Cincinnati Jewish Hospital Nurse’s Pin Moses Jacob Ezekiel (1844-1917), design Gold medallion. c. 1912 Gift of Joellen and Morton Spitz in memory of Hilda Rosenthal Nathan, class of 1928
Object of the Month February 2016
In 1893, Jeptha Workum (1860-1896) presented each of the three nurses of the first graduating class of Jewish Hospital’s School of Nursing in Cincinnati with a gold medal designed by his uncle, Moses Jacob Ezekiel. Jeptha was one of nine children of Levi and Hannah Ezekiel Workum. Hannah was the eldest sister of Moses Jacob Ezekiel.
The pin depicts a mother pelican feeding her young. This symbolism is rooted in an ancient legend. The legend was that in time of famine, the mother pelican wounded herself, striking her breast with her beak to feed her young with her blood to prevent starvation. Another version of the legend was that the mother fed her dying young with her blood to revive them from death, but in turn lost her own life. The same symbol appears on the coat of arms of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, founded in 1729. Miss Annie Murray, Superintendent of the Training School for Nurses at Cincinnati General Hospital, who was a graduate of the Edinburgh School, may have suggested the design of the Jewish Hospital Nursing School pin to Ezekiel.
The inscription over the pelican design (freely translated from the Latin) reads: “Life is saved for you by the blood which I have given.” The reverse bears the inscription H.R.N [Hilda Rosenthal Nathan] 1928.
Jewish hospitals in general were founded (many beginning in the mid-1800s) for several different reasons. In part, one of the reasons was to provide patients with Jewish pastoral care and kosher meals, but the primary reason that Jewish hospitals were founded was because Jewish doctors couldn’t find work at other major hospitals, where antisemitism prevented their receiving a medical education and privileges. Founded in 1850, Cincinnati’s Jewish Hospital was the first Jewish hospital in America.
Ezekiel’s pin was reproduced for several generations of the Jewish Hospital Nursing School graduates. The pin in our collection dates from 1928 and the same pin design is shown in the photo. The woman in the photo, Elaine Apseloff Lazarus, graduated from the Jewish Hospital Nursing School in 1949.