In Tribute and Recall of Newark's Fine Medical Personnel and Health Care Facilities

by Barbara L. Rothschild


In an era of rising medical and pharmaceutical costs, and the mass assembly-line medical care via apathetic and huge HMO's and assorted health care providers, it is comforting to recall the fine medical care given by the practitioners of same to the large Newark population, both the young and the old. It was a time of house calls and caring bedside manners, given by physicians , nurses, dentists and pharmacists, who were trusted and considered an important part of any family's continued well-being. In the Newark of yesteryear, it was a certainty that a worried caller would almost never be placed on hold, and medical response would usually come fairly quickly, following a telephone called placed for such reason. It is to those medical practitioners that I dedicate the following memory. Naturally, my recall only reflects those individuals who served my neighborhood and environs, and whose fine medical attention brought our family through many a health crisis. I am certain that the readers of this memory will bring to mind some of the fine doctors and nurses who faithfully and reliably served their families as well, within the confines of their recollections and neighborhoods.

The pediatric medical practice of Dr. Charles Rosenberg was located for many years at 11 Murray Street. Dr. Rosenberg devoted many long and dedicated years to the health care of literally thousands of Newark's youngest citizens. His office was located in a non-descript, small two story red brick building. Murray Street was a rather small side street, directly perpendicular to Broad Street, not far from the Mosque Theatre. I recall there being a church which sat directly on the corner of Broad Street and Murray, the name or denomination now unknown to me. I believe the church was a rather old facility, having been built of a type of red sandstone, common to the grave markers found in the early days of Colonial times. I believe the church was of a Gothic architecture, as well, and even in the late 1940's, the church appeared quite ancient.

I do not know if Dr. Rosenberg inhabited the upper floor of his practice, but judging from the small size of his building, it might have been possible. Upon entering Dr. Rosenberg's office, on the first floor, there was a small vestibule, to the left of which was a larger sized waiting room. I recall the waiting room was paneled in a very rich, soft, warm and inviting wood paneling. Circling the room were many Windsor chairs, whose wood seemed to match almost identically to the paneling on the wall. The room was framed by a cozy and welcoming fireplace, which, on cold winter days, was a definite comfort, especially when bringing an ill child in for examination. On the mantel, juxtaposed on opposite ends, stood two ebony-like elephant sculptures, with trunks raised, as if to trumpet and announce the next patient entering the practice. And above all, one heard the wails of children fearful of entering the good doctor's office. Coupled with the sounds of crying infants, there was always quite a "symphony" going on in the waiting room at any given time or hour of the day.

For many years, Dr. Rosenberg's faithful nurse was a lovely woman by the name of "Ruthie." Sparkling blue eyes, and curly brown hair which framed her attractive face, is my memory of her, but above all, I remember her business-like, no-nonsense manner in hustling reluctant children into the doctor's examination room.

In those many years ago, it was almost a standard practice for children to have chest X-rays for routine examinations. In Dr. Rosenberg's office was an X-ray darkroom, where the children would be taken into in order to have their X-rays. Naturally, it is usually customary for small children to fear the dark, and Dr. Rosenberg would always remain with them, within the darkroom, to allay their fears and dry their tears. It was this selfless act which brought about Dr. Rosenberg's death from cancer (leukemia), from his years of repeated exposures to radiation within the X-ray darkroom.

Following Dr. Rosenberg's passing, his practice was taken over by a then quite young physician, by the name of Dr. Nathan Zuckerberg. Dr. Zuckerberg came to Newark a graduate of the medical college of Lausanne ,Switzerland, and ultimately moved the practice to 21 Johnson Avenue, at the intersection of Clinton Avenue, near where Peterman's Restaurant stood on the corner. The faithful "Ruthie" continued to practice alongside Dr. Zuckerberg for many more years, and the last visit to Dr. Zuckerberg was my physical examination for entrance into college in early 1962. I do recall that at that time, Dr. Zuckerberg had relocated somewhere near Elizabeth Avenue, opposite Weequahic Park, but do not know how much longer he continued to practice after that time. Ironically, while reading the newspaper last year or so, I learned of a horrific Amtrak train accident which had taken place in the springtime, the collision of two trains which were en route to Florida. The accident was devastating, with the loss of many lives, and severe injuries sustained by multitudes of passengers. Listed among the survivors was the name of Dr. Nathan Zuckerberg and his traveling companion, the good doctor having attained the age of 89. I was relieved to see that he was one of the fortunate people to make it out alive, although injured, and I said a prayer for his speedy recovery.

Dr. Seymour Charles was another of the stellar pediatricians working perpetually for the well-being and health care of Newark's children. As late as the latter part of the 1980's, I noted that Dr. Charles was still engaged in caring for children at the Beth Israel Hospital on Lyons Avenue, still devoting his time and talents to new generations of Newark's young.

Closer to where my residence was, on Belmont Avenue, the neighborhood and its environs were at one time a mecca for the best in health care. On the next block above Belmont Avenue, was Hillside Avenue, where the practices and residences of some of Newark's finest physicians were located in the 1930's and 1940's, and perhaps even before that time.

One of the obstetricians-gynecologists living there was the very doctor who brought me into this world: Dr. David Gershenfeld. It was through the miracle of this web site that I was able to communicate with his son, Marvin, who today is a very young 80 year old gentleman! According to my late mother, Dr. Gershenfeld was an extremely compassionate doctor, with a wonderful bedside manner. She always enjoyed telling me the story of how I kept Dr. Gershenfeld and his family from enjoying their July 4th holiday, as I kept everyone waiting until I finally made my appearance on July 7th of that year! So, even at this late date, after sixty years, I apologize to Marvin for "holding up the works," and delaying his family's holiday celebration!!!

Other physicians who resided in the Hillside Avenue locale were Drs. Lurie, Maas, and our family dentist, Dr. Kaplan, among many others unknown to me now.

Two doors down from our apartment building, was the residence and medical practice of Dr. Harry Brotman. I recall mother rushing me there for many a skinned knee or laceration caused by a robust game of tag or an exuberant bicycle ride, which resulted in what looked like a more severe injury, than it actually was. Even today, I can see the remnants of a small scar, which Dr. Brotman treated in the time of my early childhood, which occurred at some point during playtime then. What convenience it was having a physician right next door!!!

At a young age, mother suffered from a heart condition. Her cardiologist at the time was the well - renowned Dr. Victor Parsonnet, whose entire family were/are dedicated practitioners of cardiology. His office was located around the corner from our residence on Belmont Avenue, on Madison Avenue, intersecting Clinton, and the tiny, triangular park, which was located there also. Much later, in the 1960's, I believe, St. Barnabas Hospital, (which also was located in Newark, and later relocated to Livingston), named the entire Cardiology Unit the Dr. Victor Parsonnet wing, in honor of this fine physician.

It was said that at one time, our very apartment on the first floor of 321 Belmont Avenue, was the former office of a physician who practiced there in the mid 1920's, when the building was quite new, and considered very elegant for its time. In the time of my childhood, I still recall the empty shingle which hung directly under our living room window, and always wondered about who that doctor might have been. The layout of our apartment was quite unique, and certainly supported the possibility of a doctor's office there prior to becoming living quarters for tenancy. What was so odd, was that we did not have but two tiny closets within the entire four room apartment, one of them being smack-dab in the overly large living room, which was said to have once been a waiting room for patients. Within the rear of that very small closet, was an opaque window, and one could see the outline on the floor, of what appeared to have been plumbing fixtures. It was said that this had been a lavatory in the time of the doctor practicing there. Set off from a long foyer at the entrance to the apartment, were two bedrooms, an overly large one, and yet another one, both with doors which contained oddly enough, opaque glass in the middle of both of them, quite strange for a "residential" apartment. Finally, connecting both these bedrooms, was another bathroom, which was our family bathroom, and which contained yet the other small closet. It was said that this closet once held the doctor's first aid supplies, among other medical objects. Also rumored was that the larger bedroom had been the doctor's examination room, and that the back bedroom, at the very end of the apartment, was the one time laboratory and office, where the doctor did his analyses of blood work and urine. It was a time when most doctors did their own lab testing, and did not send the specimens out to other locations, as is the common practice in our modern times.

Further down on Clinton Avenue, corner Stratford Place was the very elegant and luxurious apartment building, 299 Clinton Avenue. It was a very large building, complete with circular driveway, doormen, and crystal chandeliered lobby with elevators. 299 Clinton Avenue was the location of many of the offices of medical practitioners, who provided the best in care available to Newarkers of that era. I recall a consultation with a dermatologist there, whose name now eludes me at this present date and time.

Traveling further down Clinton Avenue, to the Lincoln Park area, directly closer to the intersection of Broad Street, stood the Medical Towers. This was a very tall, yellow brick building, devoted entirely to the practice of medicine. Here, one could find physicians of almost any specialty. It was the custom of general practitioners to recommend patients there for specialized treatment of ailments which might have been beyond their expertise.

Directly opposite Lincoln Park, were a series of beautiful, old brownstone homes. The brownstones were the former domains of wealthier Newark residents of a "gentler age" (mid to late 19th century), and were considered to be "mansions" in their time of first construction. These elegant homes were located side-by-side, and housed the medical practices of a husband and wife physician team, the Drs. Saslow, who specialized in the care of Diabetes. A few doors away, were the practices of Dr. Shmukler, also a specialist in the care of diabetics, and Dr. Irving Shapiro, a dermatologist, whose very musically gifted children, attended Avon Avenue School, at the time I did.

Around the time of the late 1940's to early 1950's, one of the first African-American physicians arrived to practice within the Belmont/Avon Avenue vicinity. He was Dr. P. E. Gear, (Phillip E.), and his office was located in a small row house, down from 93 Avon Avenue, the photograph of which appears on the page of my Third Ward Memories. A babysitter of mine, lived in the row house directly next door to Dr. Gear, and these row houses were located just above Ridgewood Avenue. As African-American families began to arrive within the neighborhood, Dr. Gear did a very thriving business in his medical care provided to that community. An earlier African-American physician was located on the lower end of Belmont Avenue, closer to 350 Belmont Avenue, which was another large apartment house directly on the corner of Belmont and Madison Avenues. Dr. Bell lived about three doors up from this apartment house. However, this was only the residence of Dr. Bell, and I do not know where his medical practice was situated. He may have even been retired at the time I am recalling. I do recall his beautiful one family home, with its gorgeous elliptical leaded (stained) glass window, which was directly next to the entry way to his home. Dr. Bell also had a daughter and a cute little grandson, who resided with him, since he may have been a widower at the time. I recall seeing Ms. Bell and her son seated on the spacious porch of this very elegant home, many times in passing.

In the Upper Clinton Hill area, in the vicinity of Tracy and Baldwin Avenues, were the medical practices of many of the parents of my former classmates at Avon Avenue School. To name some of them, there were Dr. Harold Solomon, Dr. Lieb, and on Baldwin Avenue, another family physician , Dr. Samuel Balis, whose eldest son, Robert, was the "older man" of 17, in my rendezvous at the Roosevelt Theatre , mentioned in my Tribute to Newark's Movie Houses in yet another Old Newark memory I wrote earlier this month of November, 2004.

Situated immediately next door to Dr. Balis, was the practice and residence of Dr. Flax, another general practitioner, whose son, Roger, attended Newark Academy, and later became a celebrated tennis pro and instructor.

Dr. Aaron Haskin served as the Chief of the Newark Health Department, for many years, previous to and during the 1950's. He also functioned as the Director of the Newark Martland Medical Center, formerly known as City Hospital. His residence and practice was located in a large one family home at 22 Goldsmith Avenue, near Elizabeth Avenue and Weequahic Park. It was a beautiful tree-lined street, with a wide grass strip median, which divided the street and gave it a beautiful appearance. Goldsmith Avenue was the site of homes for many other medical professionals, who diligently served the City of Newark and its populace so tirelessly for so many years.

Newark also contained a plethora of very fine medical facilities. A patient had his choice of care, depending on his physician's hospital affiliation at the time. Several hospitals there were as follows: Beth Israel Hospital, on Lyons Avenue in the Weequahic Section of Newark. The "saints" hospitals: St. James, St. Barnabas and St. Michael's Hospitals. Many of the expertly trained nursing staff were the good Catholic sisters and religious, coming from the diverse convents, which were located within the city, and perhaps just outside of it. There was also the Presbyterian Hospital, (since renamed as Columbia), which, as I recall it, catered in many instances to children, but also to adults. Charitable cases were treated at City Hospital, which later was renamed Martland Medical Center, in honor of the late Dr. Martland, who served Newark for so many years, and was a pioneer in Newark's medical history. Today, the hospital is now a teaching facility, which is part of the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry, still located on the lower end of Bergen Street, within the city. Several of the hospitals have left the city, for example, St. Barnabas is now located in Livingston, New Jersey, and has been there for many years. It is famous for its burn center, in particular, and its cardiac care unit also.

Several other smaller scale facilities operated within the city. Health care clinics for the indigent or low salaried workers, abounded in Newark under the auspices of the Department of Health. The Eye and Ear Hospital, located on Central Avenue, going toward East Orange, was one such facility. A much smaller hospital was the Doctor's Hospital, a small, private care hospital, which was located on Avon Avenue, near the Hillside Avenue intersection. This hospital had been in operation since the early 1920's, and both my late mother and aunt had given birth there to their first children, in the late 1920's, or thereabouts.

Regardless of what area or sector of the city one lived, one was sure to find superior medical care. The medical care Newarkers received was comparable to those of the finest facilities in any of the larger major cities at the time.

To those persons, both past and present, alive or not, who are or were involved in the excellent and dedicated health care of so many individuals in our beloved city, I doff my hat to you, and extend my hand in deepest gratitude. A hearty thank you to you all! May you continue to thrive and make important and new medical strides in the continuing advancement and quest for good health for all citizens, in both Newark, and elsewhere in our realm, in the good name of all humanity!! May God bless you, one and all!!


Email this memory to a friend.
Enter recipient's e-mail: