inancy

Kaspare Cohn Hospital where Sylvia’s child was born

At the turn of the 20th century, Eastern European Jews afflicted with tuberculosis (then called consumption) headed to Los Angeles, seeking a dry climate and clean air. Long before antibiotics were available, these lungers, as the transplants were nicknamed, arrived in droves from the East Coast and expanded the city’s Jewish population from 2,500 to 10,000 by 1910.

The local Jewish leadership in the Hebrew Benevolent and B’nai B’rith lodges grappled with the obligation to care for these ailing Jews. Hebrew Benevolent Society President Jacob Schlesinger, convinced his reluctant father-in-law, Kaspare Cohn, to help.

Cohn, a prominent businessman who founded what has since become Union Bank, converted a house he owned at 1443 Carroll Ave. in Angeleno Heights — now Echo Park — into the Kaspare Cohn Hospital. On Sept. 21, 1902, the hospital opened with eight patients and Dr. Sarah Vasen, one of Los Angeles’ first women doctors, as its medical director.

One of Los Angeles’ first suburbs, Angeleno Heights was the Beverly Hills of its day. It had the city’s largest concentration of Queen Anne homes. Unfortunately, the neighbors did not take to having patients with a contagious disease in their midst. As a result, a City Council resolution barred the facility from treating consumption. Thereafter, Kaspare Cohn Hospital opened a 50-bed tuberculosis facility on Stephenson Avenue (now Whittier Boulevard) in 1910.

The new hospital was twofold in its significance to the Jewish community. Not only was the hospital treating Jews with tuberculosis, but it was also haven for Jewish physicians.

Kaspare Cohn Hospital eventually moved to Fountain Avenue in Hollywood in 1930. At the request of Cohn’s heirs, the hospital changed its name to the neutral-sounding Cedars of Lebanon in order to raise funds in the broader community. The new name was a biblical reference to the curative properties of Lebanese cedar branches.

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