About one year ago I had a telephone conversation with Dr. Nirit Shalev-Khalifa, who was the curator of an exhibition entitled “Jerusalem: A Medical Diagnosis” which was opened in the spring of 2014 at the Tower of David Museum. I then told Dr. Khalifa that my maternal grandparents were both born in Jerusalem and that they had died in Jerusalem from diseases during the First World War. I did not know whether they were hospitalized and died in a hospital or died at their home. They left six orphaned children. The three younger children including my mother were sent to orphanages in Jerusalem. My mother who was about four years old was sent to the orphanage named “Maon le’Banot Israel” (literally Home for Daughters of Israel). Dr. Khalifa then suggested that I make contact with the Medical Records Department at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. She said that if my grandmother and/or my grandfather had been hospitalized at Shaare Zedek, it is possible that the medical files would be found at the archive. It is worth mentioning that from 1902 until 1980 the building of Shaare Zedek Hospital was located adjacent to Shaare Zedek neighborhood on Jaffa Road (no. 161). The founder of the hospital outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem on Jaffa Road was Dr. Moshe Wallach. In 1980 the hospital moved to its new building located in the Bayit VeGan neighborhood in Jerusalem.
I then spoke with Mrs. Keren Cohen, secretary of the Medical Records Department at Shaare Zedek Medical Center and gave her the following information: My grandmother, Rivka-Alte Vigiser, daughter of Moshe-Yehoshua Salant, was born in Jerusalem in 1878 and she died of typhus on the 16 of month Tammuz, 5676 (17/07/1916). My grandfather, Shmuel-Leib Vigiser, son of Abraham-Meir, was born in Jerusalem in 1871, served in the Turkish army during World War I, and he died of illness on the 21 of month Shevat, 5678 (3/2/1918). Mrs. Cohen promised to check whether my grandparents’ medical files were archived. A few days later I received a reply stating that only the medical file of my grandmother had been found in the archive and that I may see it at the Medical Center.
Rivka-Alte and Shmuel-Leib Vigiser (ca. 1910)
On the 26 of Tammuz, 5776 (01/08/2016), one hundred years after the death of my grandmother, I went to Shaare Zedek Medical Center and was excited to see the medical file of my grandmother. The records were written in German and I asked for photocopies. I then submitted it for translation. Below is a photocopy of part of the medical summary and its translation into English:
The General Jewish Hospital Shaare Zedek in Jerusalem
Serial Number 8519 Women’s Department Number 363
Name: Alte. Age: 36. Occupation: wife of Shmuel Leib Vigiser. Community: Vilnius
Date Received: 15 Tammuz, 5676 (16 July 1916) Bed Number 76. Bed Number: 75
Release Date: 15 Tammuz, 5676 (July 16, 1916), died. Days of treatment: 1
According to the report my grandmother died in the hospital on the same day she was hospitalized. I did not know that before. Obviously, I was smiling when I noticed the writing of my grandmother’s occupation. Unfortunately I could not decipher the handwritten signature of the doctor’s name which appears at the top of the document.
Additional handwritten medical details (in German) are also included in the report. I sent the medical report to an acquaintance of mine, who is a medical doctor in Germany. He translated to me additional details, such as: names of the medications that my grandmother had received.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Nirit Shalev-Khalifa for her good advice, to Mrs. Keren Cohen for her useful assistance and also to the staff of the Medical Records Department for the kind and sympathetic attitude I received during my visit.
- link to the exhibition entitled Jerusalem: A Medical Diagnosis
- link to an article on the orphanage “Maon Le’Banot Israel” (in Hebrew):
- Dr. Moshe Wallach, an orthodox Jewish physician, came to Jerusalem from Germany in 1891 when he was 26. He was the director of Shaare Zedek hospital from 1902 until 1947 and he was also a chief physician at the hospital. The history of the hospital “Shaare Zedek” is described in the fascinating diary of Schwester [nurse] Selma Meyer “My Life and Experiences at Shaare Zedek”. Selma Meyer arrived in Shaare Zedek from Germany in 1916, when the typhus epidemic was rampant in Jerusalem. She was the right-hand assistant of Dr. Wallach and the head nurse of the hospital for over fifty years. The diary is posted (in Hebrew) at:
Ruth Marcus was born in Ramat Gan, Israel. She holds a Ph.D. degree in Statistics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Since 1988, Ruth has been involved in researching the roots of her family in Jerusalem, Hungary, Lithuania and Byelorussia. She has published two books (in Hebrew): about her maternal family in Jerusalem, and about the shtetl of Lunna – her father’s town of birth. She has also published several articles (in Hebrew, English, Polish and Belarusian) on topics related to her research. She has a Kehilalink site on JewishGen for the town of Lunna: http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/lunna. Ruth was also the curator of an exhibition on the “Tarbut” Gymnasium in Grodno, which was opened in October 2012 at the Grodno University, Belarus.