Mount Sinai Hospital

(Lexington avenue and Sixty-sixth street.)
The many thousand Hebrews of New York took no distinctive part in the hospital accommodations of the metropolis until about twenty years ago. The act of Legislature by which the Jewish Hospital was incorporated bears date of January 5, 1852. About that time Sampson Simson, a wealthy Hebrew, donated a lot of ground in Twenty-eighth street, near Eighth avenue, and the society purchased an adjoining lot and erected the handsome brick Hospital, still in use, at a cost of nearly $35,000. The corner-stone of the structure was laid with appropriate exercises in the presence of a large concourse of citizens on the 25th of November, 1853, and the Hospital opened for the reception of patients amid much rejoicing on the 17th of May, 1855. One hundred and thirteen patients were admitted the first year.

The Institution is under the control of twelve directors, three of whom are elected annually by the members of the society and serve four years. Members are admitted on the annual payment of five dollars, or one hundred paid at one time, which entitles them to a voice at all meetings of the society, and to a preference in the benefits of the Hospital. In 1853 Mr. Touro, of New Orleans, increased the capital of the society by a donation of $20,000, and in 1863 two of the directors proposed to contribute $10,000 each, on condition that the Board should raise a permanent fund of $50,000, which was soon accomplished.

During the sixteen years of its operations, it has received 6,925 patients; about 5,500 of them have been restored to health, and ^about 1,400 surgical operations have been performed. The design of the society, as set forth at its incorporation, is to " afford surgical and medical aid, comfort, and protection in sickness to deserving and needy Israelites," but their charities have extended far beyond their own persuasion. Many sick and disabled soldiers during the war were received arid treated in their Institution. When in 1866 the city was threatened with cholera, a ward was prepared and promptly tendered to the Board of Health. Casualty patients have always been received and every possible alleviation afforded, often at considerable expense to the managers; and whenever a poor unfortunate has lost a limb by amputation, the directors have invariably procured him an artificial one. True to the instincts of their illustrious ancestors, they regard every man in distress a brother, and opening the tent door bid him welcome to the enjoyment of their hospitality. In their printed report they say, " The ear of the Hebrew is never deaf to the cry of the needy, nor his heart unmoved at the suffering of a fellow man, whatever be his creed, origin, or nationality." Several of the Jewish Rabbis give unwearied attention to the religious interests of their patients, and suffering Gentiles are allowed to receive visits from their own spiritual advisers. The Hospital contains a small synagogue. They also own a burial-place, and bury the dead without charge to the friends of the deceased.

The necessities of the public and the wants of the society some time since outgrew the capacity of their modest building, which has never been able to accommodate over about sixty-five patients. Their surroundings have also sadly changed. At the time of opening the Hospital, the neighborhood was clean, airy, and quiet. But during the last few years the building has been surrounded by factories, breweries, and workshops, whose steam engines are puffing day and night, to the great annoyance of the patients, who sigh for quiet and rest. These factories have brought also a class of families that add greatly to the noise i of the neighborhood. In October, 1867, a steam boiler exploded within a hundred feet of the Hospital, and was thrown several hundred feet in the air, crushing a dwelling and some of the inmates in its descent. The concussion at the Hospital was terrible. The walls were shaken, windows shattered, and the panic among the poor patients indescribable. This occurrence settled the matter of removal, and the directors began to inquire for a more eligible site. The Common Council granted them a lease of twelve lots situated on Lexington avenue, between Sixty-fifth and Sixty-sixth streets, for ninety-nine years, at a nominal rent of one dollar per annum.

The corner-stone of the new Hospital was laid in the afternoon of May 25, 1870. After music by Eben's band, the Rev. J. J. Lyons offered an earnest and thoughtful prayer. Mr. Benjamin Nathan (since wickedly murdered), president of the society, after depositing the metal box containing the history of the movement and other documents in the stone, with an appropriate address, presented to Mayor A. Oakey Hall a silver trowel, which had upon one side of it a Hebrew inscription signifying House of the Sick, and on the other an inscription of gift, with the names of the officers and directors. The Mayor, after congratulating the societv and the city upon this new movement of charity, said:

" Other cities boast of peculiar and familiar titles descriptive of their inhabitants. There is the ' City of Brotherly Love,5 as Philadelphia is called, and there is Brooklyn, * The City of Churches;5 but the city of New York proudly and gloriously boasts of being the great' City of Charities.5 It is therefore doubly appropriate that the Mayor of that city should be here, as it were, the high-priest of these ceremonies.55

He then descended from the platform, and having placed himself near the stone, continued as follows :

" I now proceed to lay this corner-stone in the name of our common humanity; in the name of the common mortal life to which we all cling; in the name of those ills of the body and the mind to which we are all subject; in the name of universal mercy, which we prayerfully demand; and in the name of that universal death which we all reverently expect. And Jehovah grant that, as long as time endures, angels of compassion, with healing on their wings, may hover round the site of this Mount Sinai Hospital.

After the stone had been lowered to its place the Mayor struck it several times with the gavel, and concluded the ceremony by adding:

" Lie thou there, O corner-stone, and, according to the sentence of the noble prayer which has been offered here to-day, mayest thou ever rest beneath the site of an hospital that shall be the shelter of suffering humanity, without distinction of faith."

An eloquent and appropriate address was then delivered by the Hon. Albert Cardozo, one of the justices of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, from which we extract the following paragraph:

" And now; from its foundation, I dedicate the beautiful edifice about to be erected on this spot to the charitable purposes for which it is designed. I dedicate it in the name of the union of these States—may both alike be perpetual!—whose theory of religious liberty and equality, faithfully maintained from the birth of the nation—may it never be violated !—has attracted so many to these shores, who have shed luster upon our race, and who have repaid their adopted country for its protection by devoting treasure and talent, and life itself, to her interests.

"I dedicate it in the name of the State of New York—may the career of both be upward and onward in prosperity for- ever!—under whose parental and protecting care and benign influence and policy the Institution has thriven and grown, from insignificant and dependent infancy, until it has attained its present extended usefulness and proportions.

"I dedicate it in the name of the City of New York—catholic and profuse in its generosity towards all laudable objects —our pride, our home; with which our dearest interests and hopes are identified, and for whose welfare our heartstrings vibrate with tenderest emotion and sensibility; whose progress in all that makes a city really great, while only keeping pace with our affection, has excited the admiration and amazement of the world, and provoked at times the envy of her less-favored sisters of both this and the old country; whose munificence towards this and all deserving charities marks her pre-eminent, as in everything else, for entire freedom from bigotry, and for devotion to the cause of humanity and the sacred principle of religions liberty. And in the name of all these, speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves—for the helpless, the hapless, and the forlorn— I invoke the aid of all to sustain this admirable charity and make the Institution a perfect and permanent success."

The work thus happily begun is being rapidly pushed forward, and the present autumn will probably witness the completion of one of the finest hospitals in our city. The building will front on Lexington avenue, extending across the entire block ; it will consist of a line central edifice, with two wings, constructed of brick and marble, in the most approved style of architecture. It is three stories high, besides basement and attic, with Mansard roof, heated with steam, will accommodate two hundred beds, and cost, in its construction and furniture, $325,000. The subscription building fund amounts to nearly one hundred thousand dollars at this writing, the old hospital and grounds are expected to bring toward a hundred thousand when vacated, and the Institution has now a permanent endowment fund of another hundred thousand. The Charity Fair inaugurated on the 30th of November, 1870, netted the Hospital the large sum of $101,645, besides the $35,000 appropriated to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. Surely the Hebrews of New York are making an excellent record. May a kind Providence direct and save them !


Website: The History
Article Name: Mount Sinai Hospital
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: New York and its Institutions, 1609-1873 by Rev. J.F. Richmond; publisher: E.B. Treat, 805 Broadway-New York (1872)
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