History of Medicine

Hospital Care for Jews in Nineteenth-century Amsterdam: The Emergence of the First Jewish Hospitals

Jack Y. Vanderhoek


In the early seventeenth century, the Jews formally established two separate communities in Amsterdam, the Portuguese Sephardi and the High German Ashkenazi congregations. Until the end of the eighteenth century, medical care for the Amsterdam indigent Jews had been controlled and regulated by the powerful Parnasim, the de facto rulers, of each community. The primary communal organizations that were exclu¬sively responsible for medical care for the poor were the Bikur Holim societies. This approach for the care of the indigent Jewish sick became ineffective in the nineteenth century and was replaced by a hospital-based system. This essay describes how seriously ill indigent Jews in nineteenth-century Amsterdam received hospital care, tracing the establishment and development of the first Ashkenazi and Sephardi hospitals in the city. Although each community established their own hospital, they used different approaches to accomplish this goal.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2018;9(2):e0016