Helena Kagan

Helena Kagan

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Helena Kagan was a physician, an Israeli pioneer in pediatrics, who was responsible for the expansion of health care in Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

.

Early life


Kagan was born in 1889 in Tashkent
Tashkent
Tashkent is the capital of Uzbekistan and of the Tashkent Province. The officially registered population of the city in 2008 was about 2.2 million. Unofficial sources estimate the actual population may be as much as 4.45 million.-Early Islamic History:...

, Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

, then part of the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, to Miriam and Moshe Kagan. Kagan’s father was a chemical engineer, sent to establish and supervise the construction of glass-manufacturing plants in Tashkent. In early 1905, Kagan traveled to Switzerland to study piano at the Bern Conservatory. At the same time, she began premedical studies as an external student. Later she entered medical school as a regular student.

In 1910, she completed her basic medical studies and specialized in pediatrics. Upon completing her studies, Kagan traveled to Russia and from there, in 1914, she and her mother left for Ottoman Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

. After a brief stay in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv , officially Tel Aviv-Yafo , is the second most populous city in Israel, with a population of 404,400 on a land area of . The city is located on the Israeli Mediterranean coastline in west-central Israel. It is the largest and most populous city in the metropolitan area of Gush Dan, with...

, the two moved to Jerusalem, where Kagan spent the rest of her life. She lived in a stone house at No. 64 Street of the Prophets
Street of the Prophets
Street of the Prophets is an east-west axis road in Jerusalem beginning outside Damascus Gate and ending at Davidka Square. Located to the north of Jaffa Road, it bisects the neighborhood of Musrara....

, which had been built by English painter William Holman Hunt
William Holman Hunt
William Holman Hunt OM was an English painter, and one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.-Biography:...

 in 1869, and began to set up a medical practice.

In 1936, Kagan married Emil Hauser (1893–1978), a gifted violinist who in 1933 founded the Palestine Conservatory of Music in Jerusalem, which he directed for many years and of which Kagan herself served as honorary secretary from 1938 to 1946. The Conservatory later became the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance
Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance
The Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance , founded in 1958 as the Rubin Academy of Music, is located on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.-History:...

. The couple’s home was a center of music and culture, serving as a gathering place for concerts and meetings with local and international Zionist
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

 leaders.

Career


When World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 broke out, the Ottoman authorities did not permit her to work as a doctor. From 1914 to 1916 she worked as a nurse at the municipal hospital. Kagan also trained Arab and Jewish girls aged fifteen to sixteen to serve as hospital nurses, and worked with public health nurses sent by Hadassah
Hadassah
Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America is an American Jewish volunteer women's organization. Founded in 1912 by Henrietta Szold, it is one of the largest international Jewish organizations, with around...

 in America to establish a visiting nurse program for mother and child care.

Kagan continued to provide medical assistance from her home. To help solve infant malnutrition problems, she acquired a cow and gave the milk to sick children who visited her clinic. Over time, Kagan earned the trust of both the Jewish and Arab communities, despite the fact that she was a young, inexperienced, female physician.

In 1916, Dr. Abraham Ticho, an ophthalmologist, was expelled by the Turks. He handed over his hospital and its equipment to Kagan to provide medical services. She turned the Ticho's hospital into the first Jewish children’s hospital in Palestine. Kagan also created a day-care center for working mothers in the hospital.

In 1919, the children's hospital was transferred to the Rothschild-Hadassah
Hadassah
Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America is an American Jewish volunteer women's organization. Founded in 1912 by Henrietta Szold, it is one of the largest international Jewish organizations, with around...

 hospital, where it was integrated as the pediatrics department. Kagan was appointed head of pediatrics and ran the department until 1925. She continued operating a private clinic in her home and set up WIZO
Women's International Zionist Organization
The Women's International Zionist Organization , is a volunteer organization dedicated to social welfare in all sectors of Israeli society, the advancement of the status of women, and Jewish education in Israel and the Diaspora.-History:...

’s well-baby clinics.

In 1921, the first Tipat Halav clinic in the Old City of Jerusalem, a health center for mothers, infants and young children. Kagan volunteered as the pediatrician of the clinic. She instructed pregnant women and mothers in the care of their children, and promoted preventive medicine despite the difficult living conditions Jerusalem, at he time. She was also active in founding other Tipat Halav clinics and a network of WIZO daycare centers. She established WIZO’s Childcare Division, which she headed until 1966.

In 1924, Kagan set up a children's home in the Sha'arei Hesed
Sha'arei Hesed
Sha'arei Hesed is a neighborhood in central Jerusalem, Israel, bordering Rehavia, Nahlaot and Wolfson Towers.One of the founders of the neighborhood was Yoel Moshe Salomon, who also founded Nahalat Shiva...

 neighborhood of Jerusalem for orphans. Kagan served as medical director. In 1925, she began working at the Infants Home for Arab Children in the Old City of Jerusalem, where she served as medical director until 1948, when Jews were barred from that section of the city. In 1936, she established Bikur Holim Hospital
Bikur Holim Hospital
Bikur Holim Hospital is a hospital in Jerusalem, Israel.-History:Bikur Holim first opened in a residential building in the Old City in 1826. In 1843, the hospital had only three rooms for patients. In 1854, a building was purchased which soon grew overcrowded...

's pediatrics department, which she headed until 1975. Kagan also established a special rheumatic fever division, combining it with her pediatrics department.

She later served as chairwoman of the Israel Medical Association
Israel Medical Association
Israel Medical Association , is a professional association of doctors in Israel. It traces its origins to The Hebrew Medicinal Society for Jaffa and the Jaffa District, founded in 1912, which later became The Hebrew Medical Association in the Land of Israel ...

's medical advisory committee on rheumatic fever.

In July 1965, she founded a residential facility for asthmatic children in conjunction with the WIZO Baby Home in Jerusalem.

In the War of Independence, During the siege of Jerusalem, Kagan was appointed director of the medical department of the Jewish community of Jerusalem, ran all medical and sanitary services in the city. Her work included care of refugees from the Arab neighborhoods and people confined to bomb shelters. She took many babies from dangerous areas to stay at the WIZO Baby Home.

In 1931, Kagan was elected to the (pre-State) Elected Assembly of the Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

 as the WIZO representative. She also served on the Jewish National Council, representing women.

In 1937, she was appointed a member of the board of the Association of Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem ; ; abbreviated HUJI) is Israel's second-oldest university, after the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. The Hebrew University has three campuses in Jerusalem and one in Rehovot. The world's largest Jewish studies library is located on its Edmond J...

. In 1947, she was elected to the Executive of the Nominations Committee and the Board of Trustees of Hebrew University and in 1965 she became vice-chairwoman of the Board. Kagan was active in the Palestine-Jerusalem Pediatric Association, serving as its chairwoman from 1926 to 1943, in 1951 and in 1958. She also chaired the Health Ministry’s Advisory Committee on Child Welfare from 1953 to 1956.

In her later years, Kagan continued to treat patients in her home and to engage in communal work. She died childless on August 22, 1978.

Prizes and awards


  • In 1963, she received an award from the La Rabida Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases of the University of Chicago
    University of Chicago
    The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

     for her contribution to research on rheumatic fever.
  • In 1967, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University, together with then-Chief of General Staff Yitzhak Rabin
    Yitzhak Rabin
    ' was an Israeli politician, statesman and general. He was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, serving two terms in office, 1974–77 and 1992 until his assassination in 1995....

     and President of Israel Zalman Shazar
    Zalman Shazar
    Zalman Shazar was an Israeli politician, author. and poet. Shazar served as the third President of Israel from 1963 to 1973.-Biography:...

    .
  • In 1975, in honor of International Women’s Year, she was awarded the Israel Prize
    Israel Prize
    The Israel Prize is an award handed out by the State of Israel and is largely regarded as the state's highest honor. It is presented annually, on Israeli Independence Day, in a state ceremony in Jerusalem, in the presence of the President, the Prime Minister, the Knesset chairperson, and the...

    , for her special contribution to society and the state in community service.

See also

  • List of Israel Prize recipients
  • Health care in Israel
    Health care in Israel
    Health care in Israel is universal and participation in a medical insurance plan is compulsory. Health care coverage is administered by a small number of organizations, with funding from the government...