Ann Stamler, M.A., M.Phil., is Manager of Operations at the Jewish High School of Connecticut in Bridgeport. She graduated from Brooklyn College summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1965, and earned graduate degrees in Latin from Columbia University. From birth, she was in the Aesthetic Realism movement, which her parents, both artists, had joined before she was born.
Ann grew up benefiting from cultural aspects of the movement, yet forced to adhere to its dogma and its founder’s consuming need for loyalty and praise. She was a zealous proponent of the philosophy, driven by fear of public castigations for ingratitude.
In 1971, along with her parents, Ann was one of the first people the founder designated as teachers of Aesthetic Realism. When he became ill, in 1976, she was among the “students” chosen to help care for him.
Before his death, the founder empowered a circle of women, some of whom claimed they had been physically intimate with him, to carry on his work. These women privately mocked the founder, and enjoyed the power they inherited. Their hypocrisy and cruelty solidified a skepticism that had flourished in her secretly, and in 1985 she walked away.
In 1987 she married Joseph Stamler, whom she had first met in Aesthetic Realism. For 22 years she was a senior executive of a nonprofit agency in New York that worked with the labor movements in the U.S. and Israel. She has served on the boards of various civic and cultural organizations. In 2007 she was elected to the legislative body of her town in Connecticut, a position she continues to hold.
Allergic to “groups,” she at first avoided cult recovery. As she approached her 50th birthday, however, she felt her past might be interfering with her future, and so she called the Cult Hotline and Clinic, where she began working with Libbe Madsen, a therapist trained in the field. It was there she learned that her experience was not unique and that certain dynamics were common to all such movements. She delivered a paper about her experience at a Cult Information Service conference in 2002.
In 2006, she received a notice of ICSA’s first annual workshop for “Second Generation Adults,” people born or raised in cults. She knew immediately that she wanted to attend, that these were people who would understand her. She credits this workshop and its facilitators with starting her interest in cult education. When she was offered the ex-member editorship of ICSA Today, she felt there was no more meaningful work she could do, transforming the negative cult experience by making it helpful to others.
She finds communicating with those who have been in cultic situations both emotionally rewarding and helpful to her own recovery. She hopes she can encourage others to express themselves and find meaning in their experiences.