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No Strike at Laniado this summer
By JONATHAN ROSENBLUM
Am Echad Resources
September 8, 2000
With the number of lives lost in the course of the 127-day doctors' strike
in Israel this summer still to be tallied, the long-term health consequences
will never be known.
At Laniado Hospital in Netanya, however, the strike never began. Since its founding
by the Klausenberger Rebbe, Rabbi Yekusiel Halberstam, whose sixth yahrtzeit
(anniversary of his death) was marked this summer week, there has never been
a strike by any hospital employee or work stoppage of any kind. Just as soldiers
cannot strike in the midst of battle, the Rebbe taught, so too those involved
in healing may not strike no matter how legitimate their grievances.
During the Holocaust, the Rebbe traversed every level of Hell-Auschwitz, ruins
of the Warsaw Ghetto, work camps, and death marches. In the course of that journey,
which claimed his wife and their eleven children, he vowed that if he survived
he would build a monument to chesed (kindness) that would stand in the starkest
possible contrast to the inhumanity of German "men of culture and science."
Laniado is that monument. It took the rebbe fifteen years to raise the money
to build the hospital. His mission was to show the world a Jewish approach to
healing and that the highest medical standards are fully consistent with the
highest halachic standards.
When the Minister of Health scoffed at the Rebbe's dream, and told him that
three permits had already been issued for new hospitals in the Netanya area,
the Rebbe replied that none of them would be built. (He was right.) To the Minister's
offer to let the Rebbe supervise religious affairs at the government hospitals
in the region, the Rebbe countered that he would run his hospital and let the
Minister affix the mezuzot.
In a speech to the entire staff of the hospital upon its opening, the Rebbe
said, "Our Torah is a Torah of loving kindness. Everyone can understand
that a rabbi, and indeed every believing Jew, wishes to establish Torah institutions.
Everyone should therefore understand why a rabbi established this hospital,
which is, in fact, a magnificent Torah institution."
Building a hospital was another aspect of teaching Torah in the Rebbe's eyes.
(He later founded the Mifal HaShas program, which tests thousands of students
on Talmud every month.)
The Rebbe was careful to ensure that nothing should ever detract from his main
goal of demonstrating to the world a hospital based on the Torah. When a female
employee began distributing in the hospital material on the laws of family purity,
the Rebbe stopped her immediately.
"They will say I built this hospital to missionize-to have kosher food
or to pass out pamphlets," he explained.
The Rebbe succeeded in creating the unique Torah institution he had envisioned.
The rabbi of the hospital, Rabbi Chaim Yaakov Schwartz, is involved in every
aspect of medical care - not just giving instructions on heating water on Shabbat,
the Sabbath. He meets frequently with every department head to discuss halachic
questions, and is a constant presence on the wards. In the nearly quarter century
of Laniado's existence, he has not taken a single day of vacation.
The average hospital Laniado's size has six respirators. Laniado has 25 so that
no doctor ever has to set priorities in the allocation of respirators. Once
a patient was unconscious and believed brain dead on a respirator for 55 days
following a near drowning. Today he is alive and well.
Most important is the attitude to healing with which the Rebbe imbued the staff.
In his opening speech he pronounced the most vital quality for the staff as
"a warm Jewish heart." The protocols of the hospital, drafted by the
Rebbe, specify that employees should be "full of love for their fellow Jews and every other human being."
The Rebbe told the staff that their goal must always be "to cure the patient,
not just cure the disease," and he insisted that concern with their pain
was crucial to that task. Asked which of two types of syringe needles the hospital
should purchase - one that was slightly less painful or one that was half the
price - he immediately ordered the more expensive needles.
Dr. Andre deFreis, the former director-general of Beilenson Hospital, later
served at Laniado. He described the difference in Laniado: "Here I feel
I'm a healer. There is a feeling of being involved in holy work." He told
a medical conference, "At Laniado, I learned that the patient is a person."
A man once came to the Rebbe in America to thank him for saving his life. He
had been in critical condition in a hospital for several days, and two young
nurses did not leave his side during that entire period. They explained their
dedication, `"We are graduates of Laniado nursing school. And we once heard
the Rebbe speak on the merit of saving lives. We felt that with constant attention
we could save you."
One Rosh HaShana, a woman began to hemorrhage badly during childbirth. She needed
a massive transfusion of a rare blood type immediately. An order went out that
every student in the adjacent yeshiva should immediately rush to the hospital
to have his blood type tested. Prayers were stopped in the middle of services.
The woman's sister, herself a nurse, told the staff later, "There is no
other hospital where she would still be alive today."
The Rebbe told the nursing school students that if they ever heard of a woman
contemplating an abortion, they should tell her that the Rebbe would raise the
child as his own. One woman convinced by a nursing school student in this fashion
to carry to term a baby she had been told would be deformed delivered a perfectly
The Rebbe once explained why there have never been any demonstrations in Kiryat
Sanz. "When you come to a place of darkness, you do not chase out the darkness
with a broom. You light a candle."
Few have lit so bright a candle.
Jonathan Rosenblum is the director of Am Echad in Israel.
© Am Echad Resources, 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.
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