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Janet Hadda, Biographer of I.B. Singer, Dies at 69

Janet Ruth Hadda — Yiddish professor, psychoanalyst, and biographer — died in Los Angeles on June 23, 2015. She was 69. The cause was metastatic cancer.

Dr. Hadda was born December 23, 1945, the daughter of refugees from Nazi Germany, Dr. George and Annemarie (Kohn) Hadda. Her grandfather was Dr. Siegmund Hadda, the last Director of the Jewish Hospital in Breslau (Wroclaw). She and her parents came to New York in 1948, to join her grandparents, who had survived Theresienstadt. Devastated by the Nazi regime and the Shoah, her parents wanted no part of being Jewish, nor would they speak German even privately. Her grandfather, however, read her Heine and told her that she would be a professor of German at Columbia. Her innovative way of challenging both parents and grandparents was to complete her Ph.D. in German from Columbia, while working at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research to develop her specialty in Yiddish, a language disdained by many German Jews. She also held degrees from the University of Vermont and Cornell.

Read: Remembering Janet Hadda, by David G. Roskies

Moving to UCLA in 1973 to start its Yiddish Program, she later became the first tenured professor of Yiddish in the US, publishing academic and popular articles, in English, Yiddish, Hebrew, French, and German. She initially developed a specialty in American Yiddish poetry, particularly the works of Yankev Glatshteyn, the subject of her first book and numerous articles.

Dr. Hadda began psychoanalytic training in 1982, initially to improve her understanding of modernist Yiddish poetry. Increasingly drawn into clinical practice, she became a Training and Supervising Analyst at the New Center for Psychoanalysis and the Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis, as well as a member of the Certification Committee of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Her second book, “Passionate Women and Passive Men” (1988), explored psychological issues around suicide in Yiddish literature. Her psychoanalytic insights also contributed to her treatments of Isaac Bashevis Singer (“Isaac Bashevis Singer: A Life,” 1997, 2001), and of Allen Ginsberg, whose 1949-50 stay in the NY State Psychiatric Institute, she argued in a much admired piece in American Imago, allowed him to emerge as a great poet.

She is survived by her husband, Allan J. Tobin, a neuroscientist, whom she married on March 22, 1981, and with whom she probed the intersections of mind and brain. Other survivors include her sisters, Ceri Hadda and Kathryn Hadda, her stepsons David Tobin (Ana Maria Xet-Mull) and Adam Tobin (Christine Kelly), and two grandchildren, Gabriel Tobin-Xet and Ursula Cashwan Tobin.

Funeral services will be at Hillside Memorial Park in Los Angeles on Friday at 11 am. Dr. Hadda requested that people wishing to make a contribution in her memory give to the Forward Association.

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