Like most of the great 20th-century psychologists, Dr. Viktor Frankl was a German-speaking Jew who was not particularly famous for his religiosity.
Nevertheless, a group of rabbis, mental-health professionals and writers will gather on Sunday, May 15, for a one-day conference on the Torah underpinnings of the life and psychology of this eminent psychiatrist, who survived Auschwitz and went on to author the iconic work Man’s Search for Meaning, noted by the Library of Congress as one of “the 10 most influential books in the United States.”
Conference organizer Daniel Schonbuch, MA, LMFT, notes that the conference was timed to coincide with the Hakhel year, when Jewish people all over gather for inspiration, learning and camaraderie.
Schonbuch says his inspiration to explore and share how Frankl’s approach dovetails with Torah is due to the story of the Viennese researcher’s startling interactions with the Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of righteous memory.
In 1959, before the book was translated into English and gained international acclaim, Frankel was snubbed and derided by many in the academic establishment, and he was close to giving up on his career and moving overseas. The Rebbe sent an agent to deliver a personal message: “Remain strong! Continue your work with complete resolve. Don’t give up. Ultimately, you will prevail.”
Decades later, Frankel would reflect that the Rebbe came to his aid during a very difficult time, and that he owed him a tremendous debt of gratitude.
The conference, while geared towards psychologists seeking knowledge of the role of faith and spirituality in the treatment of mental-health issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma and marriage therapy, is open to the public.
Speakers will explore Frankl’s theory of logotherapy (the pursuit of meaning in one’s life), viewed as the third school of psychotherapy that followed the ground-breaking theories of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler. In addition to Schonbuch, presenters will include Rabbi Dr. Reuven Bulka; Dr. David Rosmarin; Rivki Jungreis; Dr. Barry Holzer, M.D.; Rabbi Simon Jacobson; and Rabbi Dr. Laibl Wolf.
The conference will take place at Congregation B’nai Jacob, 401 Ninth St., Brooklyn, N.Y. To register, visit www.itwillbegood.com.