Carl Frankenstein (1905–1990)—Prof. of Education at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel Prize Laureate for Education (1966), philosopher and man of action, educator and Jungian therapist—crystallized his unique reservations about the human being into a complex theory based on psychological, philosophical and social considerations. Carl Frankenstein’s theory of man deals mainly with human spiritual and mental references to the world and the efficacy of the individual's adaptation to it. The fundamental questions posed by Frankenstein are how a skill is formed, what can influence it and how it can impact a person's development. Frankenstein wanted to materialize his theoretical ideas in his educational and therapeutic work in order to enable individuals to realize their potentials. Many years of Frankenstein’s life interlaced with events and occurrences that forged, developed and formed the fundamentals of the social and educational infrastructure of the State of Israel.





Carl Frankenstein was born in Berlin in 1905 to a well-to-do Jewish family. He studied philosophy, psychology, pedagogy and Semitic languages, such as Assyrian and Hebrew, at the Berlin and Erlangen Universities. He became acquainted with the Hebrew language thanks to his friend and mentor Ervin Loewensohn, who was a researcher and philosopher dedicated to the philosophical interpretation of the Bible in German. Frankenstein, who was devoted to the linguistic study of Hebrew, compiled for himself and his learned friend auxiliary dictionaries in the form of notebooks that contained biblical vocabulary with linguistic derivatives and semantic meanings.

A solid friendship grew in Berlin between the young Frankenstein and Gershon Scholem, the future famous professor and researcher of Kabbalah, who proposed that Frankenstein become his research assistant. Frankenstein did not accept the offer, but decided to do his doctorate in philosophy on a topic with a mystical connotation. Frankenstein studied the philosophy of Franz Joseph Molitor; a believing Christian who was deeply interested in Judaism and particularly in Jewish mysticism, based on his aspiration to reach a balance between his adherence to the church and the metaphysical contents of Judaism. Molitor was also a teacher at the first modern Jewish school established in Frankfurt in 1804. In that sense, Molitor was the first incarnation of the central pedagogic figure, typical of Frankenstein’s pedagogic writings and his own image: the foreign and reliable educator who is willing to assist whoever is in need (a young child or an immigrant), gain his trust, and help him navigate the unfamiliar, embarrassing and even frustrating reality of his new life.


After completing his doctorate, Frankenstein preferred to devote himself to social domains. He decided to study social work and psychology at the University of Berlin. His childhood friend, Erich Neumann, then a medical student and a pupil of Carl Jung, drew him near to Jung’s theory. Later on, after Neumann’s immigration to Israel (in 1946), Frankenstein was analyzed by him. In the course of the analysis, Neumann sent the stories of his patient’s dreams to Jung in Zurich and, thus, Frankenstein was admitted to the Association of Analytical Psychology and recognized as a Jungian therapist. The Jungian theory had an enormous influence on his educational theory.


In 1928, still in Germany, Frankenstein was active in two Jewish public activities: education and social work. He was among the founders and first teachers at the Jewish School for Youth in Berlin, and manager of an association that helped Jewish artists (painters, musicians) and scientists who were facing economic difficulties. Frankenstein organized exhibitions and concerts by well-known voluntary amateur musicians in private homes. In some such concerts, Albert Einstein played the violin and so became a close friend of Frankenstein’s. The two met several times after Einstein’s escape from Germany. Einstein pleaded with Frankenstein to come with him to Princeton in the USA, but the latter refused. On the eve of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, when Frankenstein was sent on a mission on behalf of Hadassah-Women to acquire milk powder for babies, they met again and Einstein asked Frankenstein to deliver a speech on the occasion of the establishment of the State of Israel in a ceremony held in New York.


Frankenstein started working as a state-employed social worker when the economic situation in Germany was seriously deteriorating. When Hitler came to power, a doctor colleague warned him that he was wanted on suspicion of helping the communists. He suggested that Frankenstein escape and he left Germany quite suddenly, two months before he was supposed to have been nominated to the important position of Head of the Social Services Department. Following his sister, he moved to Paris and from there arrived for the first time in Israel. In 1936, he immigrated to Israel and settled there, where he continued what he regarded as his purpose and mission, namely treating and educating youth.


During his early days in Jerusalem, Frankenstein undertook voluntary social work activities in tight cooperation with Henrietta Szold. Then he began working as a chief probation officer for the British Mandate Government, as a lecturer at the Social Work School in Jerusalem, of which he was one of the founders, and as the Director of the Szold Institute, where he founded and edited the scientific educational quarterly “Megamot” (i.e. Trends).


During those first years in Israel, Frankenstein explored the situation of families living in distress (poverty, socioeconomic problems and mental disorders) in Jerusalem. This study was the basis for the theoretical development and the application of his educational-therapeutic teachings.


In 1947, Frankenstein joined the faculty of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He taught in the Psychology Department and at the School of Education, of which he was also Director for several years, and served as a lecturer until his retirement. In tandem with his University work, Frankenstein continued developing his theory and training many generations of students in the fields of public education, special education, psychology and social work.


In 1966, Carl Frankenstein was awarded the Israel Prize for Education, thanks to his important contributions to the promotion of education in Israel.




Frankenstein devised a mental development theory, through which he described in depth the various forms of deviations, mental disorders, psychoses, delinquencies and features of distress in adolescents. He was also very skilled in formulating ways to heal and rehabilitate children and adults afflicted with these problems. His explanations and ideas are imbued with an optimistic approach with regard to healing and rehabilitation and his concepts have become priceless assets for educators, social workers and therapists.


Frankenstein was keen on applying his theory in practice. He believed that through proper teaching methods, alongside social and mental treatment, it would be possible to overcome various difficulties afflicting distressed children and their families, thus promising them a better future. For this purpose, an educational project at the Hebrew University Secondary School was launched in the 1960s, and it was here that his psycho-educational approach—“rehabilitative teaching”—was tested and developed. Following the project’s success, the Training Institute for Teachers and Educators was established within the framework of the Education Department at the Hebrew University, in the spirit of his teaching. The Institute’s graduates continue implementing Frankenstein’s educational methods in schools all over the country.


As mentioned earlier, Frankenstein did not concentrate exclusively on philosophy relating to educational matters, he also rolled up his sleeves and went into the field, visiting schools and classrooms. He shifted the core of his activity to training teachers and pedagogical staff, either in the framework of groups or through individual tutoring.


In order to help teachers to educate pupils from a weak socioeconomic background, Frankenstein sat for many hours in classrooms, observing the teachers’ work. Then he met every teacher personally and analyzed the lesson's pros and cons with him or her. In particular, Frankenstein devoted attention to the pupils’ ways of thinking, the associative conduct of this thinking and the way in which the teacher could help pupils, while recognizing the sensitive sources of their thinking.


Many teachers owe him their professional development, their ability to listen to their pupils and understand the source of their wrong thinking. These elements are valid for all quality teaching and not only with respect to pupils from a weak socioeconomic background.


Frankenstein continued this kind of work even after completing the “rehabilitative teaching” project and focused on training teachers in various domains for a variety of population groups and also in other schools. In addition, he taught students who were studying special education at the David Yellin Academic College of Education in Jerusalem. It should be pointed out that all these activities were voluntary, were undertaken with great devotion and continued for many years until his dying day.


Frankenstein, as an educator, psychologist and philosopher, was wrote extensively, as evidenced by his numerous writings, books and articles, published in Hebrew, English and German. They are a mine of knowledge for understanding his educational, philosophic, psychological and spiritual teachings. He was also a unique poet, whose poems were published in Hebrew and in English. Frankenstein was an encyclopaedic scholar with vast cultural knowledge in all aspects of life.


Yehuda Amihai dedicated a poem to Carl Frankenstein on his birthday in 1991.


A Man and his Place

To Carl Frankenstein on his birthday

This place is quiet and it is good to know of it,

down the road to Ein-Karem.

A noble quiet man like him,

Whose face seems carved in precious wood

recalling the wild growth of a virgin forest.

His eyes serene yet, like a thermometer,

full of volatile quicksilver.

A man – a buckle to close and watch –

always in the middle, equidistant from both sides;

Past and future.

A man blocking silt like stairs.

Faced by the mount of remembrance

on whose peak grow forests much younger than him.