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Museum exhibit to highlight medical legacy of the ‘Beth’
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Museum exhibit to highlight medical legacy of the ‘Beth’

Yeshiva U. curators tap MetroWest collection of hospital artifacts

Thanks to the Jewish Historical Society of MetroWest, memorabilia from the 110-year-old Newark Beth Israel Medical Center will highlight an exhibit at the Yeshiva University Museum in New York.

The exhibition, titled “Trail of the Magic Bullet: The Jewish Encounter with Modern Medicine,” will run from Feb. 26 to Aug. 8.

It will include 40 items from the JHS archives, including the hospital’s original charter and minutes from its board meetings, as well as ledgers, photographs, medicine bottles, and nurses’ items from capes to caps.

“For Yeshiva, this was a wonderful thing, because not all archives are as complete as ours,” said JHS executive director Linda Forgosh. “This was a marriage made in heaven. Anything they wanted was fine by us.”

Joshua Feinberg, the project curator, said he and Forgosh began collaborating last August, when he visited the JHS offices on the Aidekman campus in Whippany to examine its trove of artifacts from “the Beth.”

Feinberg called the Beth “a case study of a Jewish hospital, which was founded not only to serve the Jewish community but the broader community as well. It was a gift to the Newark community — not a sectarian institution. It serves everyone and it is a symbol of the Jewish community of having arrived.”

With that legacy in mind, the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey — which was established from the proceeds of the medical center’s sale in 1998 — gave the museum a $5,000 grant to support the exhibit.

The exhibit takes its title from Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet, a 1940 film about Dr. Paul Ehrlich, who discovered an early treatment for syphilis.

Another medical pioneer who will be prominently featured in the exhibit is Dr. Joseph Goldberger, a Hungarian Jewish physician and epidemiologist employed in the U.S. Public Health Service who studied the connections between disease and poverty and sought a cure for pellagra.

Nurses will get their due as well, in a section devoted to Lillian Wald and the Visiting Nurse Service, which originally served the sick on New York’s Lower East Side.

A final part of the exhibit will be on Hadassah “and its work in Israel and Palestine in the early 20th century,” Feinberg said. “The idea is to use medicine as a lens for looking at the modern Jewish experience.”

Forgosh said she is pleased her organization — which is a beneficiary agency of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ — could play a prominent role in the Yeshiva museum presentation.

“It is especially nice when someone enjoys your collections and is interested in your community’s history,” she said.

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