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March 02, 1984 - Image 30

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-03-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

30 Friday, March 2, 1984



Jerusalem's Legendary `Schwester Selma'

Wi*11• 111
R MAME?
VERYTHIMG!

By SIMON GRIVER

World Zionist Press Service

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(Editor's note: Selma
Mayer, known to
thousands of persons as
"Schwester Selma" —
Sister Selma — during
her 60 years as head
nurse at Shaare Zedek
Hospital in Jerusalem,
marked her 100th birth-
day on Feb. 2 and died in
her sleep two days later
in her hospital apart-
ment.)
JERUSALEM — Reach-
ing the age of 100 is re-
markable in the most favor-
able of circumstances. But
Selma Mayer enjoyed

The Cultural Commission of
Congregation Shaarey Zedek
cordially invites you to attend a

PATRONS CHAMPAGNE PREVIEW — FINE ARTS EXHIBITION AND SALE

(Jewish artists — selected galleries)
Tuesday evening, 8 P.M., March 13, 1984
Morris Adler Hall
Donation $12.50 per person

----Door Prizes Opening Night Only

Hope Palmer, art professor at Wayne State University,
to speak at 9 P.M. on
"From The Heart; The Importance of Self in Modern Art"

Exhibition and Sale continue
March 14 (1-10 p.m.)
March 15 (1-5 p.m.)

ADMISSION FREE

For patron ticket information contact:
Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Cherrin
Dr. and Mrs. Paul Gold
Dr. and Mrs. Richard Brown
855 9616
644 2220
855 6177
Mrs. Linda Zalla, Fine Arts Chairperson

-

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PARTICIPATING GALLERIES

Cantor-Lemberg
Gallery 22
I. Irving Feldman
James Hunt Barker

Park West
Rubiner
Schweyer-Galdo
Sheldon Ross

Franklin Siden
Sixth Street
Susanne Hilberry
Town. Center
Troy

longevity despite a life of
selfless, unstinting toil in
the most adverse condi-
tions, devoting round-the-
clock dedication to the
patients that her nursing
vocation committed her to
heal.
Though surrounded by
death, disease, war and de-
struction, Selma Mayer,
known popularly as Schwes-
ter Selma, survived because
of a unique physical and
moral determination. For
68 years she was associated
with Shaare Zedek Hospital
in Jerusalem.
During those years she
witnessed revolutionary
changes. Shaare Zedek
Hospital itself, founded by
Jews from Germany, has
grown from a tiny clinic
lacking the most fundamen-
tal facilities into a sophisti-
cated modern medical es-
tablishment. At the same
time, since arriving in
Jerusalem in 1916 she saw
the city evolve from a sleepy
desert outpost under Tur
kish rule into the thriving
capital of the new Jewish
state.
Selma Mayer also
watched medicine trans-
formed from an optimis-
tic science often groping
in the dark into a disci-
pline frequently capable
of performing the most
wondrous of cures. How-
ever, her prescription for
her patients consistently
remained an old
fashioned one. For Selma
Mayer grasped that a cup
of tea, and a kind,
encouraging chat with an
anxious patient, can fre-
quently provide the sick
with the sort of motiva-
tion to get well that mod-
ern drugs cannot pro-
vide.

This philosophy has
greatly influenced Shaare
Zedek which has sought to
combine modern clinical
methods with traditional
care and attention. Selma
Mayer's humane outlook
also earned her a place in
Time magazine's cover
story in 1975 entitled "Liv-
ing Saints." She was
heralded as a "messenger of
love and hope" along with
Sister Teresa, the Calcutta
nun who received the Nobel
Peace Prize for her work
among Indian peasants.
Time magazine pointed
out that Jews talk not of
saints but of tzadiks, righ-
teous people. It speculated
that Selma Mayer might be
one of the 36 tzadikim that
according to Jewish lore

SELMA MAYER

exist in every generation
and upon whom depends the
merit of the world's exist-
ence. Certainly she found
an appropriate home in a
hospital whose name in
English means "Gates of the
Righteous."
Mayer's original home
was the German town of
Hanau, where she was born
in 1884. She came from a
poor family and was one of
five children. Life was
made especially difficult
after her mother's death
when Selma Mayer was
only five years old.
"Because I lost my
mother when I was
young," she said, "I be-
came determined to give
to others what I had mis-
sed — motherly love and
affection and concern for
human beings."
Reading about the
endeavors of Florence
Nightingale during the
Crimean War, Mayer de-
cided to emulate her life.
She joinded the Solomon
Heine Hospital in Hamburg
(named after the uncle of
the famous Jewish German
poet Heinrich Heine) and
qualified as a nurse when
she was 22.
During World War I, Dr.
Moshe Wallach who had
founded Shaare Zedek
in Jerusalem came to
Hamburg to recruit
desperately-needed doctors
and nurses. Nurse Mayer
felt compelled to go, though
her relatives and friends
told her she was insane.

When she arrived in
Jerusalem in 1916, a terri-
ble typhoid epidemic raged.
Schwester Selma worked
day and night with the
other volunteers to do what
she could. Equipment and
expertise were lacking but
enthusiasm and energy
were in abundance.
Slowly a Western way
of life was introduced
into Palestine a's
Jerusalem fell into

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British hands. But Selma
Mayer continued to pine
for her native Germany,
though by adopting two
orphans in Jerusalem a
return to Europe became
unthinkable. After the
Nazis assumed power in
Germany in 1933 she
pined no longer. Mayer
knew that as a Jew her
home was in Jerusalem.
Now unequivocally com-
mitted to the Zionist cause,
Selma Mayer as head nurse
of Shaare Zedek contributed
a lion's share to the progress
of the hospital. Through the
tragedies of Israel's wars
she treated the wounded,
and as hundreds of
thousands of destitute refu-
gees streamed into the
country, she healed their
diseases.
"In the 1950s, polio was
our greatest enemy," she re-
collected. "We had not
serum for preventive in-
noculations, and iron lungs
for treating those who were
crippled were awkward to
handle. But under the cir-
cumstances we battled
through satisfactorily."
Many have sought out
Selma Mayer to commend
her for her incredible devo-
tion. Jerusalem Mayor
Teddy Kollek awarded her
the Jerusalem Medal, while
the relative of a Holocaust
victim gave her a diamond
ring, requesting that it be
passed from generation to
generation to an individual
devoted to helping man-
kind.
To mark her centenary,
1984, has been declared
"Schwester Selma Year"
and a nursing education
fund has been estab-
lished in her name by
Shaare Zedek.
It is hoped that young
nurses will be inspired by
the motto of Selma Mayer,
taken from the Bengali poet
Rabindranath Tagore. The
motto still hangs on the wall
of her room in Shaare
Zedek:
I slept and dreamt
That life was joy
I awoke and saw
That life was duty
I acted and behold,
Duty was joy.

Correction

The book review of
"Conservative Judaism: A
Contemporary History"
(Feb. 24 issue, Page 4)
should have stated that
the movement had its
foundation in the Haskala
movement in the latter
part of the 16th Century.

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