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A Forward Classic Returns — With Dr. Ruth Dishing Advice

For the waves of Jewish immigrants who arrived on these shores in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, America was the goldene medina — the golden land. But it could also be a pretty confusing place. And so they turned to the Jewish Daily Forward’s beloved Bintel Brief column to make sense of it all.

Started in 1906 by the Forward’s legendary editor Abraham Cahan, the Bintel Brief — literally “a Bundle of Letters” — dispensed advice on life, love, family, faith, work and why, contrary to popular superstition, having a spouse with a dimpled chin won’t lead you to an early grave.

The column was discontinued in the 1970s, but the Bintel Brief left its mark. Jeanne Phillips, writer of the “Dear Abby” column, has called it “the genesis of all the advice columnists.”

Now, after an absence of several decades, the Forward is bringing back the Bintel Brief. Starting May 14, new installments of the legendary column will appear Mondays on the Forward Web site’s new Bintel Blog.

To kick off its return, we’ve enlisted renowned psychosexual therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer to field your questions as the new Bintel Brief’s first guest advice columnist.

Westheimer is well known as an expert giver of advice. But she’s also something of an expert when it comes to the Bintel Brief. She teaches a course at Princeton University on the Jewish family in which she discusses the role the Bintel Brief played in helping Jewish immigrants — many without family in America to turn to for counsel — find their footing in the new world.

“The Forward really provided what an extended family would provide in terms of advice,” Westheimer said. “The Forward provided that for almost a century, and here in the year 2007, we are going to launch a new series in which people are able to ask questions about relationships, maybe a problem with older people, maybe a problem in education, maybe a problem with a mother- or a father-in-law. There are all kinds of pressures on today’s families that don’t necessarily need psychotherapeutic intervention, that could be maybe helped with a little advice.”

You, too, can be a part of the history of this storied column: Are you struggling with a Jewish dilemma or an ethical quandary? Do you suffer from family troubles or relationship woes? Or, yes, do you have a burning question related to Dr. Ruth’s well-known area of expertise? If so, drop us a line. Letters chosen for publication will be published anonymously.

Please e-mail your question to:
bintelbrief@forward.com

or mail it to:
Forward, Attn: Bintel Brief,
45 E. 33rd St., 5th Floor,
New York, NY 10016.

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