Jaffe, Dr. Ruth

ד"ר רות יפה
Dr Ruth Jaffe was born on 4.12.1907 in Berlin and died in 1996 in Tel Aviv. She was born to a German-Jewish family. Her father, Alphons Jaffe (1881 in Berlin – 1948 in New York), was an industrialist and her mother was Alice (née Holländer, 14.2.1893 in Berlin – 15.8.1952 in Leukerbad, Switzerland). Ruth had a brother, Wolfgang, who died in 1926. She did her Abitur (university entrance level exam) in 1927 at the ‘erste städtische Studienanstalt’ in Berlin. She studied medicine in Freiburg, Vienna and (mainly) Berlin. She started her medical internship at Virchow hospital in 1933, but interrupted it because of political developments. She did her PhD in 1934 in Zurich on the fate of children with brain tumours. She returned to Germany and from there immigrated to Israel with her family in 1934, shortly after the imposition of the order that forced Jews to wear a yellow badge. In Israel, Ruth volunteered at the Hadassah hospital for two years. She describes her absorption as difficult: there were no language schools then and she had to learn Hebrew all by herself. She found it difficult to find work as a doctor, both because she was a woman and because of the large number of doctors who had immigrated from Germany at the time. In light of these circumstances, she underwent retraining and began to study social work at Siddy Wronsky's School for social service in Jerusalem from 1936, graduating in 1937 and writing her dissertation on incomplete families and their influences on child development. Later, between 1938 and 1943, she was the head of the social work department in Rishon Lezion, where a neighbourhood of Jewish refugees from Jaffa was established. In this context, she became interested in mental health problems. Afterwards, she went back to medicine and became a psychiatric nurse and a psychoanalyst working at psychiatric hospitals in Israel. During those years, she applied for personal analysis with Moshe Wolf, who was the founder of the Palestinian Psychoanalytic Society. Ruth started to work at Bitan Hospital, which gradually became a psychiatric institution in its own right (Shalvata Psychiatric Hospital). She encouraged the development and expansion of a multidisciplinary, team-based care system and its integration and decision-making, and also encouraged occupational therapy as part of the hospital and the invention of the concept of ‘patients by day, released every evening to their homes’. She was the one who in 1956 transferred Shalvata from Pardes-Katz to Magdiel, expanded its activities and established a children's hospital and youth clinic for day patients. In 1963, the hospital became the psychiatric department of the Tel Aviv University School of Medicine. From 1960, Ruth was a facilitator at the Institute and taught psychiatry at the Tel Aviv Medical School. In 1973 she retired and left her position as a director of Shalvata Hospital. After her retirement, she expanded her analytical work. In her article ‘Dissociative Phenomena in Former Concentration Camp Inmates’ (1968), she describes dissociative situations in which survivors of the inferno of the camps and the war relive the trauma they have experienced, claiming that these are not hysterical phenomena but dissociative situations caused by events that, because of their incomprehensible power and quality, cannot be integrated by the ego. Her article ‘Activity as a Defense Method in Concentration Camps’ discusses the possibility that group organizations served as a defence mechanism that helped cope with the intolerable reality of life in the death camps.
Alice Jaffe (Born Holländer, 1893 Berlin - 1952 Leukerbad, Switzerland)
Alphons Jaffe (1881 Berlin - 1948 New York) an industrialist
Wolfgang Jaffe, died in 1926
Age at Migration
Year of Migration
Archival Materials
Federal Archives, Berlin (51 WGA 9/68; 51 WGA 5/72; 82 WGA 70/68;); tate Office for Residents' and Regulatory Affairs, Berlin(404.548)