Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute

An old black-and-white photo of two women with a tree stem hanging over a lake. One woman is reclining on it while the other is hanging off it, and both are smiling.



Jewish Female Mental–Health Professionals between Poland, the Nazis, and America: Memory, History, and Interpretation
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Registration required. Please note that all attendees must follow Columbia’s COVID-19 Policies and Guidelines. Columbia University is committed to protecting the health and safety of its community.  To that end, all visiting alumni and guests must meet the University requirement of full vaccination status in order to attend in-person events.  Vaccination cards may be checked upon entry to all venues. 

Please join the East Central European Center and the Harriman Institute for a discussion with Klara Naszkowska. Moderated by Christopher Caes.

The forced migration of the Jewish people from Europe to the United States in 1933-1941 is one of the most significant phenomena in twentieth–century intellectual history. However, close to nothing has been written on over eighty Jewish women mental-health professionals (mostly psychoanalysts) who fled Nazi persecution to the US, where they became “essential workers” in mental-health care when America joined World War II. Their professional contributions notwithstanding, they are now neglected, understudied, and at risk of being forgotten. The presentation introduces the diaspora of Polish Jewish mental-health professionals: psychoanalysts, social workers, child welfare workers, social psychologists, and body psychotherapists. It will discuss their personal and professional biographies, including family and religious backgrounds, education and career patterns, experiences of exile and (non)belonging, their relationships with the past, and the construction of national, spiritual and cultural identities, with a special attention to Jewish identity. The presentation is based on an ongoing research project located at the intersection of Jewish gender and women’s studies, personal and oral history, and immigration. The primary source of information on the women under investigation is archival personal accounts: unpublished memoirs, correspondence, interviews, diaries, remnants, memories, and post–memories, along with original interviews with family members, friends, and colleagues.

Klara Naszkowska, PhD is a Polish Jewish research scholar, educator, writer, and organizer. She is a recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship at Union Theological Seminary in New York and the Founding Director of the International Association for Spielrein Studies. Naszkowska is a cultural historian of Jewish East–Central and Eastern European women, working in the fields of women’s history, gender, and emigration studies. She is currently completing her research on the diaspora of Jewish Polish female mental–health professionals in the U.S., writing a narrative nonfiction book, Clara Happel, Judaism, and Psychoanalysis in America: Memory, History, and Interpretation (Routledge Press, 2024), and editing a book on the foremothers of psychoanalysis (Routledge Press, 2023).