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Jacobs, T.J. (1983). Dreams and Responsibilities: Notes on the Making of an Institute. Ann. Psychoanal., 11:29-49.

(1983). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 11:29-49

Dreams and Responsibilities: Notes on the Making of an Institute

Theodore J. Jacobs, M.D.

In late December of 1930, around Christmastime, Dr. A. A. Brill, president of the New York Psychoanalytic Society, sent a letter to Dr. Sandor Rado, a leading figure and the most admired teacher at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, inviting him to come to New York for a year to establish an Institute on the Berlin model. Since Rado was about to embark on a holiday, and since he felt that he needed some time to think about this intriguing offer, he did not respond immediately. On January 3, when he returned from vacation, a telegram from Brill was waiting for him. “Why the hell don't you answer,” it read. “I got so scared,” Rado was later to recall, “that I wired back right away, yes, I'll come.”

Thus, in the first days of January 1931, just over fifty years ago, with Rado's acceptance, the final step was taken in a plan to create the first Institute in America for the training of young psychoanalysts, and, within nine months, its doors were open. The decision to develop an Institute, however, had not been made rapidly. On the contrary, it had evolved slowly over many years. In fact, its origin can be traced to a blistery winter night in 1911 when an enthusiastic band of young men met in the apartment of A. A. Brill to form the New York Psychoanalytic Society.

By 1911, in fact, Brill had already become an active teacher and proselytizer for psychoanalysis. A short, rather stocky figure, with a Van Dyke beard, a thick accent, and enormous vitality, Brill was a truly remarkable individual. Born in Galicia, he had come penniless to the United States as a young adolescent. Through hard physical work, which included the scrubbing of saloon floors, he put himself through college and, ultimately, medical school.

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