October 2, 1996

The Jewish Doctor: A Narrative History

Author Affiliations

Newton, Mass


by Michael Nevins, 159 pp, $25, ISBN 1-56821-533-9, Northvale, NJ, Jason Aronson, 1996.

JAMA. 1996;276(13):1090-1091. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540130088038

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The Jewish Doctor is aimed at a general Jewish readership that would wish an entree into the specialized literature on the history of medical practice among the Jewish people. In format, it is mostly a series of fablelike stories about past Jewish physicians.

The first half consists of brief biographic sketches of about 20 premodern Jewish physicians in a rough historic order, from the seventh-century writer Asaph, to early medievals Isaac Judaeus and Moses Maimonides, then to lesser knowns before the age of enlightenment. They are shown to have been physicians of fame, influence, and erudition, talented writers, polemicists, moralists, and defenders of their faith, who remained devoted to their calling under personal threat and adverse social conditions. These doctor stories are taken from Harry Friedenwald's The Jews and Medicine, Harry Savitz' Profiles of Erudite Jewish Physicians and Scholars, and others, which are slavishly abstracted, paraphrased, and quoted.

The second