The History of Sinai Hospital of Detroit


The dream of a Jewish hospital in Detroit

two women raising money for Sinai Hospital

November, 1950
Esther Gitlin and Hannah Harvith
present funds to the
Jewish Hospital Association

Sinai Hospital of Detroit opened its doors in 1953. The Jewish community of Detroit had long desired their own hospital, where kosher food, Jewish clergy and Jewish cultural traditions would be the norm, rather than the exception. Some members of the Detroit Jewish community began raising money for such a facility as early as 1912. In 1926 they succeeded in building the North End Clinic — named after its location — an outpatient clinic that specialized in treating low-income Jewish patients and training young Jewish doctors. After the North End clinic opened, a growing number of people agreed that a modern Jewish general hospital would be a great asset to the community, and fund raising began in earnest.

A mission to serve patients of all races

image of a young african-american nurse


Although Sinai was originally founded to serve Jewish patients, it was unique among hospitals in the Detroit area because it always served patients of all races and religions. When it opened in 1953, Sinai was one of the few hospitals that welcomed African-American patients. Sinai also had an ethnically-diverse staff. While the majority of the attending doctors were Jewish, the nurses and technicians came from every race and religion.

Sinai as a teaching hospital

Mazurek Medical Education Commons at Wayne State UniversitySinai was a teaching hospital that attracted residents from all over the world. Sinai was always affiliated with Wayne State University Medical School. Many of Sinai’s medical staff were also professors at Wayne, and WSU Medical School students would take specialty rotations at Sinai.


The Sinai Hospital Education Corporation

Throughout Sinai’s history, about fifteen percent of its patients were indigent. The doctors decided early on that they would not keep the monies paid to them by the government for the care of these patients. Instead, they donated the money to the Sinai Hospital Education Corporation, which used the money to educate interns and residents as well as for medical research. When Sinai was sold to the Detroit Medial Center in 1997, the Education Corporation disassociated itself from the hospital and became an independent corporation. In 2000 the Education Corporation became the Sinai Medical Staff Foundation.

Notable events at Sinai
(We will continue to add information about notable people and events from Sinai history. If you have something to contribute, please email it to webmaster@sinaidetroitmedicalfoundation.org)

In 1970, famed cardiac surgeon Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz and his entire team of surgeons, researchers, biomedical engineers and nurses relocated to Sinai Hospital, where he became the Chairman of the Department of Surgery. Kantrowitz was already well-known for his contributions to the first pacemakers and balloon pumps, as well as for being the first person to perform open-heart surgery on a baby. At Sinai he continued his research and experiments, implanting the world’s first cardiac-assist device, performing heart transplants, developing partial mechanical hearts, and further refining the balloon pump.

In 1981, Dr. Eli Brown, head of the anesthesia department, because the president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Memories of Sinai
(If you would like to contribute a Sinai memory, please email it to webmaster@sinaidetroitmedicalfoundation.org

I was fortunate, proud and privileged to graduate from Shapiro School of Practical Nursing in 1980. Sinai was a fabulous hospital and such a loss to the neighborhood when it closed. What memories….

— Diane Odell (Watts) via The Lost Synagogues of Detroit

Spent 20 years at Sinai Hospital of Detroit (“People Who Care!”), with very fond memories and lasting relationships as a result of my time spent working in many different departments in the hospital from 1979-2000. I also delivered my daughter there in 1980 – wouldn’t have gone anywhere else! It was a very special place to work, and I feel privileged to have been a part of such an important Detroit institution.

— Patty Akrouche via The Lost Synagogues of Detroit

I worked as a Registered Nurse at Sinai during the early to mid 1970’s, in the Pre-0p/Recovery Room. We had 17 operating room suites (still large by today’s comparison). Between in-patient and out-patient surgeries, we frequently surpassed 90 surgeries per day! Guess what? In ALL my years working closely with the anesthesiologists, not ONE surgery case EVER had ANY respiratory or cardiac complication due to anesthesia! That is why I selected Sinai’s surgical team to operate on my daughter in 1978, when she was 8 years old, and required a major operation. My daughter is a healthy 36 year old nurse today! You’d be hard pressed today to find that level of QUALITY medical or surgical care, especially in this day of HMO’s and managed care. What I truly remember about the majority of the medical staff was simply…they CARED about being physicians, cared about easing the suffering for humanity…not about how much money they could make like the majority of physicians today. I shall always be grateful to Sinai and the medical community of Detroit for those wonderous years…never to be realized again in this country. I live on the West coast and I have not seen the degree of caring or competence that I saw as my days as a nurse at Sinai Hospital of Detroit.

— Roberta M. via The Lost Synagogues of Detroit

I trained and practiced at Sinai; My cousin, also an Obstetrician also trained and practiced there. Between us we delivered thousands of babies there!

It was the best training program anywhere for surgery, Obstetrics, Urology, Internal Medicine, Endocrine, and Radiology.

Each new life we brought into the world and each life we saved was as if we saved the whole world.

The memories we cherish from there will never be forgotten.

— Dr Bernie Stern, Hollywood, Florida via The Lost Synagogues of Detroit