Jews & Medicine

YU Museum Exhibit Details the Jewish Encounter with Modern Medicine

The memo on display at the Yeshiva University Museum exhibit Trail of the Magic Bullet: The Jewish Encounter with Modern Medicine, 1860 – 1960 is short and to the point:  “Never admit more than five Jews, take only two Italian Catholics, and no blacks at all.” The document was signed by Milton Charles Winternitz, dean of Yale Medical School from 1920 to 1935.

The College of Medicine's namesake, Albert Einstein, with a model of the institution that proudly bears his name.
The College of Medicine's namesake, Albert Einstein, with a model of the institution that proudly bears his name.

Having fled the growing anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe in the years preceding World War II, multitudes of Jews that emigrated to the United Sates were met with such informal yet widely enforced quotas, used at the time to limit the number of Jews, African Americans and other ethnic groups admitted to medical schools and other fields.

In response to this, Yeshiva University President Dr. Samuel Belkin began to advocate and plan for a medical school under Jewish auspices that would be run without quotas based on racial or religious prejudices. That medical school would come to bear the name of the famous Jewish scientist and philanthropist Albert Einstein, whose primary wish was that the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University would support and welcome all creeds and races. The history and motivation behind the establishment of the College of Medicine is detailed as part of the museum’s multi-media exhibit.

“The exhibition is fabulous,” remarked Dr. Edward Burns, executive dean at Einstein, during the opening night event. “While medicine was initially considered a religious calling for Jewish physicians, they also distinguished themselves by trying to find the scientific underpinnings of disease. In doing so, they became well-versed in secular knowledge. And when others realized that the Jews’ approach was scientific rather than religious, they sought them out.” Read the full article at Einstein News

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