Janet Ruth Hadda, a Yiddish professor of Germanic languages at UCLA, psychoanalyst and biographer, died June 23 in Los Angeles from metastatic cancer. She was 69.
Hadda was born Dec. 23, 1945, the daughter of refugees from Nazi Germany. Her grandfather was Dr. Siegmund Hadda, the last director of the Jewish Hospital in Breslau, known today as the city of Wroclaw. In 1948, her family moved to New York to join her grandparents, who had survived Theresienstadt concentration camp. The Nazi regime and the Shoah led to her family’s rejection of their Jewish ancestry and refusal to speak German, even privately. Her grandfather, however, read her the works of the German writer Heinrich Heine and told her that she would become 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 a specialty in Yiddish, the language disdained by many German Jews. In addition, she earned degrees from the University of Vermont and Cornell University.
Hadda’s move to the West Coast in 1973 resulted in her forming the Yiddish program at UCLA and eventually becoming the first tenured professor of Yiddish in the U.S. She initially developed a specialty in American Yiddish poetry, predominantly the works of Yankev Glatshteyn, the subject of a book and several articles she wrote. She also published academic and popular articles in English, Yiddish, Hebrew, French and German.
In an effort to improve her understanding of modernist Yiddish poetry, Hadda began psychoanalytic training in 1982. This led to her interest in 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.
Hadda applied her psychoanalytic background to her second book, “Passionate Women and Passive Men” (1988), which explores the psychological issues surrounding suicide in Yiddish literature. Her psychoanalytic expertise also contributed to her treatment of the writer Isaac Bashevis Singer in her book, “Isaac Bashevis Singer: A Life.” She also wrote a piece in American Imago, a journal founded by Sigmund Freud and Hanns Sachs, about Allen Ginsberg, whose 1949–50 stay in the New York State Psychiatric Institute allowed him to emerge as a great poet, according to Hadda.
She is survived by her husband, Allan J. Tobin, a neuroscientist, whom she married on March 22, 1981, and with whom she investigated the intersections of mind and brain. He is a professor emeritus of integrative biology and physiology as well as neurology. Other survivors include her sisters, Ceri Hadda and Katherine Hadda; her stepsons David Tobin and Adam Tobin; and two grandchildren, Gabriel Tobin-Xet and Ursula Cashwan Tobin.