National Home for Jewish Children in Denver (1928-1952)
The National Asthma Center (NAC) existed under a series of names. It was The National Asthma Center (NAC) (1973-1978) had a series of names: the Denver Sheltering Home for Jewish Children (1907-1927), National Home for Jewish Children in Denver (1928-1952), Jewish National Home for Asthmatic Children in Denver (JNHAC) (1953-1956), and the Children's Asthma Research Institute and Hospital (CARIH) (1957-1972). NAC was an independent institution from 1907 until 1978, when it merged with National Jewish Hospital to form the National Jewish Hospital and Research Center/National Asthma Center. The NAC campus in west Denver at 19th and Julian Streets sold in 1981. During the last part of the nineteenth century, Denver, Colorado, became a haven for those suffering from tuberculosis, "the white plague." However, no formal medical treatment facilities existed until the opening of the National Jewish Hospital (NJH) in 1899. Five years later, the Jewish Consumptives' Relief Society (JCRS) began treating patients with advanced cases of tuberculosis. A Denver housewife, Fannie Lorber, became concerned about the plight of Jewish children left homeless by a parent's hospitalization or orphaned by a parent's death at NJH or JCRS. In 1907, she and her friends Bessie Willens and Sadie Francis organized other local East European immigrant women and founded the Denver Sheltering Home. For the next 51 years, Fannie Lorber presided over the volunteer board of the Home and was the driving force behind fundraising efforts. At first, funded entirely by the Denver Jewish Community, the Home's expansion eventually led to a system of fundraising Ladies' Auxiliaries throughout the United States. The Home initially sheltered only orphaned or neglected children of tuberculosis victims, but it soon expanded its mission to help combat delinquency among Denver's Jewish children. An arrangement was made with Judge Ben B. Lindsey to send first offenders to the Home rather than to a detention center. (Judge Lindsey created the Colorado Juvenile Court system.) The Home also began taking in orphaned and needy children from other cities, and by 1920, approximately 100 children were living on the expanded campus. The Home's founders aimed to provide a cultured, stimulating, and Jewish environment for the children that was as close to family life as possible, unlike most orphanages of the period. In 1939 the Home instituted the long-term residential treatment of children with intractable asthma. In the 1950s, medical, psychiatric, and research personnel were added to treat children with asthma and allergies. In 1951, Dr. Allan Hurst became the first full-time medical director, and Jack Gershtenson became the administrator, a position he held for nearly thirty years. The Home officially became a non-sectarian in 1953. Dr. Murray Pershkin, chief consultant to the home from 1940 until 1959, advocated '"parentectomy,"' the removal of the child from his or her home for up to two years. In 1957, the Children's Asthma Research Institute and Hospital was created. At the time, it was the only research facility in the country dedicated to asthma and allergic diseases. In 1966, Drs. Kimishige and Taruko Ishizaka, a husband and wife research team at CARIH, discovered immunoglobin E, the physiological basis for asthma. In 1972, CARIH became the National Asthma Center. By the 1970s, National Jewish Hospital had gone from treating tuberculosis to treating a broader range of respiratory diseases, including asthma. It was decided in 1978 that a merger of the two institutions would be beneficial. Patients remained at the NAC campus until 1981, when it was closed. Fannie Lorber was president from 1907 to 1958, Arthur Lorber was president from 1958 to 1975, and Charles M. Schayer was president from 1975 to 1978.
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Topics covered: About half of the interview is family history, biographical information; second half of interview covers experience on the NAC board.