Erika Landau (1931-2013)

Dr. Erika Landau by Yaniv Golan

Erika Landau, world-famous creativity expert and researcher, psychotherapist, a great person and a most significant personality, has left us. Let’s highlight in this appraisal her activity as founder and, for decades, leader of the Young Persons’ Institute for the Promotion Creativity and Excellence, an institution that has been exemplary to this day due to its complex approach and operation, that was probably the most influential part of her work.

Children are admitted to the enrichment programme of the Institute at the age of 7-9 based on a list of characteristics compiled by their teachers; their development is monitored by psychological testing and they are assisted in overcoming any difficulties by counselling and by the active involvement of their parents. Erika Landau has always stressed that the gifted should be made aware of their social responsibility; therefore, the children are provided social and leadership skills development. The Institute takes its programmes and summer camps also to the Tel Aviv slums and involved the children in solving topical real-life problems. At the Institute, in the context of work with the parents, special emphasis is given to the development of the emotional maturity of the children, and on stressing the importance of intimate relationships/situations, of being in continuous dialogue with the parents and grandparents. Parents often focus on the intellectual development of their children, enhancing thereby the problems of development in the active and passive sense. By emotional maturity Erika Landau meant the child’s capacity to activate his/her inherent possibilities freely and securely, in the interest of socially useful goals… We can learn a lot from her to this day.

That’s how Ms Landau wrote about the Institute:

“The Young Persons' Institute for the Promotion of Creativity and Excellence was founded as a nonprofit association, about thirty years ago to help talented and gifted children to cope with their problems within a society that could not accept those who could not "conform": those children who asked more questions, who got easily bored because they caught things easily and quickly.

The aims of our work was, first of all, to satisfy their needs to know, to create, to belong and to be accepted. In other words to accept the child as he could be and not impose on him how he must be. Further aims were to understand manifested and discover latent giftedness in children. To help the gifted child to become aware and develop his/her intellectual, emotional and social needs and abilities. We do it by challenging the intellect, the emotions and the social potentials through workshops (80-100 each semester) on topics in exact-, life-, humanistic-, social sciences and the arts.

Another very important aim of our work is to involve the gifted in the present possibilities and problems of our society; to challenge and strengthen the children's whole personality thus preparing them to act in the future as creative, gifted, involved and responsible adults. By teaching and challenging the gifted children today we not only prepare them to react to decision-makers but, hopefully, give them tools to act and make decisions themselves for their own good and for a creative future of Israel.”

Ms Landau’s contacts with Hungary go back a long way. Her book on creativity was published in 1972 as the first on this topic and, hardly a coincidence, with the cordial preface of Ferenc Mérei. She visited the country first in1989, when she held a three-day creativity training course, probably the first of its kind in the country, at the Institute for Psychology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Another one of her books, The Courage to be Gifted, was published in 1986. Several among us had the opportunity to see the activity of the Institute led by her on site, and to learn from it.  Later on she visited Hungary several times, leading training courses, lecturing at a conference in Győr and, on the last occasion, she was section leader and presenter of the international talent support conference held as part of Hungary’s EU Presidency programme. She spoke there of her last research topic, resilience, i.e. the individual’s capacity to process severe traumas in a positive way, enriching thereby his personality and professional activity.

Those who have met her will always remember her charismatic personality, the way she turned to others and her radiating and empathic insightfulness.


Talent is a special kind of natural resource that is available in every country.