The April sun glints upon steel helmets of demolition workers atop the old Jewish Hospital (1927), shrink-wrapped in braces, its bricks having been removed months before. Acetylene torches slice metal rods. Sledgehammers free wires from plaster walls, then scooped up by the Ditch Witch mini skid steer. On a lower level, soot-covered tables and chairs and planters suggest an area once used for lunch or cigarette breaks. And on the ground, earth-moving machines resemble spiders, their flexible arms bucketing more debris into trucks to be hauled away. Around the perimeter of this site, great wind machines spew moisture upon spirals of dust, clogging the air.

Six months later, all that remains is a gaping hole, filled with more earth-moving “spiders,” excavating deeper into the ground. The old foundation of the hospital has already been crushed into pebbles to be used in the new buildings. Steel-banded retaining walls configure the new perimeter of the planned complex.

For over one year, crews of Ahrens Contracting, Inc. have been dismantling both Jewish Hospital and School of Nursing and the old Children’s Hospital, the first phase of the five-year Campus Renewal Project. In their vacated spaces will appear a twin tower complex, more in keeping with projected medical technology and patient care.

What is poignant about this story is the disappearance of these Jewish facilities that had served doctors and nurses and patients in the Metro area since 1902. Because of anti-Semitism rife in our city, they were not welcomed in other care facilities. Only the name, Jewish, continues to appear in the 1993 merger with Barnes and Christian Hospitals.

All of this recalls the saying emerging from an ancient wisdom tradition, “a time to build and a time to tear down. ” Ecclesiastes, 3:3. Within the grand scheme of things, the St. Louis Jewish health facilities have served patients well. I know. In January 1977, I spent two days there.

 

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