OSE-TOZ. Records.

Title: Records of the OSE-TOZ (Obshchestvo Zdravookhraneniia Evreev/ Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jews), RG 53
ID: RG 53
expand icon Biographical/Historical

Established by a group of Jewish doctors, lawyers and prominent public figures in St. Petersburg, OSE sought to create an All-Russian Jewish welfare system with the goal of promoting the study and knowledge of medical and sanitary practices, detecting and curing diseases among Jews, preventing epidemics, and creating living conditions conducive to the normal physical and mental development of Jewish children. It incorporated existing communal philanthropic organizations (such as “Bikkur holim,” “Linot ha-tsedek,” “Rofe holim,” etc.) and a few modern medical institutions (such as the Jewish Hospital in Kiev and the Jewish Children Hospital in Warsaw).

Beginning in 1913-1914, OZE organized summer camps for needy children, consultations for mother and infant health protection, clinics, and Drop of Milk stations to promote breast-feeding and educate women about modern methods of infant care. By August 1917, there were 45 OZE branches (with ca. 15.000 members) operating in 102 different cities in the territories of the former Russian Empire. They maintained 90 out-patient clinics, 19 hospitals, four clinics for children with tuberculosis, 19 feeding centers and nine dining-halls for children, 125 nurseries (with 12.000 children), two sanatoria for tuberculosis patients, 24 summer camps, and many other medical and child-care facilities.

At the time of World War I and the Civil War, OZE (OSE)  focused most of its efforts on bringing special relief measures to the hundreds of thousands of Jewish war refugees, deportees, and pogrom victims, preventing the spread of mass epidemics and actively collaborating with YEKOPO (Jewish Relief Committee for War Victims) and Yidgezkom (in Yiddish, Yidisher gezelshatlekher komitet - in Russian, Evreiskii Obshchestvenniy Komitet) or the Jewish Social Committee for the Help of Pogrom Victims. While OZE was officially closed down in Soviet Russia by 1921, its leaders and activists continued to provide assistance to the Jewish population through different socio-medical activities and facilities, mainly with the support of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Medical-sanitary institutions continued to operate in the cities and shtetlekh of Ukraine and Belorussia, providing assistance especially to the so-called “lishchentsy,” who had been disenfranchised and were consequently not entitled to state medical services. A large percentage of “lishchentsy” were Jewish.

Following the end of the war, branches of OSE spread to the newly established states of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Rumania, as well as to other countries in Central and Western Europe, thus becoming a global Jewish organization for health care and children’s welfare. In December 1922, after the Soviets dissolved the organization, a small group of OSE activists (led by Dr. M. Gran) fled Soviet Russia and established in Berlin the OSE World Union (OSE Weltfarband). In the mid-1920s, the old acronym with a slight change was fitted with the new name “Oeuvre De Secour Aux Enfants” (OSE), or Society for the Aid of Children. The general meaning of the acronym of its French name, with which the organization became known, remained the same, as did its main purpose of Jewish social welfare organization. In 1933, after Hitler’s rise to power, OSE transferred its headquarters from Berlin to Paris (and from 1940-1945 to New York City).

Established in Poland, in 1921, TOZ remained closely associated with OSE, sharing the same program of activities. Because of World War I and its disarraying consequences, especially in the eastern regions, TOZ concentrated its relief efforts primarily on battling contagious diseases and epidemics caused by poverty, malnourishment and the deplorable sanitary conditions of the Jewish population. In collaboration with OSE, TOZ carried out a broad educational campaign to promote general hygiene and teach methods of preventing the spread of skin and eye diseases (ringworm and trachoma) and tuberculosis. Lectures were delivered in community centers and schools, articles were published in medical periodicals, and propaganda posters and flyers (mostly produced by the Berlin OSE Committee) were distributed throughout the towns of Eastern Europe.

In Poland, TOZ published three periodicals related to social, medical and sanitary issues. Published in Vilna from 1923 to 1937, the monthly and later by-weekly Folks-Gezunt was a popular-scientific journal for the broad Jewish public. Its editor, Dr. Tsemakh Szabad, was chairman of the Vilna TOZ Committee, as well as a co-founder of YIVO. Gezunt was a youth magazine for Jewish school-children. TOZ Yedyes (Wiadomości Toz-u, in Polish) was a Polish-Yiddish bilingual scientific journal issued in Warsaw, from 1927; in January 1931, its name changed to Sotsyale meditsin in Yiddish, and Medycyna Społeczna in Polish.

In the interwar period, TOZ and OSE established an impressive network of health clinics, Drop of Milk stations, Mother and Infant clinics, x-ray departments, sanatoria and convalescent homes; supported orphanages and hospitals; and organized sport activities, supplemental nourishment programs for poor children, and summer and day camps. In Poland, TOZ and OSE collaborated as separate organizations until 1926. After a short period of operating as a single organization (under the name <span class="highlight0 bold">OSE-TOZ</span>), in 1927 TOZ took over the OSE institutions in Poland and Lithuania. TOZ remained closely associated with OSE headquarters in Western Europe. The JDC in New York also provided financial support for projects to improve the living conditions of the impoverished Jewish masses, distributed food, helped to set up public health care institutions, and aided schools and vocational programs.

By 1939, TOZ was responsible for 368 medical and public health institutions located in 72 different cities and towns in Poland, and employed approximately 1,000 doctors, nurses, dentists, medical assistants, instructors and teachers. Annual membership fees were paid by 15,443 supporters.

The outbreak of World War II and the Nazi invasion of Europe put an end to the flourishing activities and growth of TOZ: its institutions were closed down in 1942, its property confiscated and looted, and most of its patients and personnel killed.

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