DR. JUDITH BORIT
Dr. Judith (Judy) Borit of Arlington, MA died on January 3, 2011 in New York City from melanoma cancer, 13 years after the disease was first detected in her body. She was 74. She worked as a psychiatrist for nearly fifty years. She is survived by her younger brother, Dr. Gabor Boritt and his wife Elizabeth Lincoln Norseen Boritt; and her three nephews: Beowulf Norseen, Jakob Bagge, and Daniel Adam Wilson Boritt. A memorial service will be held in June.
Judith Borit was born February 23, 1936, in Budapest, Hungary, the second child and only daughter of Dr. Paul Roth Szappanos Boritt (1903-1986) and Rosa Teresa Schwartz Roth (1907-1949). Her childhood years were spent in the hills of Buda on the steep cobblestoned Gul Baba Street. She lived in a large stone home with her parents, her older brother Adam (1934-1995), and her younger brother Gabor (1940-). Her earliest memories include Friday night services when her father blessed her and a chocolate bar from her grandfather's candy factory that was named after her.
In 1944, the Nazi invasion of Hungary forced the family from their home. For several months the family lived in a janitor’s closet of a makeshift Jewish hospital located in a school at 44 Wesselenyi Street at the edge of the main Jewish ghetto. During the Nazi occupation of Budapest Judith experienced multiple harrowing incidents.
Her father acted heroically, working for the Swiss Red Cross. When there was a problem with the fascists at the doors he was responsible for facing them. Regularly he removed the yellow star arm band required of all Jews, donned a long leather coat, and headed to Teleki Square where Jews were being deported. He claimed he was a doctor and insisted on removing people, mostly women, from the queue, saying they were too sick to make the journey to the Nazi camps.
Judith, her mother and two brothers stayed in the janitor’s closet during these periods. Judith recounted one incident when Fascists came looking for her father. While her mother held her children’s hands the Fascist thugs threatened the family before leaving them alone.
Judith’s mother was a devout Jew. As the allied forces encircled Budapest in the winter of 1944-45, shelling of the city intensified. During an attack a shell exploded in the same room as the family, killing a man and a woman, but leaving the family unhurt. Her mother, who kept a kosher home, was desperate to feed her family, and once asked permission of a rabbi to feed the children bacon. The rabbi granted permission to feed her children. Much of Judy’s maternal family was killed in Auschwitz.
Following the end of World War II, and during the Soviet occupation, the family lived in multiple locations throughout Budapest. Judith’s mother died in 1949 after a long illness. Both Judith’s brother and father were jailed by the Communist government. During this period Judy spent most of her weekends traveling to prisons to visit her brother or father. Judith attended high school at Anna Frank Gymnasium. In the mid-1950s she began studying medicine in the city of Szeged.
During the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, when Hungarian Freedom Fighters revolted against the Soviet-backed Communist government, she participated in protests in Szeged. In late October she made her way to Budapest to reunite with her family. During the final days of the revolt she and her family found themselves trapped in the basement of their apartment building at 4 Terez Korut Boulevard while Soviet tanks bombarded the upper floors of the building. Though the upper floors of the building collapsed, the family managed to escape unharmed.
Following the defeat of the Hungarian Freedom Fighters, Judy’s brother escaped immediately to Austria. Her father insisted that Judith and her younger brother Gabor leave Hungary and "go to an English speaking country." On December 6, 1956, she and Gabor boarded a train heading west. Near the border Soviet soldiers took numerous people off the train, turning them over to the Hungarian Army. Using wit, charm and moxie, Judith managed to convince an officer to allow she and her brother to go.
They arrived in Sopron near the Austrian border. Here they spent the night and were put in contact with a local guide. In the early December morning, carrying no baggage, they made their way through the wooded hilly mining country near the border. Along with three other refugees they were guided to the frontier. Here the guide said, "God bless" and pointed across a wide swathe of plowed, open ground. The Soviet army had previously mined the area though these had recently been removed. The open area was marked by intermittent watchtowers. The five refugees were at the edge of the Iron Curtain.
They each agreed that anyone who gets shot will be left behind so the rest can survive. Twenty-year old Judy led the group in a sprint across the border area to the other side. Gabor brought up the rear. In the middle of the plowed space an older man fell down claiming he had a heart attack. Gabor stopped for a moment telling the man, "Get up, get up, you got to go!" The fallen man insisted he had a heart attack. Gabor ran ahead towards the others and the man got up and followed after him.
They arrived at the other side and wandered aimlessly in the woods. Judy led the group despite her notorious bad sense of direction. At one point she nearly lead them back across the border into Hungary again. They all ran back toward Austria and wandered for quite a bit longer until they saw a sign stating, "Smoking Forbidden," in German, meaning they were, indeed, in Austria. Judy remembers this as one of the happiest moments of her life.
By trekking, tractor, train, and truck they made their way to a refugee camp and spent the next four months in Austria.
On April 22, 1957, Judith and Gabor arrived at Camp Kilmer, NJ, in the United States - among the 40,000 Hungarian refugees admitted by President Eisenhower. Judith moved to New York City and, eventually, Boston. Here Judy resumed her studies at Boston University’s School of Medicine, receiving her degree in medicine in 1963, followed by training in adult psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry and, later in life, in geriatric psychiatry. She had never obtained a college degree, a fact she found humorous in her later years. Judith’s story is featured prominently in the film “Budapest to Gettysburg.”
For fifty years, almost evenly divided between the public and the private sectors, Dr. Judith Borit worked with patients who had serious mental health disorders. Dr. Borit was on staff at the Mt. Auburn Hospital and also served in community mental health centers in greater Boston in Arlington, Cambridge and Lexington. Besides working in in-patient situations, she was one of the first innovators to develop effective day treatment programs for the seriously mentally ill. She never stopped learning; having started in child and adolescent psychiatry as well as adult, she extended the latter by studying and becoming expert in geriatric psychiatry later in her career as well. She also offered psychiatric services in Wyoming areas underserved by mental health professionals.
Mary Jane England, MD, former American Psychological Association (APA) President and current president of Regis College in Weston, MA, said:
“I have been friends with Judith since our medical school days and grieve her death both personally and socially. My son sent his condolences to me saying, ‘So much time together. And so formative. Always a part of our family from before I can remember.’ Professionally, I saw how Judith steadfastly, over a lifetime, sought out and treated those in our society who most need mental health intervention. Her skill in helping these patients live happier and more productive lives often meant that other physicians in greater Boston and beyond referred their most challenging patients to her. And, indeed, she would develop a long and effective relationship with each one, helping these patients by setting limits and boundaries for them and with them. A woman with strong convictions who could be outspoken when she thought a course of action was right, she was a remarkable person and physician who saw and survived some of the worst situations in twentieth-century history and was nevertheless able to turn a helpful, kind and intelligent eye toward humanity.”
For over three decades Judith lived at Spy Pond in Arlington, MA. She never married and had no children. She remained very close to her brothers Adam, a neuroscientist and Gabor, a Lincoln and Civil War historian and author. Judy had especially close relationships with her three nephews, Gabor's children: Beowulf Boritt, a Broadway set designer in New York City, Jake Boritt, a filmmaker also in New York City, and Dan Boritt, a biologist at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington. In her final months Judy was overjoyed to meet her first great nephew: William Henry Boritt.
Judith was involved with Children Survivors of the Holocaust. She was an avid theater-goer, frequently seeing shows in New York City. She loved travel and visited a vast number of countries including multiple return trips to Hungary. She visited much of Europe as well as Namibia, Kenya, Egypt, Israel, India, China, Japan, Mongolia, Mexico, Cuba and Ecuador. She spent her final trip sailing around the Galapagos Islands with many members of her family. Though the cancer in her lungs limited her mobility, she insisted on taking a hike on the island of Floreana. Here, in a lake at the base of an extinct volcano, she saw flamingoes performing courtship rituals. Upon hearing of giant sea turtles arriving on a beach on the opposite side of the volcanic island, she insisted on making the steep hike. After descending a craggy path to the white sand beach, she found numerous pairs of rare giant Galapagos Green Sea Turtles mating as the sun set. Judith Borit died exactly one year and one day later.
To make a donation in Judith’s name or learn about memorial plans visit: