Odysseys: Dorit Brauer's wanderlust leads to Pittsburgh

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Dorit Brauer is someone who knows where she belongs. Although she was born in Germany and lived in Israel for many years, her home is Pittsburgh, and she says that being an American citizen is a privilege.

Ms. Brauer was born on a dairy farm on the Rhine River in Germany. That place, as peaceful and as beautiful as it is, was small for her. She wanted to travel the world, get a motorcycle license, study art. In her 20s, she left home to take a 10-week backpacking trip to Brazil. Then Ms. Brauer moved to Tel Aviv, Israel to study Hebrew and take art lessons. She lived in Tel Aviv for 12 1/2 years, got involved with holistic and complementary medicine and received a degree in that field.

The first time she came to Pittsburgh was in 1998. A marriage, which did not work out, brought her here. When she arrived in Pittsburgh, she worked at UPMC at the Center for Complementary Medicine and then joined Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. Because of Ms. Brauer's rare expertise in the field of holistic medicine, her career thrived.

In 2006, at age 40 and already an accomplished teacher of meditation and holistic medicine, she embarked on what she calls "a spiritual quest." Ms. Brauer rode her motorcycle across the United States and later wrote a book about her 7,430-mile journey. The book is called "Girls Do Not Ride Motorcycles."

"Girls do not ride motorcycles," her traditional father used to tell her. The trip was a statement of pursuing "everything she wasn't supposed to and finding adventure and true fulfillment in life."

After the road trip, Ms. Brauer tried to settle in California, but she missed Pittsburgh, missed the atmosphere, missed her friends. She came back to the Steel City a year and a half later and now with confidence calls the Steel City her home.

"When I left for California I was 100 percent sure that I was off to new frontiers and my life was changing again, and if someone would have told me back then when I was leaving Pittsburgh that I would be coming back, I would not have believed it," she says.

But her road led back to Pittsburgh.

"This is my place. This is my home," she says. "I connect with the most wonderful people. What I also love about it is that it's so multicultural, there is so much art, but also there is this perfect balance: a big-city atmosphere but also a small-town feel to it. People of Pittsburgh are very grounded, very family-oriented. They value deep connections. It's a great place to live with a good quality of life.

"I needed to do this entire journey through all these different places and different countries to end up here and really know that this is my home, this is where I want to be."

Her business is doing well, too, because there seems to be a need for what Ms. Bauer does. She is the founder of The Brauer Institute for Holistic Medicine.

"I translated all of my study material from Hebrew to English, so I am the only teacher now in the state of Pennsylvania offering a 360-hour holistic reflexology certification program, and my first group of students graduated in December last year."

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Ms. Brauer is a pioneer of holistic medicine in Pittsburgh. The mission of The Brauer Institute for Holistic Medicine is "to offer and teach lasting solutions on the physical, emotional and spiritual level and support patients to reach optimum health."

Ms. Brauer's mission in life "is to help others connect to the light and live their dreams to the fullest and truly find peace and unity in this world," she said.

She does not have any complaints about America, because making a decision to become an American citizen was such a long and thorough process for her.

"When I took American citizenship, this is the day when I realized, 'This is my place, not just Pittsburgh but also America,' " she says, adding that she had to give up her German citizenship because Germany does not allow dual citizenship.

"I do come from a wealthy country, with a lot of opportunities, so for me, choosing America, I had to think about it deeply. I do not have any complaints."

The only thing Ms. Dorit says she misses is unlimited speed on the German Autobahn.

"It's such a privilege to be able to choose your nationality, and it's such a privilege to be an American citizen, the fact that I am welcome here and I am able to make the place where I was not born my home. This is huge. I am still breathless," she says.

VIDEO: Dorit talks about Pittsburgh

Editor’‍s note: This article is part of the Odysseys project through which the Post-Gazette is trying to track immigrants from 193 countries in the United Nations, folks who made Pittsburgh their home. Read about countries we have found, and help us with those we are yet to make a connection.

Check other stories about Pittsburgh immigrants by clicking on the image below.

Mila Sanina: msanina@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @pgmila.

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