Albuquerque flu epidemic Games influenza Jewish Life & Religion New Mexico Notebook

Beating the Flu – Tablet Magazine

Beating the Flu – Tablet Magazine

100 years in the past, because the so-called Spanish flu took maintain of a lot of the nation, the commissioners of Albuquerque, New Mexico, declared a state of emergency. The town, which had a inhabitants of beneath 15,000 on the time, had been devastated by 923 instances of influenza and 167 deaths. One of the crucial passionate proponents of a citywide quarantine—together with closing the railroad—was Rabbi Moise Bergman of Albuquerque’s Congregation Albert. It was not a place that happy all of his followers: Most of the members of the Reform congregation, established in 1897, have been retail retailers whose livelihoods depended upon railroad visitors. Nor was a quarantine in style amongst candidates for political workplace in an election yr.

However the quarantine finally helped shield the town through the peak of the epidemic. And Bergman’s activism—together with working an emergency hospital for the poor and elevating cash for these widowed or orphaned by influenza—finally gained him the help of his congregants, fellow clergy, and the group at giant.


Bergman was born in Louisiana in April 1878, the son of a businessman. After receiving rabbinical coaching on the Hebrew Union School in Cincinnati, Bergman took the pulpit of the Gates of Prayer congregation within the metropolis of Lafayette, Louisiana, in 1906. In 1911, then-rabbi of Congregation Albert, Mendel Silber, switched pulpits with Bergman, whose spouse, Joycie Kamien Bergman, was ailing and maybe required a drier local weather; simply two years aside at Hebrew Union School, it’s doubtless that Bergman and Silber have been buddies.

Rabbi Moise Bergman  (Photograph courtesy Congregation Albert, Albuquerque.)

When Bergman took the pulpit, Congregation Albert was the one synagogue in Albuquerque. Along with tending his congregants, Bergman was a sought-after speaker and lively within the Albuquerque group, serving as secretary and later president of Albuquerque’s ecumenical Board of Charities. By all measures, Bergman was revered by his fellow clergy, a few of whom even referred to as upon him to take their pulpits throughout absences, as he did with the Methodist Episcopal Church in Santa Fe.

In August 1918, Albuquerque was extra targeted on information of the conflict than on the specter of influenza, and Bergman was busy promoting Liberty Bonds and planning a group rally to honor Common Pershing. In response to stories, the flu outbreak within the area started in Carlsbad and Gallup, New Mexico. By September and October, instances started to emerge in Albuquerque, the state’s largest metropolis, resulting in restrictions on indoor conferences and railroad visitors, in addition to faculty closures and the quarantine of stricken college students on the College of New Mexico.

Beneath the path of Bergman and the Board of Charities, a colony of TB sufferers was already receiving meals and medical remedy. In response to hospital crowding, the group transformed the TB colony right into a makeshift hospital for flu victims. When the outbreak taxed the group past its monetary capability, Bergman turned to the papers to ask the general public for donations of meals and drugs, adamant that the poor have been struggling disproportionately. He finally raised $10,000 for the youngsters and ladies who have been orphaned or widowed because of the flu epidemic.

Because the month marched on, the one exception made for a public gathering was the armistice parade and celebration—marking the top of the struggle—which started the night time of Nov. 11 and lasted nicely into the subsequent day.

Albuquerqueans, no matter age, nationality or intercourse, joined virtually as a unit in giving vent of their emotions of pleasure of the signing of the armistice by the Germans. Celebrations might come and celebrations might go, however none will surpass in enthusiasm the one held right here right now.
—Albuquerque Journal, November 12, 1918

One may additionally speculate that the revelers have been overjoyed to collect and have fun in a public setting after a minimum of of month of isolation.

Citing the current deaths of two schoolchildren within the previous 24 hours, on Nov. 19, 1918, metropolis commissioners prolonged their earlier quarantine. Bergman adamantly supported their determination.

It’s arduous to reply the person who says his enterprise has been harm by the quarantine however will probably be unimaginable to reply the one who says my youngster has died due to the neglect of the state. –Rabbi Bergman, Albuquerque Journal, November 26, 1918

Bergman didn’t exaggerate. The flu was extra lethal for the state’s residents than everything of WWI, through which 215 New Mexicans have been killed in motion. Of the 15,000 New Mexicans who contracted the flu, greater than 1,000 finally died within the epidemic, in response to the New Mexico Workplace of the State Historian. Obituaries of flu victims crammed the papers.

Benjamin Menke, age 16, died at residence from pneumonia (a complication of the flu). His sister, Lydia, age 18, died two days earlier of the identical illness.
—Albuquerque Journal, November 20, 1918

Regardless of the hazard, there was nonetheless not common help for extending the quarantine. Metropolis commissioners have been threatened with a recall. Businesspeople have been impatient, together with Bergman’s personal congregants. J.A. Weinman, proprietor of the Golden Rule Dry Items Co. was quoted in an Albuquerque paper stating that “additional restriction is totally ineffective.” S.U. Rosenwald, one other outstanding service provider, was extra reserved, asserting, “This can be a matter that ought to be left within the palms of the authorities.”

Fortunately, by Dec. 1, quarantines and different restrictions towards public conferences have been lifted utterly because the variety of flu instances dwindled. Clients returned to outlets and theaters, reportedly “frisky as colts simply turned out to pasture.” As for Rabbi Bergman, he continued serving at Congregation Albert, on the Board of Charities, and as president of the state board of the Salvation Military.

In 1922, Bergman was honored by the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, at which College of New Mexico President David Hill famous: “To all residents … whether or not they be Protestant, Catholic, or Jew, Dr. Bergman is greatest generally known as a pacesetter in civic betterment.”

New Mexico writer Erna Fergusson memorialized the group’s affection for Bergman in her 1947 guide, Albuquerque, through which she shares an trade between a parish priest, Father Mandelari, and Rabbi Bergman over the way to deal with a surplus of funds.

The [charity] committee had finished its job and located extra cash available. It met to determine what to do with the excess money. Father Mandelari, dean of Albuquerque’s clergymen and beloved by individuals of all denominations, rose. “Gents and women, I transfer you that this extra cash be used to purchase a Christmas current for Rabbi Bergman.” The rabbi, equally common and fast, although a lot youthful, leapt to his ft. “No, no,” he cried. “I supply a substitute movement. I transfer, Mr. Chairman, that we apply this surplus to the acquisition of a marriage current for Father Mandelari.”

By February of 1919, there have been requires a New Mexico state Division of Well being to be established however not everybody was satisfied. Albuquerque’s Night Herald editorialized on Feb. 20: “We’ve been via an epidemic of struggle and influenza. Maybe we’re a bit of overwrought upon the risks that menace the well being of our individuals.” However, lower than a yr after the peak of New Mexico’s flu epidemic, a state Division of Well being was organized underneath the course of a former assistant U.S. Surgeon Basic.

Bergman’s efforts on behalf of the town have been so appreciated that when he tried to resign his pulpit in 1920, it was front-page information. Congregants wouldn’t settle for the rabbi’s resignation. Louis Ilfeld, Congregation Albert’s president said, “We felt it will be a critical loss not solely to Congregation Albert however to Albuquerque and New Mexico as nicely.” Three years later, Bergman did depart Albuquerque for a pulpit in Pueblo, Colorado, shifting later to steer a congregation in San Diego. He handed away in 1948 at age 70, leaving a legacy of social activism and group service.


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