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Naimark BrandesBy BERNIE BELLAN
Seven years ago The Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada produced its most ambitious endeavour to date: the publication of historian Allan Levine’s seminal book chronicling the history of the Jews of Manitoba, Coming of Age - A History of the Jewish People of Manitoba.


Now, the Jewish Heritage Centre, in conjunction with  Medical Heritage Manitoba – a branch of the University of Manitoba’s medical school, is about to embark on another ambitious project: the production of a book devoted to chronicling the history of Jewish physicians in Manitoba.
On a warm June evening, June 9, almost 200 individuals, many of whom were physicians themselves, gathered to listen to stories about Jewish physicians, as well as hear details of the emerging project devoted to chronicling the lives of Jewish physicians in this province.
While the anecdotes told during the evening were often quite fascinating, I have to wonder why none of the speakers actually made reference to Allan Levine’s book. One chapter of Coming of Age is devoted to the subject of anti-Semitism in Manitoba, with a particularly long section dealing with the quotas that were imposed upon Jewish students wanting to enter the faculty of medicine.
Notwithstanding my quibbling with that oversight, the various speakers who participated in the JHC program were uniformly entertaining in their observations about the contributions made by various Jewish doctors over the years in this province.
In his introductory remarks, Dr. Arnold Naimark, who was at one time dean of the faculty of medicine here, also president of the University of Manitoba, explained why it was thought worthwhile to initiate a project whose goal is to “assemble as many records as possible”, focused entirely on Jewish physicians.
Naimark explained to the audience that this project is following a strategy that he described as the “Brandeis strategy”. What is the “Brandeis strategy”, you might ask?
Naimark told the following story: It seems that years ago one fellow was telling another about a boat race held between students from Brandeis and Harvard universities. The storyteller said that the students from Brandeis lost to their Harvard counterparts by 20 lengths –which was an enormous distance.
In explaining away the loss, however, one of the Brandeis students rationalized the loss this way:  “We lost, but the way they do it is just one guy talks and the other eight row!” Thus, I suppose, while we may share many characteristics with our non-Jewish counterparts, historically there were enough differences between Jewish and non-Jewish doctors to merit an examination of the history of Jewish physicians in this province separate and apart from the larger group of all physicians.
How is the project to be done? This is where the participation of the public is required, explained Jordan Bass, medical archivist at the University of Manitoba medical library, and the individual responsible for digitizing the information that is expected to flow in about Jewish doctors in Manitoba.
According to Bass, the project’s inception came about when Dr. Nathan Wiseman, the former head of pediatric surgery at the Health Sciences Centre, approached him to “discuss how we could assemble an archive of Jewish doctors in Manitoba, to preserve and document for the future.”
Bass went on to describe how this archive is to be built, using what he termed “crowdsourcing”. Anyone with access to the Internet can go to this site: medheritage.lib.umanitoba.ca. Once there, you will be able to click on a list of Jewish physicians, both living and deceased, who have practised medicine in this province. (At the present time there are approximately 100 names on the list; Bass said there are plans to add 100 more names.)
You can then click on the name of any particular physician and offer information of which you might be aware, such as area of specialization or practice; name of medical school attended; any particular non-medical contributions that doctor made to the community (both Jewish and general communities); and various other items of information. You can then submit that information to the committee assembling the archive. Bass also said that anyone can enter information for as many doctors as one might like.
Also, if you have any original documents that you think might be of special interest in assembling information about the physicians, you are invited to send those to the following address: CMJP Project, c/o College of Medicine Archives, 220 Brodie Centre, University of Manitoba, 727 McDermot Ave., Winnipeg, MB R3E 3P5. (All documents will be returned to the sender upon digitization.)
The project committee can also be contacted at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
All submissions will be reviewed by the committee for authentication, Bass noted. No derogatory comments about any individual will be accepted, however, he added.

Following Bass’s presentation, Dr. Lorne Brandes, a recently retired oncologist and highly acclaimed researcher, gave a very interesting overview of every Jewish doctor in Manitoba who has ever been associated with the treatment of cancer patients – 22 in all, Brandes noted.
Showing pictures of each and every one of those 22 doctors – both as young students, then as older physicians, Brandes told stories about all the doctors.
The very first “pioneers” in the field of cancer treatment, he noted, were the husband and wife team of Lyonel and Esther Israels, along with Alvin Zipursky.
Lyonel Israels was the first executive director of the Manitoba Cancer Foundation (later to become CancerCare Manitoba), while Esther Israels set up Manitoba’s first blood coagulation laboratory. (She was later succeeded as head of that lab by her daughter Sara.)
Brandes went on to list the “next generation” of Jewish oncologists, including himself, Brent Schacter, and Martin Levitt, all of whom arrived in Manitoba in the 1970s after having received their medical educations elsewhere. He then proceeded to offer profiles of the 16 other Jewish physicians who have all been involved in the treatment of cancer here.

Following Brandes’s presentation, Dr. Daniel Klass offered an entertaining history of the Mall Medical Group – an association of doctors that began following the Second World War, but which closed in 1996, when its “assets ended up in a group of lawyers”, Klass drily  noted.
Klass also observed that many physicians currently alive today were the sons and daughters of the first generation of doctors that established the Mall Medical Group, including Klass himself, Ted Lyons, and Jo Swartz, (each of whom is part of the advisory board for the JHC project on this history of

Jewish physicians in Manitoba), along with several other doctors.
In describing the inception of the Mall Medical Group, Klass noted that it was “way ahead of its time”. The idea first arose among a group of doctors who were all serving overseas with the Canadian army during World War II, Klass explained.
Klass’s father, Alan Klass, was in an English hospital in 1943, recovering from a bout of hepatitis, when two other fellow Winnipeggers, David Bruser, and Lawrence Rabson, came to visit him. It was then that they conceived of the idea of forming a clinic of their own.
As a sidenote, Klass told a fascinating story about one time during the war when Lawrence Rabson operated on a British sergeant who actually had a live shell embedded in his abdomen. (Klass showed a picture of the shell.) The poor sergeant eventually died from other wounds, five days after Rabson removed the shell from him. (Can you imagine though? Everyone in the operating room that day could have been blown to bits had Rabson made one false move!)
Klass went on to note that, following the war, the doctors who already had established practices in Winnipeg “weren’t keen on a large wave of doctors returning from the war” and entering into competition with them.
“Medicine,” in those days, Klass suggested, “was a business.” (Ed. note: It isn’t a business nowadays, Dr. Klass? Then why are so many doctors incorporated?)
In any event, with the “dramatic growth in specialty practices following the war”, along with the “benefits of group practice”, five doctors decided to open the Mall Medical Group at the corner of Memorial Boulevard and St. Mary Avenue. The clinic opened in 1948 as a “one stop shop” for an entire range of medical services, including dentistry, Klass explained.
What really insured the success of the Mall Medical Group, however, was an agreement reached between the group, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, under the direction of famed union organizer Samuel Herbst,, and 15 different garment factories, to provide full medical care for the 1500 members of the union. Eventually other unions, including rail workers employed by CN, followed suit and also contracted to have the members of the Mall Medical Group provide all medical services to their members. With the advent of the Canada Health Act in 1968, however, the “rationale” for providing medical services on a fee basis to union members dissolved and, as was noted, the clinic closed its doors for good in 1996.

The final remarks for the evening were delivered by Abe Anhang (who was one of the original founders of the Jewish Historical Society of Western Canada, in 1967). He noted that “49 years ago the objective of the Jewish Historical Society was to record the lives of as many members of our community as possible. We started with six people”, (of whom two, including Anhang, are still alive).
Anhang disclosed that Eva Wiseman (Nathan’s wife, and an accomplished author in her own right), has been chosen to write the history of Jewish physicians in Manitoba once the archival material that is now being assembled is completed.
Interestingly, Anhang also made the following observation, in describing what the members of the advisory board for the project to chronicle the lives of Jewish physicians here expected to find: “When we went into the archive to do the book we thought we’d find tons of stuff. Unfortunately, we realized doctors were too busy to leave an archive of their work.”
Anhang went on to pay tribute to Dr. Nathan Wiseman for coming up with the idea of having an evening of vignettes. “We’re hoping to do one or more two evenings like this in the coming months,” he said.

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