Laniado is a hospital with heart. Situated in Netanya in Israel, It stands as a testimony to the sanctity of each and every life lost in the Holocaust and to the determination of its founder, the indefatigable late Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam, known as theSanz/Klauzenburger Rebbe zt”l, who was himself a survivor. Since opening its doors in 1976, Laniado Hospital – Sanz Medical Center has emerged as a modern, highly advanced medical center, the only hospital serving Netanya’s 500,000 residents as well as the rapidly growing city’s surrounding towns and villages. But few seem to know the incredible story behind the foundation of this unique medical facility that literally grew from the ashes of the Holocaust.
During world war 2, more than 12,000 Jews were gassed every day in Auschwitz’s gas chambers; executed with the utmost German precision and sophistication. Amongst them were the wife and 11 children of Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam, scion of the famous Sanz Rabbinic Dynasty. In June 1944, 10,000 inmates, emaciated and frail, including the 39 year old Rabbi Halberstam, were transferred from their camp to Warsaw.
By the end of July, the 2,000 inmates who had survived the Nazi brutality were ordered on a march to the infamous Dachau Death Camp in the German heartland. The tormented frail inmates were forced to walk 20 kilometers a day under the torturous August sun. Those who could not maintain the pace were instantly shot by the drawn rifles of the cruel S.S. Guards. Rabbi Halberstam was shot in the shoulder and a lost considerable amount of blood, but seeking medical help was out of the question. As he was losing his strength, he made a vow to the Almighty G-d: “If I merit to survive, I will garner all my energies to build a hospital in the Holy Land where every human being will receive the same dedicated medical care irrespective of nationality or creed.” As the Rabbi uttered these astonishing words, he noticed a tree with luscious green leaves along the road within reach of the marching inmates. The Rabbi tore off a large leaf and with his last ounce of strength managed to place it on his wound and tied it with a twig. The bleeding stopped and the Rabbi survived.
Yom Kippur 1945
Upon conducting his first inspection of the Displaced Persons Camps in the U.S. Zone of occupied Germany, General Dwight D. Eisenhower stumbled upon the makeshift Synagogue in Feldanfing (near Munich) where survivors were assembled for Yom Kippur services. General Eisenhower was greeted by Rabbi Halberstam, who represented the thousands of survivors. Eisenhower inquired about the conditions in the D.P. Camps, wanting to hear the concerns of the survivors. So impressed was the General by the intelligence, selflessness and strength of spirit of this physically destitute Rabbi that he decided to ask him for a personal blessing.
Years later, at a Benefit Reception for Sanz Medical Center/Laniado Hospital, Ambassador Maxwell Rabb, Cabinet Secretary and close confidant of President Eisenhower, revealed that Eisenhower had mentioned to him on several occasions the blessing he had received from a Jewish Rabbi in the D.P. after the end of the war. The President recalled the Rabbi’s assurance, “that in merit of his leading role in liberating the Jewish People from the most evil power in the history of mankind, the Almighty will bless him to ascend to the highest leadership position in the Free World”.
Fulfilling His Vow
After the war, Rabbi Halberstam emigrated to Israel along with a handful of surviving Sanz Chassidim and settled in Netanya. He dedicated his years to promoting and facilitating aliyah and the unity of the Jewish people in Israel who were facing war during their first decade of independence.
Realizing that the fast-growing city of Netanya was still without a hospital, Rabbi Halberstam resolved that the time had now come to uphold the vow he made during that fateful March from Warsaw to Dachau in August 1944. He dedicated a prime plot of land on the northern edge of Kiryat Sanz, commissioned architectural plans and in 1958 the cornerstone was laid for a modern general hospital.
Recognizing that no source of continuous funding was available for the project’s construction Rabbi Halberstam decided to build the hospital “brick by brick” depending on the availability of funds that he would be able to raise. Since opening its doors in 1976, Laniado Hospital – Sanz Medical Center has emerged as a modern and highly advanced medical center with expertise in almost all major medical disciplines .
"In this hospital, the staff work as medicalprofessionals without forgetting the most important aspects of compassion, warmth, and empathy for the patient, something not to be taken for granted in modern medical facilities today.” explains Asael Shachaf, Chief Spokesperson of the hospital.
This Channukah, Friends of Laniado Hospital around the globe will come together for an eight day fundraising initiative to build a new ICU so desperately needed in the hospital. Today the ICU has only 6 beds and with the growing population, this is an impossible reality. The hospital is now raising funds to enlarge the ICU to 24 beds spread over 1000 square meters with sophisticated technology and four times the capacity to save lives.
To help keep the Klauzenburger Rebbe’s legacy alive and help expand the ICU to 24 beds at Laniado