The Jewish Consumptives' Relief Society (JCRS) was founded in Denver, Colorado in 1904 as a non-sectarian sanatorium to treat tuberculosis (TB) patients in all stages of the disease. The society was founded by a group of immigrant Eastern European Jewish men, many of whom were themselves victims of TB. For decades patients flocked to Denver from all over North America and were admitted free of charge. In the early years, the sanatorium was headed by Dr. Charles Spivak as Secretary (1904-1927) and by Philip Hillkowitz as President (1904-1948) and catered primarily to Jewish patients in a distinctively Jewish environment. In 1954 the institution changed its mission to cancer research and became the American Medical Center.
The collection housed at the Univeristy of Denver Penrose Library includes correspondence, patient records, minutes, reports, and photographs from 1904 through 1973. The JCRS records shed light on issues of tuberculosis treatment and medical history, immigration and acculturation, the growth and development of Colorado's Jewish community, and women's history.
The genealogical importance of this collection is significant. A standard patient file often includes the original application, landsmanshaften affiliation, and personal correspondence between the hospital, patient and a patient's family in other U.S. and Canadian cities. There are often names and addresses of relatives, ages of the patient's children, location of burial in Denver, and the city of patient's birth in a variety of foreign countries. The earliest death dates in this collection are equally important since the state of Colorado did not always issue death certificates at the turn of the twentieth century making the JCRS patient file the only record of death in some cases.
Patient records from 1905 and 1906 have been digitized and the images can be viewed online. Additional patient names for years 1907 through 1940 have also been entered into the database, but the documents have not yet been digitized. Patient records can be viewed by clicking on names in an alphabetical list and also through the searchable database.
The JCRS Online Patient Indexing Project was awarded the Malcolm Stern Award by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) in 2002 for the creation of this database. The Stern Award honors Malcolm H. Stern, widely considered to be the dean of American Jewish genealogy, and his efforts to increase the availability of resources for Jewish genealogical research. The Stern Award is a funding award given to encourage institutions to pursue projects, activities and acquisitions that provide new or enhanced resources to benefit Jewish genealogists. It has been awarded since 1991.
More information can also be found on JewishGen.org.
The JCRS Patient Application Database covers years of admission from 1904-1940 and contains 7,190 records. Searchable data on the University of Denver database includes a partial index 1904-1940 and access to limited digitized records includes surname, given name, name variation, gender, age at admittance, birth city, birth place, when came to the USA, occupation, contracted (disease) location, marital status, landsmanshaften affiliation, burial location and relative names. If a record is listed in the index and not digitized, the full patient file can be requested through the Beck Archives at the University of Denver, by contacting Thyria Wilson at (303) 871-3012 . Patients who were in the hospital 1940-1954 can only be researched by phone inquiry.
If you locate a patient record of interest in the index, you can contact the D.U. Judaic Studies Department to make a photocopy of the original file.