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My sister worked as a secretary at the Temple University Law School in Philadelphia in the mid-1960s while she pursued an undergraduate degree in education at Temple. She worked in the law school's Unit in Law and Psychiatry.

One of the young psychiatrists in the Unit was Robert L. Sadoff, MD. When I was 13 years old, during the winter of 1967, I spent the afternoon at my sister's office where I met Dr. Sadoff. I wonder if he remembers that? Dr. Sadoff has gone on to have a notable career in forensic psychiatry. Incidentally, the building in which Temple Law School was located used to be a synagogue -- the home of the reform congregation, Keneseth Israel.

Dr. Sadoff is currently a clinical professor of psychiatry, director at the Center for Studies in Social-Legal Psychiatry, and director of the Forensic Psychiatry Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He is board certified in psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, and legal medicine, and has added qualifications in forensic psychiatry with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Dr. Sadoff was born in the wake of the great depression to Midwestern parents who emphasized the value of doing good for others. They exposed him to a unique set of humanistic qualities that later contributed to his acquiring an unyielding commitment to those in need. His family espoused traditional Jewish principles of charity (tzedakah), repairing the world (tikkun olam), and respect for others in need. His parents influenced him significantly through their professional and personal values. They were graduates of the University of Minnesota School of Pharmacy, and his maternal grandmother was an herbalist. Many of his cousins became physicians or attorneys. His maternal aunt was one of the early women graduates from the University of Minnesota Law School. Sadoff has always been guided by his religious beliefs and his faith. He recalls, with great wonder, what might have been had his father not taken a morning off in 1941 to say prayers for a recently departed relative. Having decided to carry out this good deed, his father left his post at the prescription desk of the small neighborhood drugstore that he owned in South Minneapolis. At the same time, a fire engine was racing to an emergency when it missed the turn and careened into the drugstore, ending up in the prescription department. He lived to tell the tale, and the family welcomed the miracle. Sadoff was a Hebrew scholar who graduated from the University branch (Beth Midrash) of the Talmud Torah of Minneapolis, where most of the other students in his class either became rabbis or married rabbis. He matriculated at the University of Minnesota at the age of 16, after graduating as valedictorian from North High School. He had to overcome a stuttering problem to deliver his speech. He began with a biblical saying: “Everything is foreseen and yet the freedom of choice is given” (Avot 3:19). These words became a guiding creed for his future lifestyle.

Dr. Sadoff's cousin, Norman Carol, served for 28 years as concert master of the Philadelphia Orchestra -- the lead "fiddle player" of the orchestra and the musical heart of several incarnations of the "Philadelphia Sound." Norman Carol has a flair for the undramatic. He is so unassuming — in a world where people are so full of, well, assumption — that offstage he seems determined to not only demystify life in the symphony, but to de-romanticize it as well. I met Carol in 1984 while doing a story on Riccardo Muti. I sat with him during a train trip to New York for a Carnegie Hall concert, and, another day, he took me backstage at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia to give me a glimpse of what being in the orchestra was really like. It was a bunch of guys, mostly guys, standing around in sports shirts smoking cigarettes and talking about sports, mortgage rates, anything but music. And when the break was over, they all shuffled back onto the Academy stage and did their job, which was to play incredible music and send shivers down my spine. But from my new vantage point, it seemed almost a royal-blue-collar occupation — “Hey, can you give me some more of those shivers over here?”

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Comment by Gary Freedman on September 17, 2009 at 11:52am
Today is my sister's birthday. Happy birthday, Estelle. It's also Constitution Day.
Comment by Kittycat on September 17, 2009 at 11:34am
Another great story. Thanks, Gary.

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