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The White Plague in the City of Angels

Caroline Luce, Author
The JCRA Path, page 5 of 5

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Key People - Jewish Consumptive Relief Association and the City of Hope

Peter Kahn (1878-1952)
Peter Kahn was born in Kiev (Ukraine), the descendant of a family of famous rabbis. Having received a traditional religious education, he dropped out of school and joined the Jewish Labor Bund, a revolutionary socialist organization formed to defend the Jewish workers of Poland and Russia by organizing trade unions and strikes, and working for the development of secular Yiddish culture. Kahn was jailed several times by the tsarist police for his involvement in the student demonstrations at the local university and was eventually exiled to Siberia for his involvement. He escaped from his labor camp, eventually reaching London where he worked in the library of famous anarchist intellectual Peter Kropotkin. There he met Bundist intellectual leader Chaim Zhitlowsky with whom he later traveled to New York. Kahn came to California with a loved one who was suffering from tuberculosis (according to one account, Kahn himself was suffering from “wanderlust”) and began working in the agriculture fields in the Imperial Valley. He eventually earned enough money to open his own wholesale produce distribution company, Kahn and Simmonds Wholesale House. Over the course of his life in Los Angeles, Kahn was involved in a wide variety of Jewish community causes, including the City of Hope and Mt. Sinai Hospital, as well as the Bureau of Jewish Education, the Jewish Community Council, the Jewish Home for the Aged, Histadrut, the Hebrew Free Loan Association and the University of Judaism. He also founded the Jewish Community Library at the L.A. Jewish Federation which bears his name. [38] 

Dr. Leo Blass (c. 1884-1948)
Dr. Leo Blass (nee Lieb Isaac Shilmovich) was raised in Rostov-on-Don in Southern Russia, the son of a local rabbi who was “deeply involved” in the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) and ran the local Jewish education district. Blass went on to study medicine and philosophy at Frederick’s University Halle-Wittenberg (Prussia) and then at University of Bern (Switzerland), where he attended Theodore Herzl’s First International Zionist Conference in Basel. Blass joined the national-radical bevegung (National-Radical Movement), a Zionist Socialist workers’ movement, and then became a member of Poalei Tsion, a socialist-Zionist fraternal organization. After the failure of the Revolution in 1905, Blass left for America, joining his family in St. Louis where he received his medical degree, before heading west for his residency at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco. In 1908, Blass came to Los Angeles where he helped to found a national-radical folkschule (“people’s school”) at Poalei Tsion’s headquarters at 420 N. Soto in Boyle Heights. He helped to spearhead the sanatorium drive because of the frequency with which he encountered suffering tuberculars at his practice. Blass also played leadership roles in the Home for the Aged, the Arbeter Ring (Workmen's Circle), the Yiddish folkshule on Soto Street, and the nascent Zionist movement in Los Angeles. He died on a trip to Israel in 1948 while serving as a delegate of the Histadrut to assess the emergent nation's health care needs. [39] 

Aaron Shapiro (1883-1933)
Chaim Shapiro (1886-1966)
Aaron Shapiro got involved in the national-radical bavegung (National-Radical Movement) after being rejected from university because of the quotas imposed on Jewish admissions following Alexander II’s assassination. When rumors of an impending pogrom spread in their home town of Kharkov (Ukraine), Aaron’s father gave him a gun and he and his younger brother, Chaim, ages 18 and 15 respectively, helped to organize the community in self-defense. Aaron was eventually exiled to Siberia but escaped his arrest by fleeing to New York where he worked as a newsboy and became very close with the family of his employer, a Mr. Kraus, who was suffering from tuberculosis. His brother Chaim followed him to America two years later after serving six months in Odtiker Prison for his involvement in the 1905 Revolution, and the brothers split the paper route so that both could continue their education and their involvement with Poalei Tsion. Aaron headed west after Kraus left New York to pursue treatment at the Jewish Sanatorium in Denver.  After Kraus died, Aaron brought Kraus’ daughters, Jennie and Rose, who also was sick, to Los Angeles. Chaim soon joined them. After both Shapiros graduated from USC Law School and passed the bar, they opened a law practice together.  They defended dozens of political activists and labor groups at their practice, and Chaim became well-known as an advocate for civil liberties and free speech. Aaron became a leader in the Zionist movement in Los Angeles, helping to found the local branch of the Zionist Organization of America before dying suddenly at the age of 50. Chaim's activism, in both Jewish causes and the socialist movement, was wide-ranging: he mounted unsuccessful campaigns for Lieutenant Governor in 1930 and Mayor of Los Angeles in 1933; he helped to found the local branches of ORT, Histadrut, and YIVO Institute for Jewish research; and he served on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community Council and the Bureau of Jewish Education. [40]

Samuel H. Golter (1890-1971)
Samuel Golter was born in Tsarist Russia in 1890 and came to America in 1906 at the age of 16 seeking opportunity. He settled in Chicago where he lived with a family who had been neighbors in Russia and found work at a picture frame factory. Golter never became involved in labor movement, but became sympathetic to the aims of the socialist movement after witnessing employers using the same “terrorist methods” he had seen in Russia. He attended school on weeknights and lectures and forums on Sundays, and eventually, became the superintendent of one of the largest clothing manufacturers in Chicago.  In 1920, Golter returned to Eastern Europe as part of a relief mission to help the victims of the First World War and returned to the U.S. two years later physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. He traveled to California with the intention of resting, but soon a friend who was involved with the Jewish Consumptive Relief Association asked him to help organize the physical facilities at the sanatorium. Golter admired the humanitarian principles of the founders of the sanatorium, their commitment to making it a democratic, non-sectarian institution, and their desire to preserve human dignity by providing free care through mutual aid rather than charity. He moved into one of the cottages on the campus and became the sanatorium’s superintendent. Golter was thrust into a position of leadership when, in 1932, the Executive Director suddenly quit because of the large debts the sanatorium had amassed.  Golter was forced to mount a last-ditch campaign to save the sanatorium. Not only was he successful in his effort, but his new fund-raising strategy helped the sanatorium to expand greatly in the late 1930s and the years of World War Two. During his long fundraising trips, he began to consider ways to enlarge the Sanatorium’s offerings. At the JCRA’s biennial convention in 1946, Golter proposed expanding the Sanatorium into a comprehensive Medical Center, and the delegates to the Convention and the Board of Directors Approved a new campaign to raise over $7 million to fund a new medical building, as well as new facilities for the diagnosis and treatment of other diseases, including cancer and leukemia. He also worked with officials from the UCLA Medical School to develop a new Medical Research Institute at the facility. Under Golter’s leadership, the sanatorium was remade into the City of Hope, a National Medical Center. After being diagnosed with cancer himself, Golter became eager to ensure that the philosophy and values of those founders would endure beyond his life. He developed a thirteen-part credo based on the “three pillars on which the City of Hope stands: service, humanitarianism, and reward,” what he considered to be the founding principles of the Sanatorium, and translated them into a functional program for the institution. His “Thirteen Articles of Faith” attempted to ensure that the City of Hope’s fundraising efforts would continue to be based in a “People’s Movement” like the grassroots effort among Los Angeles’ Jewish residents that had created the Jewish Consumptive Relief Association in 1912.  Due to his illness, Golter retired in 1953 and turned over the leadership of the City of Hope to Ben Horowitz. He died in 1971. [41]
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