Lack of adequate medical aid is one of the acute problems of the Jews in Russia, says a report issued by the headquarters of the United Jewish Campaign.
Since Jews, under the traditional restrictions in pre-war Russia, had to seek their livelihood in largest numbers in trading and peddling, they now make up the largest proportion of the “declassed” in the new Russia. They are automatically denied the prerogatives of the accepted citizen classes, such as access to hospitals and other public health and social institutions at a time, when illness is widespread and lowered vitality among the people has resulted in greater susceptibility to diseases of all sorts.
The manner in which the disqualified urban Jewry is endeavoring to devise ways of meeting this need in some sort by creating such means of its own as it can, is shown in the rapid increase in the number of Jewish “social relief societies” existing for the support of hospitals and dispensaries. According to Dr. Zionovy M. Serebrianny, secretary of the Medical Commission of the Joint Distribution Committee in Russia, these organizations have grown from 3 societies in 1923 to 55 this year, functioning in the same number of towns which have a total Jewish population of 1,100,000 persons.
A report from Dr. Serebrianny setting forth the relation of these societies to the Jewish health situation in Russia was made public by David A. Brown, national chairman of the United Jewish Campaign.
On May 1, 1927, 36 of these societies were supporting 38 dispensaries and 4 hospitals, with a budget of 639,000 roubles ($319,950), an increase of 44 percent over the 1926 budget of 358,000 roubles.
An average of 30 per cent of the total pudget of these societies is furnished by the JDC Medical Commission, both in the form of maintenance funds and as one-time subventions for needed equipment and repair of buildings of the institutions. The remaining 70 per cent is raised from local sources, by means of membership contributions to the societies, special collections, subventions from credit societies, and fees paid for medical service of the institutions. A tabulation of the maintanance sources of the six strongest and most deveioped societies, those of Kiev, Ekaterinoslav, Oddessa, Minsk, Gomel and Poltava, shows the proportion of such self-supporting income from the paid service of the institutions to range from 4 per cent in Ekaterinoslav to 32 per cent in Odesa.
Dr. Serebrianny points out that of the whole group of 55 “social relief” societies, 47 were organized by the initiative and with the aid of the JDC.
In this initiative, however, Russian Jewry itself participates. The conduct of the entire J. D. C. medical program is in the hands of a committee of local Jewish medical men, all of them of eminent scientific standing, in charge respectively in the chief cities of the regions in which the work is being done. The committee includes Dr. Abraham Dramson, Leningrad; Dr. Serebrianny and Dr. Mark Gran, Moscow; Dr. Roseman, Odessa; Professor Sklovsky, Kiev; Dr. Chasin, Kherson; Dr. Kirzhner, Krivoy-Rog; Dr. Levin, Minsk; and Dr. Brois Chanvis, Ekaterinoslav, who is in charge of the work in the agricultural colonies. The annual budget of the J. D. C. for medical work in Russia, both urban and rural, is $200,000.
The capacity of the 38 dispensaries maintained jointly by the social relief societies and the J. D. C. is about 300,000 patients a year. In 1926, a total of 600,000 patients’ visits is recorded and medicines given free of charge are measured in a total of 400,000 prescriptions. The four hospitals in 1926 ministered to more than 3,000 persons with a total of more than 37,000 hospital days given for their care.
The best developed of these organizations are shown to have a large membership in their communities. The Kiev society has more than 4,500 members, that of Ekateninoslav 2,000, Minsk 4,000, Odessa about 2,000.
Because of the limited funds at the disposal of the JDC Medical Commission, the growth of the societies, which means in the course of time an increase of local collections, brings with it the possibility of reduction and in some cases discontinuance of their subvention from the J. D. C., in order to make the funds thus released available for aiding societies in process of formation, or newly organized ones which in the initial stages require aid to the extent of 45-55 per cent of their budgets.
Mr. Brown cites the work of these societies, carrying on by volunteer devotion a tremendous and vital task in the life-and-death struggle of the Jews of the Russian cities, as one of the crucial instances of a hope implanted and a beginning of actual accomplishment which must not be suffered to lapse now in a moment when its first results give the spur to renewed initiative, and a first augury of really constructive possibilities.
“That minimum of funds must continue to be provided’, he declared, “by every appeal that I can make to the Jews of America. We can only keep up the work if the support for which I have been asking from our leaders all over the country will be granted — if we can be assured of a sulficient rurning in of funds in our pledge collections through the next immediate months to meet the appropriations scheduled for all the divisions of our work in Europe. These “declassed” people are struggling to give themselves that merest physical succour in sickness which simple mercy, the merest decency, gives to anyone, the very lowest and neediest. Shall we “declass” them in their right to even that-shall we “declass” them as claimants on our humanity?”