Skip To Content

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Fast Forward

Yehuda Ben-Yishay, Israeli psychologist who pioneered treatment for brain trauma, dies at 88

(JTA) — Yehuda Ben-Yishay, a psychologist whose experience treating Israeli soldiers after the Yom Kippur War led to pioneering therapy for traumatic brain injuries, has died.

Ben-Yishay, the founder and retired director of New York University’s Rusk Holistic Day Program, died March 24 at the NYU Langone Health hospital in Manhattan. He was 88.

His “holistic cognitive therapy,” developed with colleague Leonard Diller, demonstrated that contrary to the scientific consensus of the time, the adult brain is malleable and memory, attention and reasoning could be relearned or strengthened after a brain injury. Their program, first tested on Israeli combat veterans, applied “tightly scripted exercises in behavior modification and social skills.”

Ben-Yishay asserted that personality characteristics, like positive thinking, determined success in their program.

“People who are optimistic and benevolent are more malleable to treatment and will probably emerge more successful, as will people who have a tendency to persist in what they do, and who are willing to work hard to accomplish their objectives,” he told an interviewer in 2019.

Born in Romania and raised in Israel, Ben-Yishay served in the Israel Defense Forces before studying sociology at The Hebrew University. He later attended the New School for Social Research and received his doctorate in psychology from NYU.





    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.