By: Joseph Jacobs
House set apart for the treatment of the sick. In early times such institutions were required only for strangers, the idea of sanitary isolation being quite modern, except in case of Leprosy, when a "house of separation" ("bet haḥofshit") was used (II Kings xv. 5; II Chron. xxvi. 21). Visitation of the sick in their own houses was the ancient substitute. It has been claimed that in its origin the hospital is a specifically Christian institution, but the very passage, from Jerome, which is quoted to substantiate this claim ("Epistola," 77) shows that the Roman lady Fabiola, whom Jerome praises for founding one was, in his opinion, only imitating Jewish custom in "transplanting the terebinth of Abraham to Ausonian shores." As far as evidence goes, the early equivalents of hospitals were only portions of homes for strangers reserved for those who might fall sick. Such homes were usual among Jews in Talmudical times (see Hospitality), and became especially frequent in Jewish communities after the Crusades.
The specific Jewish name for hospital ("heḳdesh") was first used at Cologne in the eleventh century (Brisch, "Gesch. der Juden in Köln," i. 19 et seq.). Berliner ("Aus dem Inneren Leben," p. 100) shows that a similar institution existed at Munich early in the fourteenth century. But with the continual migration of the Jews it was difficult to keep a special house for the sick, who were mainly caredfor by the ḥebra ḳaddisha. Doubtless in the Jews' inns of Spain, as in the "Auberge Juive" of Paris, strangers who fell sick were attended to. The wealthy Sephardim appear to have been the first to found special hospitals for the Jewish sick. The Beth Ḥolim of London, which is an asylum for the aged as well dates from 1747; the Krankenhaus of Berlin from 1753; in Metz a special Jewish hospital was founded at the end of the eighteenth century, toward the foundation of which the municipality contributed. The Jews of Paris were content with a medical attendant attached to the ḥebra ḳaddisha, who visited the sick in their homes till 1836, when the first Jewish hospital was founded (L. Kahn, "Institutions des Juifs à Paris," p. 36).
In modern times Jews very often utilize the general hospitals of the cities in which they dwell, after making the arrangements rendered necessary by the requirements of the dietary laws. This is done in London and most other English cities. In other places special Jewish hospitals have been erected, as the Mount Sinai, Beth Israel, and Lebanon hospitals of New York, which, however, receive patients of other creeds. The Jews' Hospital of London (founded 1795) is not a hospital in the strict sense of the word, but a home for the aged. The Jewish Hospital of Philadelphia combines the characteristics of both (see Charity; Colorado; Heḳdesh).
- K. Kohler, in Berliner Festschrift, pp. 201-203;
- D. Cassel, Offener Brief an Herrn Professor Dr. Virchow, pp. 6-12, Berlin, 1869.