Jewish Studies

Dr. Susan Liebowitz Luedke:

by Daphne Drohobyczer,
Staff Writer 

Jewish life, experience and identity

One of the first things that Dr. Susan Liebowitz Luedke mentioned as we started our conversation was the quotas that existed for college admittance in the past. These quotas were regarded as statistics that were acceptable within communities regarding social and academic requirements. Such quotas were rampant during the 1950s and 60s. In those days parents did not discourage nor did they encourage their daughters strongly to go into the medical field.

According to Dr. Luedke, “If one looked at the numbers of Jewish students admitted to the women’s college that I graduated from on the east coast, admittance was not proportional to the applications. It was even worse for other minority groups. Yet I did not experience anti-Semitism in college.”

Dr. Luedke’s mother was brought up in the Jewish tradition. Thus she considered herself culturally and religiously Jewish. Her mother received a great education and earned a master’s degree as well as a Ph.D., even though she took a break. “She had left college in the middle of her first year to marry my father…over the next 30 years she graduated from college, got a Ph.D. in English, and a master’s in counseling…when her kids were little she was a housewife and subsequently became a teacher later on in life.”

Dr. Luedke explained that both her parents were raised Jewish. She added, “ My father’s parents were from Poland. Both of his parents came to the United States as teenagers.” Her father did have a bar mitzvah, but as an adult he did not go to temple and he did not practice Judaism. Mr. Liebowitz told his daughter once that it would be bad for his business had he been active in the Jewish community. He was a lawyer in New York City.

As to Mrs. Liebowitz, Susan Luedke’s mother was adopted by a Jewish family that were practicing Jews. Dr. Luedke said that her mother, “Had serious and major illnesses during the last 10 years of her life and she finally moved to St. Louis.” This way, Mrs. Liebowitz could be close to her family.

The tradition of naming children Jewish names ended with the younger generation within her family. The practicing of Judaism relaxed even more.

Yet Dr. Luedke says that her children were taught about the Jewish faith as well as other faiths; Hanukkah as well as Christmas. The new generation was very enlightened about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. It is very important for all American people to know the history of Judaism.

Dr. Luedke has taken on responsibilities for her extended family. She said, “For both of my children I am ‘mama.”’ She continued, “I’m the supportive one and very close to my grandchildren as well.” 

Among the family members she was supportive, not only to her parents, children and grandchildren, but also to an older brother. She said, “He had a bobcat, a wild bobcat, for 20 years as a pet. He had a Ph.D. in Sociology, was brilliant and he was a college professor - he did not identify with any religion and he did not have bar mitzvah.
Luedke said “I always identified myself as Jewish. My religious beliefs certainly reflect Jewish teachings and the Old Testament.” Dr. Luedke has great advice to women doctors: “Follow your dream, be aware of latent hostility and prejudice and do not be distracted, pursue and enjoy your dream.”

As for the sixties, Dr. Luedke said that she was not the typical sixties child, “I was not into free love or drugs - I was into academic achievements.” About women's liberation, she said “I believed in the equality of women.” She added, “I do not believe that men and women are alike but I do believe they should be equal.” About the women’s college she attended on the east coast, “I had an excellent education and my focus was on learning.”

“I met Dan, my husband, who was an intern on the psych floor while I was a fourth year med student, doing my rotation.” Dr. Dan Luedke is also an oncologist, so St. Louis University offered both of them jobs.

Even though they had offers in Manhattan, Wisconsin and Texas, they chose St. Louis as their home because they loved the city. The Luedke’s children are now adults and they have their own families.

Dr. Susan Leibowitz Luedke has touched souls both Jewish and non-Jewish as a practicing oncologist in St. Louis. People come to her specifically for her expertise in oncology. She and her husband treat their patients with compassion and are supportive of each other. Their main focus is to improve the quality of their patients’ lives. Even though religion does not play a big role in their lives, Judaism does play a role in Dr. Susan Luedke’s identity as a compassionate Jewish woman.  

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