An Interview with the Founder of Mayanei Hayeshua Hospital
Rabbi Dr. Moshe Rothschild is the founder and director of Mayanei Hayeshua Hospital, a charedi hospital in Bnei Brak. Born in Zurich to a family of local community leaders, he studied medicine at Zurich University, specializing in pediatrics and general medicine. He made aliyah to Bnei Brak in 1971, and after a few years of serving the local community (and a number of great rabbis) as a doctor and mohel, he began gathering funds and resources to build a hospital that would meet the needs of the charedi community. Mayanei Hayeshua opened the doors of its labor & delivery unit in 1990, and gradually inaugurated additional departments over the next few years. It currently treats around 100,000 patients per year.
We had the honor of interviewing him about his unique background, his hospital, and his plans for the future.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I was born in Switzerland, and I became a pediatrician there and had a very big office. In the year my father died, I went to my rebbe, Reb Moshe Soloveitchik, one of the gedolei hador, and I told him I wanted to travel to Japan to a big conference for pediatricians. He advised me not to go, and instead to go to the Yarchei Kallah kollel at the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. This was more than fifty years ago. So I went to Yarchei Kallah, and the second night I was there, I was called to the mashgiach, Reb Yechezkel Levenstein, who had a bellyache. I had drops with me for treating stomach pains in babies, and I gave it to him, and it helped. From that moment, we became very good friends.
I realized that they had such great people here in Bnei Brak, and I decided to move to Israel with my wife and 17 children. When we came, I was, in practice, the only doctor who was here in Bnei Brak during Shabbos and Yom Tov. Many times on Shabbos, even on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I was unable to attend prayer services—my avoda was to help people. I had the tremendous honor of tending to all the gedolei yisrael—from the Baba Sali to Rav Hesteipler.
Why did you decide to build a hospital?
It was these great Torah scholars who told me to. They said, “You have to build a hospital, because you could save many lives.” I come from Switzerland; in Switzerland there is no city of over 20,000 residents with no hospital, and at that time there were 120,000 inhabitants in Bnei Brak. So they told me I should establish one.
People told me, “You’re crazy, you can’t do this!” And they were right, I was crazy, and I am crazy!
The first building opened its doors 27 years ago. We had 300 births in the first month. At the moment we have 40 births a day. So, we say “Mazel tov” 40 times a day at Mayanei Hayeshua.
Was there much resistance to establishing a hospital in Bnei Brak?
I had endless problems. But I had the backing of gedolei hador. Baruch HaShem, HaKadosh Baruch Hu has solutions for everything.
At first, the other hospitals argued that we didn’t need another hospital in Bnei Brak, and they put together a fund of $1 million to fight against us, to prevent us from taking away their patients. They thought I was going to be competition. But very soon they came to understand that I don’t compete with them, I complete them.
In what way?
If an old man, 80-90 years old, comes to the emergency room, what he might hear is “Oh, grandfather, you’ve had your life, don’t take a bed from a young man.” I will take him; they’ll send him here, we’ll take good care of him, and after a while he’ll walk out of the hospital healthy. So they know there is someone who will take such cases. I am now good friends with Professor Shani, the head of Tel HaShomer. My hospital is not better than the big hospitals; what we do, we do well, and we cooperate and work together with the other hospitals.
Our specialty is that we value the sanctity of life above all else. When you can save a life, you must do what you can to save it. I don’t call my hospital a “beis cholim”, a “house for the sick”. I call it a “beis refuah”—a house of healing.
Why did you name it “Mayanei Hayeshua”?
There was a donor from England named Yehoshua Frishwasser. Frishwasser—fresh water, like a freshwater spring, a ma’ayan; Yehoshua, redemption—yeshu’a. So I named the hospital after him.
How did you build your staff?
My policy is to offer good conditions to doctors who are planning to retire early. Here in Israel, doctors generally retire in their early 60’s. That way, the finest and most highly experienced doctors from Tel HaShomer and Beilinson came to work for us. We have the big names; a wonderful staff.
How many rooms are in the hospital?
350 beds, aside from the newborns—another 100 beds—and we don’t want to get too big, because there’s a big advantage to being a small hospital. The staff knows everybody and can give personal attention to their patients. I don’t see the advantage of having 2,000 beds. I’m very happy with what we have.
The hospital serves secular people as well. Why do they choose to come here?
The majority is frum people. But secular people do come here too, for the personal attention, for the excellent facilities, and for the way we make medical decisions—valuing life above all else.
Tell us about your new mental health department.
When I established the hospital, I realized that there was a great deficiency in the world of medicine, called psychiatry. There was not one place in the world where a frum Jew can go and be sure that he is being treated according to the Torah. My hospital is the first place in the world like this. We opened a mental health department five months ago, and it’s incredible how we are helping people—very quietly, but tremendously. The problem all over the world at the moment in psychiatry is that people don’t want to come to treatment, and if they come—they don’t accept medication. There is a stigma. So it’s a very delicate matter, and we work very quietly and discreetly. I built the mental health department to fight the stigma.
What is unique about your mental health program?
In the mental health department, I am very strict about having only shomer mitzvos staff members. A lot of the patients suffer from religious problems, so the staff needs to be understanding of that and have the right worldview.
So we are always looking for nurses who are shomer Shabbos—both male and female nurses who specialize in psychiatry. In fact, they don’t need to specialize in psychiatry; I will fund their training if they are willing to come work in our psychiatry department. We have the doctors, the psychiatrists, and the psychologists, but we need more frum nurses.
We are planning to open a department specifically for treating anorexia. There is a 20% mortality rate from anorexia, even in America. 20%! A significant portion of them also go off the derech, fall away from religion. So I am in a unique position to help with both of these issues: mental health and hashkafa.
The department is very modern and welcoming. It doesn’t look like a clinic, it looks like a hotel.
Today, modern medicine has figured out that people are more than just a body. Chazal knew this from the very beginning: diseases are not just disorders of the body, but also of the soul. At Mayanei Hayeshua, we treat both.
You are also planning another project, a shidduch information center. Can you tell us about that?
I want to create a center where everyone in the world can call anonymously and speak to doctors, social workers, and other professionals, to ask questions pertaining to shidduchim and various diseases and disorders. There is a lot of misinformation and a lot of silence around medical issues, and people don’t know who to ask, what information to share, etc. You can’t imagine how many important things people don’t tell before a shidduch— very serious diseases that they try to hide. I plan to establish a global center that is based on daas Torah and medicine, where people can get the right information and medical advice.
Would you mind telling us how old you are?
And at 88, you are still running a hospital?
All my sons learn, but one of them directs the hospital, so we work together to run things, raise money, etc. I have lots of help. But age is an individual matter. I have friends who are 60 and would never be able to do what I do. Hashem gives us strength. A man should know where he stands and what his limits are. If I didn’t have the strength, I would not be doing this. Time is not the limiting factor; quality of life is. I think this is true of me and others as well.
What else do you do during a typical day?
I visit the doctors to know what the patients need. I go from bed to bed to see what each patient needs. If they have problems, they can ask me.
You visit all the patients?
Sure. I go to every one. I greet everyone I encounter on my way.
How long does that take you?
It depends. A couple of hours. But people feel my presence, and they know they can come to me.
Do you have plans to retire?
I had them 50 years ago…! Ask HaKadosh Baruch Hu! Hashem gave me a special gift that at this age, my body and mind are still working. As long as I have it, I want to use it, and I pray every day for His help.
What would you tell people in their 60’s and 70’s who are considering retirement?
If they’re going to sit and learn, that’s best. If they can, they should come here and help! We have a lot of volunteers. If my wife would look for a profession, I would tell her two things: a nurse, or a mikvah attendant. This way you can help and you can influence people.
The new psychiatric department at Mayanei Hayeshua is in need of much assistance. We are also looking to fill a demand for good male or female shomer mitzvos nurses, and as mentioned I am willing to fund their training. Please pass on this information, and help make a vital difference in the lives of our patients. I can be contacted directly at 054-660-1800 For more information about M.H. Hospital please visit www.afmhmc.org.