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As We Care For Survivors, Don’t Forget The Damage Done To Their Descendents

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The words “Never Forget” have become synonymous with the Holocaust, but as the actual horror of the Holocaust starts to fade, it’s time we add to the mantra an addendum: “Never Ignore.”

As the events of 60 years ago start to slip into history, the suffering of those who survived the Holocaust has been a steadfast reminder of the atrocities of which humanity is capable if we do not keep ourselves in check. Their scars are front and center, their tattooed arms impossible to ignore. And helping them heal will be our cause even as they enter the last stages of their lives.

Yet as we focus on that generation, often lost are those whose pain will endure long after the last survivor is gone – the generations of their children and grandchildren who have been traumatized by growing up with the pain their families endured during the Holocaust and scarred by the trauma of growing up with those in post-Holocaust shock.

The tales of some survivors are certainly famous, but most suffered in silence, refusing to discuss their terror as they tried to protect their children from pain. Their children grew up with parents who never dealt with their own trauma, and the silence was often deafening and painful.

Some have been able to deal with the silence constructively, teaching about the Holocaust, not letting the world forget what happened. Some fight it by being vocal about genocide. Others research the genocide in attempt to understand what happened to their parents.

Yet thousands more simply suffer from psychological disorders such at PTSD, low self-esteem, and hoarding, according to such publications as the Cambridge Journal.

Take for instance “Anna,” a 35-year-old architect and grandchild of survivors, who suffers from a hoarding disorder.

Her apartment is packed with things she will not throw out. Every counter space is covered and every draw is bursting forward. She keeps a pair of shoes that she swears she threw out 26 months ago. Walk into her apartment, and you’ll find one thing: stuff. The more that is available, the more she keeps. She just can’t escape the need to hold on to stuff.

Yet she can’t let go of things that even she knows are meaningless junk, and she can tell you. Why? Because that is how her parents acted – and how can she throw away an old pair of shoes, when her grandparents would have died for a pair of shoes?

It’s time we begin paying attention to the thousands of children walking around today with these disorders.

That’s why Yeshiva University students who are third-generation Holocaust survivors, and who still live with the repercussions of the Holocaust, have created a forum in which we can address some of the unique challenges our generation faces, and learn how to finally move forward.

We are hosting a conference that will discuss in scientific and medical terms what many of us still endure because of the Holocaust. We want to ensure that our generation is informed and sensitive about how the pain of the Holocaust lives on even today.

On October 21, we will bring our issues to the forefront and publicly grapple with them at a forum at Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus that will include such speakers as Dr. Michael Grodin of Boston University, Irene Hizme, a survivor of Mengele’s experiments on twins, and renowned psychologist Dr. David Pelcovitz.

As descendents of survivors, we have are responsible for remembering the six million of our parents’ and grandparents’ generation who were needlessly killed. We know that we need to keep alive their message. After all, it is we who have been privileged to hear their first-hand accounts, and we must inform our children of what happened.

But with that responsibility comes a price that many of us have paid. It’s time that we teach about that as well.

Mordechai Smith and Yosefa Schoor are co-presidents of Yeshiva University’s Student Medical Ethics Society. Learn more at www.yumedicalethics.com.

It’s My Opinion: Hurricane Season

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

The Labor Day weekend and the resumption of school are signals that mark the end of summer in many parts of the United States. Families have one last barbecue. Women put away their white shoes. Everyone anticipates the bright colors of falling leaves and cooler weather.

Florida has its own demarcation. It’s called the hurricane season, which comes at this time every year. The population invariably stresses out while watching a series of alphabetically named storms that either miss, brush by or hit our area. The feeling is one of helpless anticipation.

The news channels always have a field day with warnings and veiled prognostications of doom. Scenes of previous disasters are flashed across television screens. Reporters, donning full rain gear give on-scene bulletins, often before the first drops fall.

People are told to purchase water, canned food and emergency supplies. Stock is quickly depleted as shoppers mob local stores. Tempers are frayed.

As I write this column, a tropical storm, predicted to become a hurricane, is barreling toward South Florida. The idea that we have no control over where and if it will hit is sobering. We want to believe that modern technology has helped us to be masters of our fate. The assumption, obviously, is mistaken.

The hurricane season and all its uncertainties are actually of some merit. It serves as a wake-up call and a reality check of life.

Rosh Hashanah rapidly approaches. It is intended as a time of introspection and examination. Hopefully, the lessons of hurricane season will be helpful as we understand we are not the ultimate arbitrators of life.

Getting Back Together

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

We all know we have to take the Three Weeks seriously. But at the same time we all just want the time between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av to pass already.

Each year seems more worrisome; this year is no exception. Every day brings new evidence that the world situation is deteriorating, with tzouris on every level. Of course, Israel is becoming more and more isolated. The rockets fall, and no one cares except us.

What exactly should we focus on during this sober time of year?

We all know that sinas chinam, gratuitous hatred between Jew and Jew, caused the destruction of the Second Temple. We all know it, but clearly we are having trouble incorporating it into our lives. The knowledge is not going to help us unless it becomes an imperative whose urgency is driven by our desire for a real solution to our problems.

We’ve all become somewhat depressed, affected by the cynicism we learn from the surrounding society, which is content to try to enjoy itself as the world spins out of control. How many people really believe the world can ever be transformed into a peaceful planet on which the Children of Israel can live in our Holy Land, “each man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4)?

Let’s try to understand how we can really make this happen. If we took this seriously, we could well be rejoicing soon in the new Beis HaMikdash. Since we are not there yet, we obviously need to hear it again.

Here is the source:

“[At the time of] the Second Temple, [we know] that the people occupied themselves with Torah, mitzvos and acts of kindness. Why was it destroyed? Because of the gratuitous hatred that existed there. This teaches you that gratuitous hatred is tantamount to the three sins of idolatry, immorality and bloodshed [put together]” (Yoma 9b).

I know of instances in which Jews try to hurt each other and do hurt each other. This is crazy, of course.

People are not using their brains. Maybe it is because so many of us are lost somewhere inside our smart phones or computers. If we would think, we would not act this way, because this behavior is suicide.

All our tzouris stems from the fact that we have no Beis HaMikdash.

“Because of our sins, we have been exiled from our land and sent far from our soil. We cannot ascend to appear…before You…in the…great and holy House upon which Your Name was proclaimed…” (Yom Tov Mussaf). When we will return to our land in teshuvah, Hashem will “command rain for your land in its proper time, the early and later rains, that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. I will provide grass in your field for your cattle and you will eat and be satisfied” (Shema prayer/Devarim11:14).

* * * * *

I am going to suggest a few ideas.

There are things we can do.

We have to become closer.

We are one family.

My wife and I recently conducted several programs in the beautiful Syrian community of Mexico City. Before going, we wondered how we would be able to relate. After all, we are Ashkenazim from New York. It’s a different world, right?

Wrong!

It is unbelievable how close we all are. In fact, we learned that our granddaughter from Israel was best friends with the daughter of our host in Mexico. They had met at camp in the Catskills. Do you understand? It’s 7,732 miles from Israel to Mexico, and they met at a camp in between.

Mashiach is almost here. We are all about to unite as “one man with one heart.” Let’s get serious. It makes me insane when I see not only how cruel we can be to each other but how we often just distance ourselves. Would you pass your brother on the street and not greet him? Would you stare in the other direction as if he didn’t exist? If we all would try to modify our actions, then perhaps one – even unnoticed or invisible – act of chesed could tip the scale and bring Mashiach.

Religious Jewish Tourists Attacked in Jordan

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

A group of kipah-clad Jewish tourists in Jordan reportedly was harassed and attacked by locals.

Arab media reported that Jordanians in the town of Al Karak grew agitated on Monday when they saw a few Jewish men wearing head coverings in the local market. They threw shoes at them and chased them away, the Jordanian daily Al Arab al Youm reported.

The Anti-Defamation League described the incident as a cause for concern and called on the Jordanian government to investigate.

Title: Here Comes Shabbos!

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Title: Here Comes Shabbos!
Author: Ilana H. Keilson

Illustrator: Nechama Leibler

Publisher: Artscroll Youth Series

The book Here Comes Shabbos! is about a family baking, cooking, polishing silver, shining shoes, shopping and cleaning for Shabbos. The activities begin on Friday morning and only conclude shortly before lighting the Shabbos candles. During that time span, it covers everything you need to do in order to get ready for Shabbos. It is especially nice how the children call their grandparents on Friday to wish them a good Shabbos. The book shows the mother making a delectable feast, and from the vivid illustrations, it looks good enough to eat straight off of the pages. It is also nice to look at three or four-year-old children helping their mother get ready for Shabbos. The book can also serve as a preparation checklist.

As it has been a while since I enjoyed an illustrated children’s book, I enlisted the help of my two brothers, ages 5 and 8. They both sat enthralled (especially the 5-year-old) as I read it to them slowly, asking them what they observed on the pages before I read it to them. They always knew exactly what was described due to the life-like illustrations. In addition to the illustrations, they also liked the clever rhyming phrases. Their favorite illustration was the one in the grocery store, and it made us all hungry. After listening to both of my brothers’ opinions, I think Here Comes Shabbos! is ideal for 3 – 6-year-olds.

Here Comes Shabbos! is a book all young children will love and beg to be read to them over and over again – on any day of the week. Also, children will be inspired by the children in the story to help out for Shabbos as well. This book would be perfect in any playgroup, kindergarten or Pre-1A classroom. Parents and teachers may also be able to teach children to perform some of the simpler tasks in the story.

Shmuel Holczer is a seventh grader. He is an avid reader of interesting books. He can be reached at magazine@jewishpress.com

Balancing Respect And Reality

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael: My friend comes from a comfortable, balabatish home in the New York vicinity, and is married to an out-of-town boy from a very wealthy family. During the first few years of their marriage, the young couple managed to juggle visits to both sets of parents for the Yamim Tovim and bein ha’zemanim. As the family grew larger and the grandchildren got older, the amount of time they had to spend with either side of the family became more limited. However, the out-of-town parents would not agree to fewer visits. They felt that since they were still financially supporting them they were entitled to the bulk of the visits. The schedule of their son’s learning, the grandchildren’s yeshiva and their daughter-in-law’s work were disregarded. During all this time my friend’s parents were always supportive and helpful – but never demanding.

The young couple tried to keep shalom and travel out of town as often as possible, but felt that their efforts were not appreciated and that their visits were never enough. While it is obvious to me that some intervention is necessary, the young couple is reluctant to inflict pain and is uncertain as to how to approach the parents about their situation.

Perhaps you can discuss their problem in your column (the parents are regular readers), thus opening the door for a frank family discussion.

Thank you in advance. I am sure your positive input will help their situation. A Friend

Dear Friend: It is difficult for a couple to be put in this predicament.

Since this young couple is still financially dependent on the husband’s parents, they may feel uncomfortable having a frank discussion about this matter with them.

Unfortunately, money sometimes comes with strings attached. But it’s possible that these parents would expect these visits even if they did not support their son and his family. When parents live away from their children and grandchildren, they treasure the time spent together.

Is it possible for the parents to come to the New York area and stay nearby? Perhaps the children would enjoy these visits more, especially if they were able to minimize the work involved.

The best way for the couple to handle the situation is to speak to the parents directly – in a respectful, loving manner. If your friend and her husband tell his parents that they love them very much and appreciate all of their help, and then present ideas on how to deal with the scheduling issues, the parents may get some solace.

Another way to make the parents feel more valued is to call often, write letters and cards (especially from the children), and to try to maintain a close connection.

The message these parents need to get is that they are loved and appreciated. Additionally, though time constraints and work/school pressures may limit the children’s visits, the children must find ways to show their deep love and hakaras hatov. Hatzlachah!

Dear Dr. Yael: As a reader of all of your columns on hakaras hatov, here are my feelings as a child with loving parents.

My husband and I both come from good homes. Both sets of parents support us as my husband is learning in kollel. But my in-laws, who are much wealthier than my parents, give exactly the amount that they agreed to while my parents tend to give us more.

I realize that in life, it is not what is in one’s pocketbook that counts, but what is in one’s heart. Somehow generous people find a way to give more money, time and love to others – even when they have less money and/or time.

No one is obligated to give me and my husband any money, but as a young kollel couple, the support is needed and greatly appreciated. I do not, chas v’shalom, want to sound ungrateful to my in-laws. They are wonderful people, but in some way they make me and my husband feel that they are giving us money out of obligation. As I have gotten older, I have recognized that while many of my friends and I sought to marry boys from affluent homes, this was a misguided ambition. I am, Baruch Hashem, very happily married, and have come to realize that money and material things do not make a person happy. Rather, having someone who is caring and willing to give is paramount to true happiness.

I hope that young single men and women are reading this column, so that they can look for the right things in a potential spouse. I was lucky enough to have found an amazing husband, even at a time when I was swept up in materialism. Unfortunately, some of my friends were not as lucky and they regret having looked for the wrong things in shidduchim. I know now that all of my jewelry and clothes cannot take the place of a loving and giving relationship.

Jewish Group Visiting Temple Mount Pelted with Rocks, Shoes

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Rocks and shoes were hurled from a mosque as police escorted a Jewish group that was visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

One police officer was lightly injured, as was one of the visitors.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jewish-group-visiting-temple-mount-pelted-with-rocks-shoes/2012/02/21/

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