Oze or Ose

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OZE or OSE , a worldwide organization for child care, health, and hygiene among Jews, with headquarters in Paris. Launched in czarist Russia in 1912, its name is an acronym of three Russian words, Obshchestvo Zdravookhraneniya Yevreyev, which mean "Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jews." As the work of oze, outlawed in Russia in 1919, spread to other countries and continents, the three initials were fitted with new words: Oeuvre de Secour aux Enfants in France; Irgun Sanitari Ivri in Palestine; and Organización para la Salud y Enseñanza in Latin America. Whatever the language, the general meaning of the name and its purpose remained the same. It signified the effort to cure or prevent sickness among Jewish people everywhere, restore and guard the health of children in ose institutions, combat epidemics, and create living conditions under which neither individual sickness nor widespread diseases could gain new footholds.

The systematic work of ose, which began in 1912, was interrupted by World War i which called for special relief measures on behalf of the war victims and hundreds of thousands of refugees and deportees from the war-stricken areas. By the end of the war, in 1917, 34 branches of ose were already in operation in Russia. They maintained 60 dispensaries, 12 hospitals, 125 nurseries, 40 feeding centers for school children, 13 summer camps, four sanatoriums for tuberculosis patients, and other medical and child-care institutions. After the end of the war, branches of ose spread to the new states such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Romania, as well as to central and western Europe, where they became very active and built a wide network of medical institutions. At that time, the headquarters of the organization were transferred to Berlin. In Poland, the branches united in 1921 under the Polish name toz (Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia) which meant the same as ose and had the same program of activities. Before the outbreak of World War ii, toz maintained 368 medical and public health institutions in 72 localities, where 15,443 members carried on the activities of the organization.

In the interval between the two world wars, the ose in Poland, Romania, Lithuania, and Latvia had under its supervision and guidance hundreds of institutions for all kinds of medical aid and child care. As a result, child mortality among Jews in the countries of eastern Europe was reduced considerably, the favus disease was eradicated, the spread of tuberculosis arrested, and general health and sanitary conditions among Jews improved. The yearly budget of all the institutions amounted to over two million dollars, about 75% acquired from local sources and about 25% from grants from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and from Jewish communities all over the world. The outbreak of World War ii and the Nazi Holocaust put an end to the flourishing activities and growth of the ose. The institutions of ose were closed, their property confiscated and looted, and their inmates and personnel sent to concentration camps and gas chambers.

After the war, ose shifted its activities to new countries in North Africa and Latin America and to Israel, where it adjusted its program to the new conditions of life of Jews in these countries. In the postwar years, ose carried out its relief and rehabilitation work in ten countries of Europe, nine in the western Hemisphere, four in Africa, and in Israel, maintaining 91 medical and child-care institutions with about 85,000 children and adults under their care. The basic program of work there was the protection of mother and child, fighting epidemic diseases, school medicine and hygiene, dissemination of knowledge about preventive medicine and public health, medical research, and scholarships to physicians and nurses for professional specialization and studies. The ose is accredited with consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council, unicef, and the World Health Organization as a nongovernmental organization specializing in public health and child-care work among Jews.


J. Lestschinsky, Ose; 40 Years of Activities and Achievements (1952); ose-Rundschau, 1–8 (1926–33); continued as: Revue "Ose," 9–15 (1934–50); Folks-gezunt, 1–15 (1923–38); L. Gurvich, Twenty Five Years ose 19121937 (1937); L. Wulman, Fifteen Years of Jewish Health Activities in Poland (1937); idem, Between Two Wars (1941); American ose Review, 1–7 (1942–50); ose Mail, 1–7 (1948–54).

[Leon Wulman]