Sinai Health Foundation


Mount Sinai Hospital:
A Story of Firsts


Lesley Barsky is the author of From Generation to Generation: A History of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital.

Maxine Granovsky Gluskin is the co-chair of Sinai Health Foundation. She is the President of Maxine Gran Investments. She has served on many not-for-profit boards, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada and The Bentway.

The voices of Lillian Gollom and Dr. Minnie Cohen are used with permission from the Ontario Jewish Archives.

More than 100 years ago, the dream of building an inclusive hospital in Toronto lived with four immigrant women. Women who defied the odds and banded together for the betterment of their community.

The need was there. The Jewish immigrant population in Toronto was burgeoning; most of the new immigrants didn’t speak English and were afraid of large institutions. And, sadly, not a hospital in the city would give Jewish doctors a place to practice.

In August of 1913, these four women from Toronto’s Jewish community started knocking on neighbourhood doors to raise money for a hospital. This simple task was, in fact, hugely ambitious, as within the Jewish community there were few families who had money to spare.

“This was a group of immigrant women who raised money, nickels and dimes, really, but raised enough money to put a down payment on a house,” said Lesley Barsky, author of From Generation to Generation, the official history of Mount Sinai Hospital.

It took them nine years, but by 1922, Mrs. Cohn, Miller, Spiegel and Adler had raised $12,000, enough to buy the building at 100 Yorkville Avenue.

“They didn't just raise the money,” Lesley said. “They cooked. They cleaned. They looked after the elderly…this little home for the aged. And it became so successful that they decided that they needed to do it all over again and raise money for a general hospital for the Jewish community.”

The hospital quickly grew in popularity and gained more patients, so the building at 100 Yorkville was too small. After another round of community-based fundraising by the same tenacious, visionary women, in 1922, The Hebrew Maternity and Convalescent Hospital opened its doors.

Mount Sinai Hospital

“It was only a two story building, very poorly equipped. It was an old house,” Lillian Gollom, a member of a charitable group the Sinais, said in an interview obtained by the Ontario Jewish Archives. “They had nothing really in there. There was no operating room. They didn't have an elevator. And when a patient had to be operated on, they put him on the stretcher and carried and walked him up the stairs to the operating room.”

Much has changed about that hospital since it opened. Its name became Mount Sinai Hospital and it moved locations several times. Over the years it grew exponentially from 30 beds to 472, and along the way became one of North America’s pre-eminent medical, teaching and research institutions.

Today, Mount Sinai looms large both in stature and structure as one of the impressive and important hospitals lining University Avenue in downtown Toronto. It remains so culturally inclusive that there are now interpreters for Mount Sinai patients in over 45 languages.

“This hospital was founded on philanthropy and the vision of creating a place for marginalized people,” said Maxine Granovsky Gluskin, Co-Chair of the Sinai Health Foundation Board. Maxine is continuing the hospital’s long tradition of female fundraisers playing an important part in the hospital’s growth and success. In her 30s, she was part of the women’s auxiliary, raising money through sales and galas. And she recently co-chaired a major fundraising campaign.

“That history has continued on into what Sinai Health is today, which is a place of welcome to anybody, no matter where you're from, what your background is, what language you speak, it is there for you.”

In 2015, Mount Sinai Hospital grew again. It formed Sinai Health, together with Bridgepoint Active Healthcare, the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute and system partner, Circle of Care.

Sinai Health boasts a global reputation for excellence in genetic research, women’s and infants’ health, surgical oncology, gastrointestinal diseases, diabetes, general psychiatry, critical care and cardiology. And the growth continues thanks to Renew Sinai, Mount Sinai Hospital’s biggest and most ambitious redevelopment. As part of this, more than 300,000 square feet of Mount Sinai or the equivalent of five football fields- is being overhauled.

“It's quite remarkable,” Maxine said. “We are rebuilding the hospital from the inside out while operating full tilt. But there’s one thing that will never change, and that one thing is the deep humanity of Sinai Health’s care.”