Sigismund Schlomo Freud (1856-1939) was born in what is today the Czech Republic to Galician-Jewish parents. His father, a once-Hasidic wool merchant, brought the family to Vienna where Freud grew up. A natural academic, he absorbed his studies effortlessly and became proficient in 8 languages. His favourite were the works of Shakespeare, which he read his entire life and are said to have greatly influenced his theories. He became a doctor and worked for several years in hospitals, asylums, and clinics before starting his own practice specializing in nervous disorders. At the same time, he married the daughter of Hamburg’s chief rabbi and they would go on to have 6 kids. After learning hypnosis in Paris, Freud found that a certain patient was able to open up to him while hypnotized and in the process of talking out her problems, brought about her own relief. Freud realized that patients need only be guided to speak freely, with no need for hypnosis. He also found that much of their issues were reflected in their dreams. By 1896, he abandoned hypnosis entirely and created “psychoanalysis”. From his own experiences and that of his patients, he put together a series of new theories about the mind, emotions, consciousness, religion, dreams, and sexuality. He published a range of books and papers, and delivered lectures each Saturday night. On Wednesdays, he led a small discussion group with 5 other physicians, all Jews. The Wednesday Psychological Society would evolve into the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, and spawn many other such groups across Europe and the world. Freud would go down in history as the founding father of psychoanalysis. His ideas inspired a proliferation of new literature in psychology, philosophy, science, and sociology. Despite the rise of the Nazis and the burning of his books, Freud was determined to stay in Austria until he was finally convinced by colleagues that his life was in danger. After much difficulty, he escaped to London (though 4 of his older sisters could not, and perished in the Holocaust). He continued his work, analyzing patients and writing more of his ground-breaking ideas. After battling an oral cancer for nearly two decades – a direct result of his smoking addiction – he reached a critical state of illness and a decision was made together with doctors and Freud’s daughter to end his life. After several days of high-morphine doses, Freud passed away on Yom Kippur.
Words of the Week
Someone else’s material needs are my spiritual responsibility. – Rabbi Israel Salanter
Pauline Esther Phillips and Esther Pauline Lederer, aka. Abigail van Buren and Ann Landers
Pauline Esther Phillips (1918-2013) was born in Iowa to the Friedmans, poor Jewish immigrants from Russia. Despite their poverty, the Friedman home was always full of guests, where Pauline picked up both her humour and advice-giving abilities. She studied psychology and journalism in college, then moved to San Francisco, where she was unhappy with the advice column of the San Francisco Chronicle. Phillips phoned the newspaper’s editor and told him she could do a far better job. After seeing her samples, she was hired immediately – without any prior work experience or even a social security number! Pauline chose the pen name Abigail, after the Biblical prophetess who advised King David. Thus was born “Dear Abby”, the most-widely syndicated newspaper column of all time – read by over 110 million readers across 1400 newspapers. In 1963, Dear Abby also became a daily radio program that ran for 13 years. People around the world fell in love with Abby’s compassion, honesty, humour, and “tough love”, while learning about the most difficult of human and family problems. Phillips herself was devoted to her family, and was famous for her dedication to her husband and conservative family values – advising couples not to live together before marriage, and telling women to be strong in the face of “masculine lunacy”, with divorce a very last resort. Her own marriage lasted 73 years, until her death this past January at age 94, following a battle with Alzheimer’s. Most interestingly, Pauline Esther had a twin sister named Esther Pauline (1918-2002), who was also a journalist and wrote an advice column under the name Ann Landers – nearly as popular as Dear Abby, with over 90 million readers. Both sisters married on the same day, their birthday. Life magazine billed the two as the most “widely read and most quoted women in the world.”
Words of the Week
“He’s one of the greatest men I ever met, but he’ll be a Jew before I’m a Catholic.”
– Pauline Phillips, aka Abby, referring to her friend, Bishop Fulton Sheen