As the Mount Sinai Archives continues processing and cataloging the records of the Beth Israel Medical Center (today’s Mount Sinai Beth Israel), we continue to discover interesting images and ephemera from Beth Israel’s history.
The photograph above shows Albert Einstein with Adolph Held (1885-1969), editor of the Jewish Daily Forward and brother of Dr. Isidor W. Held, a longtime member of the Beth Israel Hospital medical staff who served as President of the Medical Board from 1936 to 1938. (Update June 2017: When we first discovered this photograph in the collection, it had been incorrectly identified as a photograph of Dr. Held rather than his brother Adolph. Thanks to the family member who contacted the Archives with a correction.)
Dr. Held, a gastroenterologist, was involved in Jewish refugee aid in the aftermath of World War I, and during the rise of Nazism he became active in the movement to help medical and scientific emigres escape from Nazi Germany and its conquered territories, raising funds and publishing articles on behalf of persecuted Jewish physicians. These activities brought him into contact with Albert Einstein, who was himself a refugee from Nazi persecution and a vocal activist on behalf of other potential emigres.
This photograph is the only item in the Beth Israel collection that documents the relationship between Einstein and Dr. Held, but the Einstein Archives Online, a comprehensive directory of Einstein’s manuscripts, includes numerous entries for letters to and from Held and his wife Fanny. In 2006, a 1938 letter from Einstein to Held discussing the situation in Germany was sold at auction; the catalog listing includes a translation of the letter, which discusses their unsuccessful attempts to help an internist named Rudolph Ehrmann escape the “German gangsters.” (The following year, they were successful in obtaining passage to New York City for Dr. Ehrmann, who opened a private practice and became one of Einstein’s personal physicians.)
Dr. Held passed away in 1947. In addition to his legacy as an administrator, clinician and teacher of house staff, and the lives he saved as a refugee advocate, his posthumous impact at Beth Israel included an important annual lecture series endowed in his memory, which lasted until at least the late 1980s and brought numerous prominent physicians to BI’s downtown campus.
The Mount Sinai Archives continues to process a recently received collection of records and photographs that document the history of the Beth Israel Medical Center, today’s Mount Sinai Beth Israel. Among the many fascinating documents in this collection are a collection of photographs and news clippings that document the life of Charles H. Silver, who served for 35 years as the Chairman of Beth Israel’s Board of Trustees. The child of an impoverished Romanian Jewish immigrant family on the Lower East Side, Silver left school at age fifteen to become an office boy at the American Woolen Company, where he worked his way up the sales ranks and eventually retired as Vice President and Director.
Alongside his role as a hospital philanthropist, Silver was active in interfaith relations and worked to strengthen the relationship between New York City’s Jewish and Catholic communities, becoming a close confidante of Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York, and his successor Terence Cardinal Cooke. In 1948 Silver served as chairman of the first Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, which raises funds for Catholic charities. In gratitude for his exceptional fundraising efforts, the proceeds of which would help support New York City’s Catholic hospitals, Cardinal Spellman presented him at the dinner with a surprise donation to Beth Israel. The Al Smith Dinner remains an important event in national politics, as it is traditionally the last event at which the two major-party candidates for President of the United States share a stage before the election.
Above: Charles H. Silver, Governor Averell Harriman, President Harry Truman and others at a ceremony in honor of Harriman.
Above: Richard Nixon, Charles H. Silver, Hubert Humphrey, Terence Cardinal Cooke, President Lyndon Johnson, Margaretta “Happy” Rockefeller and Governor Nelson Rockefeller at the 1968 Al Smith Dinner.
In addition to his medical and political interests, Silver was a strong advocate of public education and served for six years as Chairman of the New York City Board of Education. The Silver collection in the Mount Sinai Archives includes photographs of Silver with every U.S. President from Truman to Carter, two of which are presented here. No full-length biography of Silver has yet been written, but his eventful career is an important part of the story of New York City in the twentieth century.