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The White Plague in the City of Angels

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

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Key People - Cedars of Lebanon Hospital and Mount Sinai Home

Kaspare Cohn (1839-1916)
Cohn was born in Loebau, West Prussia in 1839 and immigrated to New York as a teenager. He made his way west as a travelling salesman and arrived in Los Angeles in the late 1850s where he reconnected with his uncle Harris Newmark, a merchant and grocery wholesaler. Newmark sent his nephew to manage his store at Fort Tejon, a military post perched on a mountain pass between Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley where Cohn would later become a major landowner. After several years of travelling through the Southwest helping his uncle’s various businesses, Cohn returned to Los Angeles in 1866 and became a partner in his uncle’s firm, H. Newmark and Company. Together, the two made incredibly lucrative investments, and played crucial roles in the development of the city. For example, in 1887, Cohn, along with Newmark and Isaias W. Hellman, purchased the Repetto Rancho and worked with William Mulholland to develop water services and roads. They then subdivided the estate into 5-10 acre tracts, calling their new town Montebello. Cohn was also an early investor in the San Gabriel Electric Company, which later became the Pacific Light and Power Corporation, one of America’s largest electric power suppliers in the 1910s.
In 1885, Cohn started his own wool and hide wholesale trading company and became the largest purchaser of wool in California.  Many of the sheepherders Cohn did business with - largely immigrants of French and Basque descent - trusted him to hold on to their profits until they needed the money, an arrangement Cohn formalized by transforming his company into a proper bank in the 1910s. He ran his Kaspare Cohn Commercial Savings Bank with his two sons-in-law, Ben Meyer and Milton Getz, as partners. After Cohn’s death in 1916, Meyer and Getz renamed the bank Union Bank and Trust Company and built it into one of the largest banks in Southern California. 
Cohn also played a pivotal role in developing Jewish religious and organizational life during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1900, he became the president of Congregation B’nai B’rith, a post he held until 1910 at the city’s largest and oldest Jewish congregation. During his tenure at Congregation B’nai B’rith, Cohn helped to expand the synagogue’s Sabbath School program and to erect a new building for the school next to the synagogue on Ninth street. He also helped the congregation establish a new and larger cemetery, Home of Peace, by purchasing a 35-acre plot on Stephenson Street in Boyle Heights, replacing the original Jewish cemetery located in Chavez Ravine, and negotiating an agreement with the Los Angeles Railway Company to extend a street car line to the cemetery. [15] At Cohn’s funeral in 1916, Rabbi Solomon Hecht of Temple B’nai B’rith offered a moving eulogy, which best summarizes Cohn’s contributions: 
While the family had a prior claim on him, he did not belong to the family exclusively. He belonged to all of us as counselor, friend, and benefactor. He belonged to the congregation of the church which he served as president for ten years, Temple B’nai B’rith. He belonged to the city and the State which he was helpful in upbuilding. He belonged to humanity for his help to the poor and needy…. A man like him does not die. He was a mighty, majestic cedar in the forest of humanity – and the cedar fell. But the roots are there and they will give life to new shoots. [16] 

Lemuel Goldwater (1865-1942)
Lemuel Goldwater was born in San Francisco in 1867 and after graduating from a military academy near San Jose, CA, settled with his family in Tombstone, Arizona, where his father ran a store. In 1893, he struck out on his own, settling in Anaheim, CA where he bought shares in locally-based Citizens Bank. Eager to make a name for himself, Goldwater attempted to acquire the rights to build an electric light plant in the city and operate a system of street lamps throughout the city. The city leaders, however, decided to create their own municipally-backed utility company to bring electricity to the city, the Anaheim Electrical Utility, the first of its kind in Southern California. [17]  In 1897, Goldwater moved his business dealings to Los Angeles when he formed a partnership with Morris Cohn, who owned Los Angeles’ first textile manufacturing facility. Located on 12th Street in the heart of Los Angeles’ fashion district, the Cohn-Goldwater firm became the city’s leading producer of work clothes, including work shirts and their signature “Boss Brand” denim overalls. Goldwater served as president of the company until his death in 1942.
Goldwater was also, as Kaspare Cohn had been, a leading member of Congregation B’nai B’rith, which by the late 1920s had moved into a large new synagogue on Wilshire Boulevard (commonly referred to as the Wilshire Boulevard Temple). After taking over the presidency of Kaspare Cohn Hospital in 1926, he launched an ambitious “Million Dollar Campaign” to update and expand its facilities. He presided over the Hospital’s move to Fountain Avenue in Hollywood, and subsequent renaming as Cedars of Lebanon. Through his leadership, the hospital became one of the premier health care facilities in the city.

Charles Groman (1883-1932)
Groman was born in Bessarabia, which was then part of the Russian empire (present-day Moldova), and came to the United States at the age of ten with his family.  Settled in Chicago, he became a foreman at one of the city’s largest hat factories as a teenager. Groman came west to Los Angeles in 1907, when he was twenty-four years old and became an active member of Jewish community life in his new home. He opened one of Los Angeles’ first Jewish mortuaries and helped to found the Jewish Free Burial Society (Chevra Chesid Shel Emeth) in 1909 to cover the costs of proper burials for poor Jews in the area. In 1916, the Burial Society, under Groman’s leadership, raised funds to purchase land in East Los Angeles to create Mt. Zion cemetery (located near the Home of Peace cemetery). Groman also helped to raise money for the JCRA’s Sanatorium, the Home for the Aged, and several synagogues and Talmud Torahs throughout the city. Groman also called the first meeting of the Bikur Cholim Society in 1920 and served in a variety of leadership roles in the Mount Sinai Home for Incurables in its earliest, most fragile years. Mr. Groman cared deeply about the spiritual and physical health of his community, in life and in death. After his death in 1932, his sons decided to carry on in their father’s craft and opened their own funeral parlor named Groman Mortuary, which continues to serve the Los Angeles community today. [18]

Steve Broidy (1905-1991)
Broidy was born in Malden, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, in 1905. He attended Boston College with the intention of studying the law, but graduated just as the stock market collapsed and the American economy fell into depression. Instead of attending law school he got a job as salesman for Universal Studios, helping to distribute its films to Boston theaters. In 1933, he became sales manager at Monogram Pictures, a small studio that produced mostly low-budget films and Westerns. Broidy later joked that at Monogram, he became “one of the world’s greatest salesmen of some of the world’s worst films.” But the job also provided an opportunity to learn about the industry, and by 1940, Monogram Pictures appointed him Vice President of the board of directors and he and his family moved to Hollywood. When he left Monogram to open his own production company twenty-five years later, he was President of the studio and Chairman of the Board of Directors. 
Broidy also brought his skills as a salesman to bear in his service to dozens of charitable organizations. As president of Temple Israel of Hollywood, he worked closely with Rabbi Max Nussbaum to develop a plan to consolidate the city’s biggest Jewish organizations: the Federation of Jewish Welfare Organizations, the Jewish Community Council, and the United Jewish Welfare Fund. He became the first president of the new Jewish Federation Council upon its founding in 1959, and worked to consolidate other aspects of Jewish organizational life to avoid redundancy in fundraising campaigns. Broidy played a leading role in negotiating the merger of Cedars of Lebanon and Mt. Sinai Hospital and Clinic, and as large a role in the subsequent fundraising drive to build the Medical Center, personally raising over $3.5 million to construct the Frances and Steve Broidy Tower. He and his colleagues raised over $30 million dollars by the time of the Center’s dedication in 1976 and Broidy continued to serve on the Board of Directors until he died in 1991. When Frank Sinatra presented him with the Jean Hersholt Award for Humanitarian Service at the 1963 Academy Awards, he described him as, “a gentleman who has amassed a fortune by serving at a dollar-a-year on a hundred thousand committees a year.” [19]
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