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Paul H. Ornstein

Dear IAPSP Community,

It is with deep sorrow that we need to inform you of the passing away of our very dear Paul H. Ornstein. He died last Thursday at his Brookline home, surrounded by his family.

For many years Paul has been a beloved key figure in IAPSP and in the larger psychoanalytic community.Last October, in Boston, we have payed Anna and Paul a special tribute in our annual conference. I would like to share some excerpts of the things I have said there.

In my mind, as it is probably in the minds of many, Paul was a true Kohutian, not only in his in-depth knowledge of what Kohut had taught, in his loyalty to it, and his therapeutic practice, but in his very being - his empathic immersion in the inner lives of others, his belief in, and deep acceptance of, anything human.

There's an anecdote I'd like to share with you. In the winter of 1997, I was staying with Anna and Paul at their home when Arnold Goldberg came to Cincinnati to promote his new book about perversions. At that time there was quite a buzz in the US around the "uncovering" of Madelaine Albright's Judaism. We were having dinner, and Anna remarked about how she couldn't quite understand why anyone would hide their Judaism. She mentioned the arguments she had had with Kohut over the subject. Paul intervened and said something like: But Anna, you need to understand. For Heinz, Judaism had no significance, and with the Anschluss it became a burden because of which his world turned upside down. He was displaced from his beloved environment and culture due to something he felt no affinity with. He had to start afresh here, find his place, so he wanted a clean slate and did not wish this baggage to hamper his quest of becoming an American. So he renounced his Judaism. Can't you understand that? Upon hearing this, Arnold Goldberg laughed and said, " I have always told Heinz, you know, we all like you, but Paul LOVES you".

But I believe it was neither love alone nor mere archaic idealization. Although some colleagues had disparagingly called the Ornsteins "loyalists", I would say that they are indeed Kohut's loyal disciples, not just his blindly admiring followers. I would rather regard their stance as one insisting on respect for the origin, advocating the importance of a continuity, where the contemporary derives its strength not only from its own creativity and innovativeness, but also from the great heritage of the past, from which it draws and on which it leans. Anna and Paul never strove to differentiate themselves from their great teacher. When you read their numerous publications and presentations, when you are in supervision with them, or when you listen to their discussions of papers by others, you can easily realize that their attitude is twofold: they are devoted to preserving Kohut's legacy, but they neither shy from treating it critically where they see fit, nor from inserting their own ideas, developments, and expansions of what they have learned.

Paul's publications, his own and those he has published jointly with Anna, are far too many to list here, but these, along with his monumental editing and introducing of the four volumes of Kohut's collected papers and letters The Search for the Self, make him a key contributor to Psychoanalysis in general and to Self Psychology in particular.

As Joye Weisel-Barth once said, Paul's life was a life well lived, and we are all deeply grateful for having had him in our midst, for having enjoyed the richness of his wisdom, knowledge, generosity, warmth and empathy. He will be greatly missed by all of us, and on behalf of IAPSP community I wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to Anna, Sharon, Miriam, Rafael, and their families.

In the Hebrew, words used by president Bill Clinton, I would like to say - Shalom Havver (Good Bye Friend).

Eldad Iddan IAPSP president

Shelley Doctors, IAPSP immediate past president
Amy Eldridge, IAPSP national executive coordinator
Martin Gossmann, international executive coordinator


The third image above is taken from the video interview with Paul Ornstein, conducted by Michael Clifford in 2010 and released on the IAPSP site in 2016.
If you are a member and would like to revisit this video, click here