Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dr. Matthew Levitas ~ Is He the Unknown Graduate?

Last week, I shared a photo of an unknown graduate. This photograph has been kept by my mother-in-law's family for many decades - an academic graduation was a significant milestone for an immigrant Jewish family and the parents of this graduate likely shared this photograph with their extended family.

I am theorizing that this is a photograph of Matthew S. Levitas, a first cousin of my husband's grandmother. (I have written about him before.)

Matthew got a medical degree at the Long Island College of Medicine, served in  WWI, and became active in the V.F.W. and an advocate for veterans and Veterans' Hospitals.

I have found several newspaper articles about him, mostly in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (which can be found at several websites, some free and some behind pay-walls). The following article, from September 8, 1946, (when he was about 54), has a photograph. I found this article at

Unknown Graduate

Although I have been unable to find an obituary for Dr. Levitas, this article shares more than what I knew before.

Vets Honor Promoter of 'Private Doctor' Plan

  Dr. Matthew Levitas, newly-elected surgeon general of the Veteran of Foreign Wars, for a full decade has been a leading advocate of the plan jointly adopted last month by the Veterans Administration and the New York State Medical Society, which will permit war-disabled veterans to obtain treatment from physicians of their own choice, with the VA assuming the cost.
  As far back as 1936, when he became State Department surgeon of the V. F. W., Dr. Levitas, who lives at 7000 Bay Parkway, waged a one-man campaign for the plan, on the grounds that it affords better treatment for the veteran as well as representing an economy to the Government.
  "Inasmuch as veteran hopitalization and rehabilitation are two subjects with which the V. F. W. is vitally concerned," Dr. Levitas said, "I am glad that the plan has proved acceptable to the Government."
Sees Greater Benefits
  "It stands to reason that not only will the new arrangement relieve the strain on over-crowded veterans' hospitals, but it will prove of greater benefit to them. They physician will at no time lose contact with his patient, and the confidence instilled in the veteran will remain unshaken."
  Stating that he was not thoroughly conversant with the duties of his new office, Dr. Levitas declared that he thought they would include an inspection of the veterans' hospital facilities throughout the country. He expressed particular interest in the VA hospital to be constructed at Fort Hamilton, for which funds have been appropriated and a site selected.
  Another project in which Dr. Levitas has long been actively interested is the observance of the birthday of Florence Nightingale as a national holiday. He feels that the woman who laid the foundation of modern hospitals and nursing which saved the lives of many war veterans should be so commemorated.   Dr. Levitas is a graduate of City College and the Long Island College of Medicine. A veteran of World War I, he was born in Newark and was brought to Brooklyn at the age of 2. He served with the Transport Service Medical Corps, recrossed the Atlantic many times as a surgeon on army transports prior to being assigned to a base in France.
  At present he is on the surgical staff of Israel Zion Hospital and the Infants Home. He has contributed articles dealing with the anatomical distribution of pain to the American Medical Journal.


  1. Hi Elizabeth, Great article. I would love to see a close up of the left ears. They appear a bit different. The rest of the face looks like a good match.

    1. Jennifer, I was looking at the ears too. I will have to see if the images are good enough to zoom in for the detail. Thanks for the suggestion.