build such a medical center without any federal or state government funds was "one of the most fantastic things that has ever happened." [14] Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has continued to grow ever since and has repeatedly earned national recognition for the quality of health care it provides. To learn more about Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, click here.
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