Page 190 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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the year before). In the ER awaited shootout and stabbing survi­
vors. Only a few hours earlier, a youngish man walked into the
clinic, asking for sutures for recendy-acquired cuts. He smirked as
he spoke. Then, when he held out his hands, I squirmed when I saw
his knuckles covered with the same
l - o - v - e — h - a - t - e
tattoo sported
by Richard Speck, killer of six unsuspecting student nurses on Chi­
cago’s South Side, during the Sixties.
Take the time to read Harry Friedenwald’s writings about the ad­
mission of Jews to medieval Montpelier medical school, in twelfth
century France, when a second Richard Speck might be making his
way through the city? No way. Not then. It was more than a matter
of soon-to-be-overdue school assignments. This was 1972, when
“relevance” was the over-worked word of the era. The times still
smarted from student protests. Previously-peaceful civil rights
marches routinely went awry. History was reinventing itself by the
minute, and the words “be here now” were the battle cry of Ameri­
can baby-boomers. And so, I must admit, however curious I was
about Friedenwald’s account, I felt no pressing need to read this staid
and sober account summary ofJewish involvement in medicine.
As it turned out, the rudimentary research paper I was writing
went out-of-date almost as soon as it was written, which is not that
surprising. Even the most “modern” of medical studies stay “mod­
ern” for only a few months, maybe some years at the most, after
which time they tend to look as tired as those old issues of Time or
Newsweek that lie crumpled up in clinic waiting rooms.
Ironically, the “relevance” of Friedenwald’s work endured, and
his three-volume series still looks as fresh as when it was first pub­
lished in 1944. And to imagine that it was written by someone born
in 1864, smack in the middle of the Civil War. True, it took me
nearly twenty-five years to peruse his History of the Jews in Med­
icine. But when I did get around to reading it—after finding foot­
notes to Friedenwald in all recent research on the subject—I
realized immediately how much indebted contemporary work on
the Jews and Medicine is to Friedewald’s singular efforts. And I re­
alized how “relevant” his books would have been, had I taken the
time to read them back then.