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Beating the Flu – Tablet Magazine

Beating the Flu – Tablet Magazine

100 years in the past, as the so-called Spanish flu took maintain of a lot of the nation, the commissioners of Albuquerque, New Mexico, declared a state of emergency. The town, which had a inhabitants of underneath 15,000 at the time, had been devastated by 923 instances of influenza and 167 deaths. Considered one of the most passionate proponents of a citywide quarantine—together with closing the railroad—was Rabbi Moise Bergman of Albuquerque’s Congregation Albert. It was not a place that happy all of his followers: Lots of the members of the Reform congregation, established in 1897, have been retail retailers whose livelihoods depended upon railroad visitors. Nor was a quarantine in style amongst candidates for political workplace in an election yr.

However the quarantine finally helped shield the metropolis throughout the peak of the epidemic. And Bergman’s activism—together with working an emergency hospital for the poor and elevating cash for these widowed or orphaned by influenza—finally gained him the help of his congregants, fellow clergy, and the group at giant.


Bergman was born in Louisiana in April 1878, the son of a businessman. After receiving rabbinical coaching at the Hebrew Union School in Cincinnati, Bergman took the pulpit of the Gates of Prayer congregation in the metropolis of Lafayette, Louisiana, in 1906. In 1911, then-rabbi of Congregation Albert, Mendel Silber, switched pulpits with Bergman, whose spouse, Joycie Kamien Bergman, was unwell and maybe required a drier local weather; simply two years aside at Hebrew Union School, it’s doubtless that Bergman and Silber have been pals.

Rabbi Moise Bergman  (Photograph courtesy Congregation Albert, Albuquerque.)

When Bergman took the pulpit, Congregation Albert was the solely synagogue in Albuquerque. Along with tending his congregants, Bergman was a sought-after speaker and lively in the Albuquerque group, serving as secretary and later president of Albuquerque’s ecumenical Board of Charities. By all measures, Bergman was revered by his fellow clergy, a few of whom even referred to as upon him to take their pulpits throughout absences, as he did with the Methodist Episcopal Church in Santa Fe.

In August 1918, Albuquerque was extra targeted on information of the struggle than on the menace of influenza, and Bergman was busy promoting Liberty Bonds and planning a group rally to honor Common Pershing. In accordance with stories, the flu outbreak in the area started in Carlsbad and Gallup, New Mexico. By September and October, instances started to emerge in Albuquerque, the state’s largest metropolis, resulting in restrictions on indoor conferences and railroad visitors, in addition to faculty closures and the quarantine of stricken college students at the College of New Mexico.

Beneath the course of Bergman and the Board of Charities, a colony of TB sufferers was already receiving meals and medical remedy. In response to hospital crowding, the group transformed the TB colony right into a makeshift hospital for flu victims. When the outbreak taxed the group past its monetary capability, Bergman turned to the papers to ask the public for donations of meals and drugs, adamant that the poor have been struggling disproportionately. He finally raised $10,000 for the youngsters and ladies who have been orphaned or widowed because of the flu epidemic.

As the month marched on, the solely exception made for a public gathering was the armistice parade and celebration—marking the finish of the conflict—which started the night time of Nov. 11 and lasted properly into the subsequent day.

Albuquerqueans, no matter age, nationality or intercourse, joined virtually as a unit in giving vent of their emotions of pleasure of the signing of the armistice by the Germans. Celebrations might come and celebrations might go, however none will surpass in enthusiasm the one held right here right now.
—Albuquerque Journal, November 12, 1918

One may additionally speculate that the revelers have been overjoyed to collect and have fun in a public setting after no less than of month of isolation.

Citing the current deaths of two schoolchildren in the previous 24 hours, on Nov. 19, 1918, metropolis commissioners prolonged their earlier quarantine. Bergman adamantly supported their choice.

It’s exhausting to reply the man who says his enterprise has been harm by the quarantine however will probably be unimaginable to reply the one who says my baby has died due to the neglect of the state. –Rabbi Bergman, Albuquerque Journal, November 26, 1918

Bergman didn’t exaggerate. The flu was extra lethal for the state’s residents than the entirety of WWI, during which 215 New Mexicans have been killed in motion. Of the 15,000 New Mexicans who contracted the flu, greater than 1,000 finally died in the epidemic, in line with the New Mexico Workplace of the State Historian. Obituaries of flu victims crammed the papers.

Benjamin Menke, age 16, died at house from pneumonia (a complication of the flu). His sister, Lydia, age 18, died two days earlier of the similar illness.
—Albuquerque Journal, November 20, 1918

Regardless of the hazard, there was nonetheless not common help for extending the quarantine. Metropolis commissioners have been threatened with a recall. Businesspeople have been impatient, together with Bergman’s personal congregants. J.A. Weinman, proprietor of the Golden Rule Dry Items Co. was quoted in an Albuquerque paper stating that “further restriction is entirely useless.” S.U. Rosenwald, one other outstanding service provider, was extra reserved, asserting, “This is a matter that should be left in the hands of the authorities.”

Fortunately, by Dec. 1, quarantines and different restrictions towards public conferences have been lifted utterly as the variety of flu instances dwindled. Clients returned to outlets and theaters, reportedly “frisky as colts just turned out to pasture.” As for Rabbi Bergman, he continued serving at Congregation Albert, on the Board of Charities, and as president of the state board of the Salvation Military.

In 1922, Bergman was honored by the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, at which College of New Mexico President David Hill famous: “To all citizens … whether they be Protestant, Catholic, or Jew, Dr. Bergman is best known as a leader in civic betterment.”

New Mexico writer Erna Fergusson memorialized the group’s affection for Bergman in her 1947 e-book, Albuquerque, through which she shares an change between a parish priest, Father Mandelari, and Rabbi Bergman over methods to deal with a surplus of funds.

The [charity] committee had completed its job and located extra cash available. It met to determine what to do with the surplus money. Father Mandelari, dean of Albuquerque’s clergymen and beloved by individuals of all denominations, rose. “Gentlemen and ladies, I move you that this extra money be used to buy a Christmas present for Rabbi Bergman.” The rabbi, equally well-liked and fast, although a lot youthful, leapt to his ft. “No, no,” he cried. “I offer a substitute motion. I move, Mr. Chairman, that we apply this surplus to the purchase of a wedding present for Father Mandelari.”

By February of 1919, there have been requires a New Mexico state Division of Well being to be established however not everybody was satisfied. Albuquerque’s Night Herald editorialized on Feb. 20: “We have been through an epidemic of war and influenza. Perhaps we are a little overwrought upon the dangers that menace the health of our people.” However, lower than a yr after the peak of New Mexico’s flu epidemic, a state Division of Well being was organized beneath the path of a former assistant U.S. Surgeon Basic.

Bergman’s efforts on behalf of the metropolis have been so appreciated that when he tried to resign his pulpit in 1920, it was front-page information. Congregants wouldn’t settle for the rabbi’s resignation. Louis Ilfeld, Congregation Albert’s president said, “We felt it would be a serious loss not only to Congregation Albert but to Albuquerque and New Mexico as well.” Three years later, Bergman did depart Albuquerque for a pulpit in Pueblo, Colorado, shifting later to steer a congregation in San Diego. He handed away in 1948 at age 70, leaving a legacy of social activism and group service.


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