For nearly three quarters of a century,
the 669 bed Beth Israel Hospital has towered as a stately landmark
on the Newark skyline from its Lyons Avenue site.
But back in the 1920's, when I was growing up on Montgomery Street
at Quitman Street in Newark's old Third Ward, the Beth Israel Hospital
occupied a much tinier building, just a block over from my house
on West Kinney Street at the corner of High Street.
The Beth Israel Hospital1
of my childhood neighborhood was an 84-bed brick hospital building,
erected with funds contributed by 833 local citizens. Its opening
in 1908 was celebrated with opening-day fireworks, brass bands,
and parades, and evening festivities at the synagogue of Temple
The Beth Israel Hospital charter stated it was a voluntary nonprofit
hospital open to persons of every race, creed, and social class.
However, unstated was its primary purpose: It also provided a base
in the heavily-Jewish Third Ward for Jewish physicians who in that
era found acceptance difficult in other medical institutions.
I don't recall anyone from my old Third Ward neighborhood being
born at that Beth Israel Hospital. Most deliveries in the 1920s
were done in the home by midwives.
But the Beth Israel had a clinic which was heavily used by residents
of the neighborhood.
I recall being taken weekly by my mother in 1926 and 1927 -- my
fifth and sixth years -- to the Beth Clinic for allergy treatments.
The fee for each visit was 50 cents.
My treatments consisted of scratch tests through which it was
found that I was allergic to trees, grass, and animals. The clinic
doctors also diagnosed that I suffered from hay fever, which resulted
in seasonal allergies from tree and grass pollens.
By 1928, the old Beth Israel facility in the Third Ward was virtually
bursting at the seams, and the hospital was moved to a 12-story
Spanish-style hospital building built on a parcel of farmland on
Lions Avenue, after a successful 3½ million dollar fund-raising
When the old Beth Israel building was vacated in 1928, it was
taken over by the Daughters of Israel Home for the Aged. The home
had for a neighbor, diagonally across High Street (renamed King
Boulevard), the Newark YM-YWHA, which had opened in 1925.