Dr. Adam Brish, center, celebrates his 90th birthday with son Harry and grandson Solomon.
Dr. Adam Brish, center, celebrates his 90th birthday with son Harry and grandson Solomon.

Mike Smith

Detroit Jewish New Foundation Archivist

For once, I am not going to write about a person, place or event that I found in the Davidson Digital Archives of Jewish Detroit History. There is a simple reason for this. I have a great story for you, but after searching the archives for several months now, I could find nothing about the hero of my story.

While the Archive is still the most comprehensive history of Jews in Metro Detroit and Michigan, it does not have everything. However, by writing the following story in the JN, this piece of history will be recorded and will live forever in the Davidson Digital Archive. I think you will agree with me that this story is worth preserving.
While on vacation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this fall, I read a story in the Sept. 24, 2018, issue of The Mining Journal, which has been the Marquette, Michigan, daily newspaper since 1841. The article was about a most remarkable Jew: Dr. Adam Brish, who had passed away at age 93 on Sept. 11, 2018. To say that Brish was a remarkable fellow is really an understatement. Adventurers like Jack London or Lowell Thomas have nothing on Brish.

Dr. Adam Brish in the 1970s Harry Brish
Dr. Adam Brish and his wife, Pat Harry Brish
Dr. Brish in the Polish military Harry Brish

Born in Lodz, Poland, Brish was a survivor. He lost most of his family in the Holocaust, but he and his father survived in the infamous Lodz ghetto. During some of this time, Brish worked as a slave laborer, making steel toes for the boots of the Nazis. The Russian Army liberated the Brishes, along with 877 surviving Jews in the Lodz ghetto in January 1945.

After the war, Brish attended Lodz University, earning his medical degree in 1951. He then served in the Polish Army as a neurosurgeon. When it became clear to Brish that he could never advance in the Polish Army because he was a Jew, he obtained a tourist visa and headed to Israel, never to return to Poland.

Upon landing in Israel, Brish joined the Israeli Defense Forces. He worked at Tel HaShomer, the IDF’s first military hospital. There, Brish met a nurse, Patricia Kuhl. They married and moved to the United States in 1963.

The Brishes moved around the States, working in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Wisconsin before settling in Marquette, where Brish was offered a position as the first neurosurgeon at St. Luke’s Hospital. Indeed, he was the first neurosurgeon in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He spent the remainder of his career in Marquette at the city’s General Hospital. In 1992, the Neuroscience Lecture Conference named the Adam Brish Neurosciences Lecture Award in his honor. After 30 years as a neurosurgeon, Brish retired in 1993, spending winters in Arizona and summers in Marquette.

Rising from the Lodz ghetto in Poland to becoming a nationally respected neurosurgeon who worked in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the story of Dr. Adam Brish is amazing by any standards. Perhaps the real mark of excellence was the outpouring of praise for Brish upon his passing. Not many of us touch as many lives as he did. And, now, his story will be preserved in the Davidson Digital Archive and, in the future, readers and researchers will be able to find a bit of his fantastic story. ■

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.


  1. Mike-

    You did not miss the mark in your statements regarding Dr. Adam Brish. I had the privilege of working with Dr. Brish from 1982, until he retired in 1993. He was a remarkable man and surgeon. Thank you for preserving his story and recognizing his contribution to our community and his profession.

    Natalie Dhamers

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