How it All Began
On February 5, 1896, in a converted five-story brownstone at 691 Massachusetts Avenue, New England Deaconess Hospital opened its doors. The 14-bed infirmary was an outgrowth of the Methodist Deaconess movement - religious women dedicating themselves to the care of the sick and the poor - which had its origins in early nineteenth century Germany.
"While we call ours a Methodist Hospital, and hope it may have all the Christian sweetness and good cheer which Methodism stands for," the Board of Managers wrote in 1898, "its doors swing open with a cordial welcome to the suffering of every creed and race and social condition."
In 1916, Beth Israel Hospital opened its 45-bed facility on Townsend Street in Roxbury, amid a growing suburban Jewish population. While some debated about the opening of a Jewish hospital in Boston, arguing that other hospitals accepted Jewish patients and that Jews should not isolate themselves, its supporters pointed to the growing number of Jewish immigrants who could not understand their treatment because they only spoke Yiddish, or who refused to eat while hospitalized because there was no kosher food. Although it conducted religious services according to the Jewish faith and observed Jewish dietary laws, Beth Israel Hospital, like the Deaconess, pledged to offer "medical and surgical aid and nursing to sick or disabled persons of any creed or nationality."