MembersFaith and the Need for Jewish Hospitals

Why are many of the best hospitals in the West identified very clearly as Jewish?

By David Lazarus |
Ever wonder why so many hospitals have distinctly biblical or Jewish names? Photo: Eran Zirman

Modern hospitals employing professional staff who care for patients suffering with every disease known to man without respect to race, religion or nationality are part of our everyday lives. So how did it come about that there are “Jewish” hospitals around the world that are for some reason identified with a particular race and a religion?

Christian Beginnings

The concept of a hospital began with Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Helena opened a hospital to serve the sick and needy in 331 AD in Constantinople. 

Church Father Jerome (347-410 AD), patriarch of the first hospital, compared the endeavor to Abraham, who gave hospitality to those three divine visitors in Genesis 17. In English, the word hospital comes from hospitality, which is based on the Latin word hospice, which translates to visitor or stranger. Similarly, the Aramaic for visitor is ushpizim, from which we get the modern Hebrew word for hospitalization.

For hundreds of years, these “hospitals” were called Hotel Dieu, or...

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