85th Anniversary - ArchivesNovember 2019

From the archives: Launch of the Herzl Dispensary, a forerunner of the JGH

Launched in June 1912, the Herzl Dispensary—a forerunner of the JGH—provided vital healthcare services to Montreal’s growing Jewish community. Its opening ceremony was front-page news in Montreal’s daily Yiddish newspaper, Der Kanader Adler (The Canadian Eagle).

More than five decades before socialized medicine was introduced in Canada, this small but well equipped Dispensary—staffed by a team of unpaid, volunteer doctors—provided medical treatment and drugs to anyone in need, regardless of their ability to pay.

From 1901 to 1911, Montreal’s Jewish population skyrocketed from about 5,000 to 30,000, but until Herzl debuted, there was no organized treatment facility for the poverty-stricken newcomers. The Dispensary was swamped with patients from the day it opened, especially given its location on St. Dominique Street, near the docks where immigrants regularly arrived by the boatload.

In many ways, the Dispensary was not just the forerunner of a new type of healthcare institution, but a specific model for the Jewish General Hospital, with which Herzl merged in 1974.

When the JGH opened in 1934, it adopted the Dispensary’s style of treating the patient as a multi-faceted individual, creating new health services to satisfy patients’ developing needs, and emphasizing preventive medicine. Of key importance: even though Herzl and the JGH had been founded primarily by and for Jews, their policy was to extend a warm welcome to patients and employees of all backgrounds.

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The Jewish General Hospital’s 85th anniversary is an ideal occasion to take a glimpse into the past. By remembering the extraordinary efforts of the hospital’s founders, supporters, staff and volunteers, we honour the enduring legacy of the JGH.

Look for a new scrapbook item every week during 2019 in JGH News.

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