Daniel Labby (1914-2015)

Daniel Labby’s life experience reflects the second generation Jewish immigrant experience of the Portland Jewish Community. Born in New York on September 1, 1914, Daniel moved with his parents, and his father’s extended family, including uncles, aunts, and grandparents to SW Portland before 1920. They were sponsored in their immigration by Henry Miller. Daniel’s paternal family hailed from the Ukarainian/Polish border; his grandfather was an Orthodox Jew who eventually became the shamas at Shaarie Torah. Labby’s maternal family was from Moscow. Yiddish was the preferred home language. The family settled in South Portland. His social and physical activities centered around Neighborhood House. After his father became a dentist, the family moved to Laurelhurst along with several other families from South Portland: the Fischels, Taylors, Tarlows, etc. As the family Americanized, their synagogue affiliation moved from Orthodox, to Conservative to Reform. 

Daniel married Margaret Selling in 1940. They had been dating throughout his college and medical school training. Margaret was a Portlander who came from a German Jewish background. German Jews and Russian Jews came from different social classes and lived in separate communities. Daniel and Margaret met at Beth Israel, the synagogue most connected to the German Jewish community. There Daniel was confirmed, joined B’nai Brith and the Octagonal Club. Daniel and Margaret had three children: Louise, Joan and David. All were raised at Congregation Beth Israel.

Daniel earned his way through Reed College and medical school through a variety of jobs, most notably as a photographer. Though he served in the armed forces in World War II, he did not see active duty. Returning to Portland after World War II, he trained as a psychiatrist and made several major contributions in the field of Bio-Ethics, founding the Council on Humanism in Medical Education and, with Susan Pole, the Senior Clinician Conference. Daniel died on August 30, 2015.

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