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The White Plague in the City of Angels

Caroline Luce, Author

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The Mount Sinai Hospital and Outpatient Clinic, 1941

Kaspare Cohn Hospital had been by far the biggest health care facility in Boyle Heights, and when it moved to a new location in Hollywood, it left many residents without access to medical treatment or advice. A group of concerned residents, along with Chaim Shapiro, Peter Kahn and others who had been early members of the Jewish Consumptive Relief Association (JCRA), quickly formed the “Beth Israel Clinic and Hospital Association” to raise funds to create a new facility to serve the health care needs of the neighborhood’s residents free of charge. Unfortunately, their efforts coincided with the rapid deterioration of the economy and Los Angeles’ slide into the Great Depression, and all of their efforts shifted to sustaining the financial well being of the Mount Sinai Home. In 1932, they declared a state of financial emergency and issued a series of dramatic appeals to the local community in the pages of the B’nai B’rith Messenger warning of the “serious danger threatened” by the demise of the institution if they did not immediately raise $15,000. [44] 

To weather the economic storm, the members of the Emergency Committee turned to the wealthier members of the Jewish Community, soliciting donations from Louis S. Nordlinger, vice president of the Federation of Jewish Charities, and George Mosbacher, its former president; Milton E. Getz (Kaspare Cohn’s son-in-law and the administrator of Union Bank and Trust); Judges Harry Holzer, Isaac Pacht and Lester Roth; Marco R. and S. M. Newmark; lawyers Mendel Silberberg and Aaron Riche; and several leading rabbis including Edgar Magnin of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Isadore Isaacson, and Jacob Kohn. The Emergency Committee also convinced the directors of the United Jewish Community to allot a portion of a $50,000 donation made by Max Straus to the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital to support their fledgling clinic. By the late 1930s, they had not only raised enough funds to survive the economic downturn, but also to expand the existing facility of the Mount Sinai Home on Bonnie Beach Place.  They enlisted local architect S. Charles Lee to design a new clinic with enough room for forty additional patients, naming it the Max Straus Memorial Ward. [45] 

Meanwhile, plans continued to erect an additional outpatient clinic in Boyle Heights where the neighborhood’s residents could receive health care free of cost. Realizing that they needed to build broad-based support within the Boyle Heights community, they hosted a mass meeting of representatives of seventy different organizations in the neighborhood at the Labor Zionists’ folkshule on Soto Street. Out of that meeting, some sixty-five organizations with over twelve thousand members came together to form the Associated Organizations of Los Angeles and work together to raise funds for the clinic. By 1940, enough money had been secured to purchase a 12,000-square-foot building on the corner of Breed Street and Michigan Avenue, just blocks from the neighborhood’s largest synagogue, the Breed Street Shul (Congregation Talmud Torah). It was named the Breed Street Outpatient Clinic and opened its doors in 1941, while the Associated Organizations of Los Angeles became the Mount Sinai Hospital and Clinic. Like the JCRA’s Sanatorium, the Breed Street Clinic maintained a kosher kitchen, had a synagogue onsite, and opened its doors open to “all needy sufferers from chronic ailments regardless of color, race, or creed.” [46] 
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