Yehuda Ben-Yishay was born on February 11, 1933, in the city of Cluj in western Transylvania, Romania. His father, Chaim Ben-Yisha, was a businessman. His mother, Leah (Finkelstein) Ben-Yisha, was a seamstress.
His family survived World War II largely unharmed. Although hundreds of thousands of Romanian Jews died during the Holocaust, hundreds of thousands survived, especially those in the southern reaches of Transylvania, where the family had fled shortly before the war.
The Ben-Yishais had a Zionist desire, and in 1946 they sailed with about 2,000 other Jews to Palestine on a ship of converted animals. The British authorities banned such mass migration, and upon arrival, Judah and his two brothers and sisters were separated from their parents because they were placed in refugee camps.
After Israel’s independence in 1948, Dr. Ben-Yisha served in Nahal, part of the Israeli Defense Forces, which built agricultural settlements. He later attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, hoping to study psychology, but there was no one to teach it. In 1948, Arab guerrillas assassinated the head of the department and several colleagues.
Dr. Ben-Yisha studied sociology, graduating in 1957. She won a scholarship to the New School of Social Studies in Manhattan և arrived late that year.
To support himself, he taught Hebrew and worked with retirees, including in a summer camp in Brewster, New York. There he met Mirna Peterman. They married in 1960 and had three sons, Arin and Ron և Seth. They all survived him, along with his brothers Israel Meer. his sister, Pnina; և Eight grandchildren.
At the new school, Dr. Ben-Yisha fell under the guidance of a German immigration psychologist named Kurt Goldstein. Dr. Goldstein argued that patients with traumatic injuries could only recover in a “complete” environment that would take into account not only their physical well-being but also their emotional and mental health.