History of Barnes-Jewish Hospital

Barnes-Jewish Hospital has a rich tradition of medical excellence and exceptional health care and respects the religious beliefs of each team member and patient.

In honor of the first day of Hanukkah, we’re taking a look at the history of the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis and the ways this important holiday has been celebrated at the hospital throughout the years.

Jewish Hospital, originally located on Delmar Boulevard, first opened in 1902 and was a vital force in caring for the community and furthering medical science.

In the 1920’s, the hospital board bought property on Kingshighway, just two blocks from Barnes Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital, with a plan to build a facility that would meet the ever-increasing need for expansion.

The new hospital became established, it accumulated a number of notable achievements:

Hanukkah Menorah at Barnes-Jewish Hospital

The Hanukkah menorah, or hanukiah, which will sit outside the Probstein Chapel, has eight candles that represent the eight days of the holiday, and a single candle, called the worker candle, or shamash, which is typically used to light the other candles.

  • In 1944, Jewish Hospital became one of the first in the country to use penicillin to treat patients. Six years later, it became the first in the city to have a radioisotope laboratory.
  • In 1955, the medical and surgical divisions at Jewish Hospital received association status at the Washington University School of Medicine. In 1963, Jewish Hospital was accepted as a major affiliate of Washington University.
  • The hospital performed the first successful in vitro fertilization in Missouri in 1983, and it opened St. Louis’ first Multiple Birth Center, offering medical support for women having more than one baby.
  • In addition, orthopedic surgeons at Jewish Hospital were renowned for taking care of the athletes on St. Louis’s professional sports teams — the baseball and football Cardinals and St. Louis Blues hockey team.
  • Jewish Hospital’s tradition of care extended to its staff, as it was the first hospital in the city to adopt a 40-hour work week for its employees and offer them Social Security.

In 1992, Barnes Hospital formalized its affiliation agreement with the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis. In 1993, the two hospitals joined with Christian Health Services to form BJC Health Systems, the first health care system in the country to integrate academically based hospitals and a system of community hospitals serving a broad urban, suburban and rural area.

In January 1996, Barnes and Jewish hospitals merged to form Barnes-Jewish Hospital. The merger built on the original affiliation by combining all of the attributes of the hospitals into a single organization led by one board of directors and one management team.

Despite all the changes and mergers, many of the traditions that began with Jewish Hospital are still honored today. The hospital employs two rabbis, Senior Rabbi and Jewish Care Coordinator Dale Schreiber and Rabbi Larry Glestein, who are members of Spiritual Care Service at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, an interfaith department providing spiritual care to patients, families and staff of all faith traditions and with no specific religious affiliation.

Rabbi Schreiber, a team member for 10 years, says prior to her arrival Rabbi Jay Goldberg lit a menorah at 5:00 every evening during the Hanukkah holiday. It was located outside the Probstein Chapel, on the first floor of the Schoenberg Building on north campus.

Barbara Bogomolov, RN, MS, BSN, interim director of the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Center for Diversity and Cultural Competence, and clinical manager of refugee health and interpreter services, remembers coming to watch the candlelighting ceremony about 20 years ago.

“There was a such a great sense of hospitality,” says Bogomolov. “Even though I wasn’t Jewish, I was an employee of Jewish Hospital and I always felt included in the light.”

Lighting the menorah outside Probstein Chapel is a tradition that remains. Schreiber says it’s custom for the menorah to be visible.

“We light a candle every day at 4:30, and everyone is welcome,” says Schreiber. “The first candle of Hanukkah will be lit tonight, and the last candle on Saturday night, December 15th.”

Though the people taking part in and watching the menorah-lighting ceremony may have changed over the years, one thing has remained constant—the menorah itself.

It’s more than 33 years old and was made by a group of plumbers, electricians, carpenters and painters who were team members at Jewish Hospital.

“What I like is it’s not fancy, it’s very functional and the fact that a group of people put their gifts together and made something that’s so symbolic of the freedoms we enjoy,” says Schreiber. “I understand most of the people who worked on it weren’t Jewish, and that’s wonderful because it’s a symbol of shared respect.”

In addition to visibly displaying the menorah, Schreiber also puts dreidels and chocolate coins on the table where the menorah sits. Personal holiday Hanukkah wishes are given to each Jewish patient, and dreidels and electric Hanukkah lights are provided to those patients who wish to have them in their room.

And whether it’s a patient having lights in their room or someone who isn’t Jewish attending the menorah lighting at night, Schreiber says everyone has something in common.

“I think the commitment to sharing the traditions of Barnes Hospital and Jewish Hospital represents making improbable things seem possible,” says Schreiber. “Those lights represent the success that you can have when you are committed and persistent and connected to what light brings to the darkest time of the year. I think all of our lights merge and blend into something that we can treasure.”

Read more about the histories of Jewish and Barnes hospitals.


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Barnes-Jewish Hospital at Washington University Medical Center is the largest hospital in Missouri and the largest private employer in the St. Louis region. An affiliated teaching hospital of Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital has a 1,800 member medical staff with many who are recognized as "Best Doctors in America." They are supported by residents, interns and fellows, in addition to nurses, technicians and other health-care professionals.

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