The JGH Archives is celebrating the 100th International Women’s Day by featuring Taube Kaplan, founder of the Hebrew Maternity Hospital, as well as one of the leading fundraisers for the establishment of the Jewish General Hospital in 1934.
From humble beginnings as a community Hebrew and Jewish religion teacher, Taube Kaplan (affectionately known in the Jewish community as the “Greene Rebitzin”) had made it her life's commitment to create and extend hospital facilities for Montreal Jewry. Aware that Jewish patients did not have proper access to kosher food in non-Jewish hospitals and that new Jewish immigrants often faced a language barrier when seeking health services, Mrs. Kaplan began her charitable work as one of the principal fundraisers in the campaign to establish the Herzl Dispensary, Canada's first Jewish clinic, in 1912. The health care system at the time offered minimal prenatal care for women and doctors made house calls only during labor or if complications were serious. Mrs. Kaplan embarked on a personal campaign for the establishment of a maternity hospital for Jewish and non-Jewish women by raising money for many years, through arduous door-to-door campaigning during tough Montreal winters and scorching summers, collecting change from anyone who had anything to spare. Eventually, she raised $7 000 and with the help of donors and fellow fundraisers, the Hebrew Maternity Hospital was officially incorporated in 1916.
Although she was an essential contributor and activist in the founding of Montreal's Jewish health facilities, Taube Kaplan consistently refused to be honored. Remaining true to her modest roots, she turned down the position of President of the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Maternity Hospital and a position on the Board of Directors of the Hospital. Mrs. Kaplan was not concerned with being rewarded for her good work; she had already turned her focus on an even larger project — the creation of a spacious general hospital, run by and largely for her fellow Jews. Not long after the opening of the Hebrew Maternity Hospital, she resumed her house to house canvassing in the Jewish district for the building of the Jewish hospital and later offered her fund of several thousand dollars to the official Hospital committee. Kaplan, an elderly woman by the time the JGH opened in 1934, continued to contribute money and equipment, but turned down the privilege of having a ward named after her in the newly built Hospital.
Taube Kaplan died on August 11, 1940 in the Montreal Hebrew Old People’s and Sheltering Home. Her vision and determination in the founding and development of health facilities for Jewish and non-Jewish Montrealers are what helped make the dream of a Jewish General Hospital come true.