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November 22, 2014 / 29 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘survivors’

Illinois Republican Candidate for Congress Says ‘Holocaust Never Happened’

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

The Oak Lawn Patch reported that Arthur Jones, 64, a Lyons, IL, insurance salesman who organizes family-friendly, neo-Nazi events around Adolf Hitler’s birthday, hopes to be the Republican candidate chosen to run against Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Holocaust is nothing more than an international extortion racket by the Jews,” Jones said. “It’s the blackest lie in history. Millions of dollars are being made by Jews telling this tale of woe and misfortune in books, movies, plays and TV. The more survivors, the more lies that are told.”

Jones is running against Jim Falvey and Richard Grabowski in a district that has sent a conservative Democrat to Congress for decades. The district includes the descendants of Irish, German, Polish and Czech immigrants.

It’s My Opinion: Golf And The Game Of Life

Friday, February 10th, 2012

This week, Allianz Insurance is slated to sponsor the PGA pro golf tournament in Boca Raton. Allianz, a major German company, is charged with failure to pay billions of dollars in Holocaust-related life insurance claims. The company has enraged survivors by refusing to pay on policies while at the same time spending money to advertise their business in events like the PGA.

Allianz has admitted association with the Nazis. Published disclosures indicate that during World War II the company sold life policies to hundreds of thousand of Jews while at the same time insuring the German concentration camps. Later, money was kept from the beneficiaries and given to Nazis.

Miami congresswoman Ileana Ros-Leighten confronted tournament officials and accused them of compliance with Allianz. Ros-Leighten has initiated a letter-writing campaign to embarrass not only the insurance company but those who associate with it. However, the PGA has said it will keep Allianz as a sponsor and the tournament seems to be going along on schedule.

There are those who say the Holocaust ended 67 years ago and it’s time to forget. There are those who say almost all the people who took part in the unspeakable atrocities of the Shoah are gone and there is no point to hold those who came after them responsible. There are those who say it is better to just move on.

They are wrong.

Halacha admonishes against keeping a grudge and against taking revenge when dealing with personal affronts. However, when a person is attacked solely because he is Jewish the dynamics dramatically change. He is obligated to react. Failure to retaliate is a chillul Hashem. The idea that Jews are weak and defenseless creates an environment where more abuse is likely to follow. It emboldens the enemy. It leads to more bloodshed.

The survivors themselves are an aging and fragile population. Their time winds down. They have again been victimized.

Where is the moral outrage? Where is the collective outcry? Where is the “world” that for the most part still stands silently by? When will it finally be time to say, and mean, “never again”?

How The Media Can Help Heal Gilad Shalit

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

For five long years, a media campaign swirled around the abduction and internment of Gilad Shalit, gaining momentum with every passing day. Without a doubt, it was the media that helped keep his story alive and contributed significantly to his release, creating public pressure in favor of the historic (though unsettling) exchange of over one thousand convicted terrorists for Gilad’s freedom.

But now that he has been freed, will the media claim their “pound of flesh”?

Aside from the interview he was forced to give Egyptian television immediately following his release, Gilad has yet to speak publicly about his 1,941-day ordeal. His father, Noam, continues to serve as his mouthpiece, and his family and friends have formed a protective shield around him, disallowing any media contact. As they see it, the media can only harm Gilad at this point, slowing his recovery and reintegration into normal life and society.

But is that true?

The experiences of survivors of captivity, maltreatment and torture from many parts of the world teach us that the phase of re-entry into society plays a critical role in the quality of recovery. The societal attitudes and the degree of acceptance and assistance available to survivors as they return from an ordeal determines their success in psychologically reintegrating their traumatic experiences into a sense of themselves that feels continuous and consistent.

When survivors are met with a conspiracy of silence where society and even relatives are not able to listen to their experiences, as was true with many survivors of the Holocaust, the survivors do not speak of their trauma. And when war veterans and prisoners of war are met with negative attitudes toward the war in which they participated, as was the case with Vietnam veterans, they also refrain from sharing their experiences.

In such cases, where the trauma cannot be discussed and shared in an accepting and truly empathic context, survivors attempt to cope by hiding or denying their distress. Paradoxically, the more disassociated the traumatic experiences become, the more they interfere with daily life.

Newly acquired scientific insight into brain functions and structures have illuminated much about how trauma is registered, stored and remembered. Extremely traumatic events are initially stored in non-verbal images, sensations and feeling states. As such, they can continue to remain vivid and timeless, disturbing the survivor’s habituation and integration into normal life for years.

The presence of supportive, empathic listeners who are genuinely interested in hearing what the survivor has to say is critical to the healing process. Such listening must be truly motivated by sensitivity and deep care and attuned to the needs of the survivor. Listening that is motivated by other, voyeuristic or self-serving interests will lead to additional trauma.

From what they have stated, this is the concern shared by Gilad’s family and friends regarding his exposure to the media. There are no guarantees that the media will be the sensitive, empathetic listeners he requires, and it simply isn’t worth the irreparable damage to Gilad.

Furthermore, because Gilad was only a teenager when he was abducted, he has a lot to learn in order to catch up with his twenty-five year old self, a great deal to re-learn about normal life, and a tremendous amount to unlearn from his years in captivity. Most important, he has to regain a sense of ownership and control over his life, and the freedom to explore who he is.

Exposure to the media, even in the best of circumstances, is often accompanied (true or not) by a feeling that one’s words were twisted to mean something else and that the message intended was hijacked and misrepresented. While generally irritating for the masses, such experiences might be truly damaging for an individual attempting to achieve a personally meaningful integration of his own traumatic experience, and might constitute a repetition of loss of control over one’s words, self-definition and life.

Holocaust Center Looks For Volunteers

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

The Holocaust Documentation and Education Center, located at 2031 Harrison Street in Hollywood, is looking for volunteers to begin immediately. The center needs transcribers, audit/editors, proofreaders, and abstractors. The work is of vital importance. As the pool of aging survivors diminishes, it becomes increasingly urgent that their stories be documented and recorded.

Transcribers listen to an audiocassette copied from a videotape of a testimony of a survivor, liberator, rescuer or other eyewitnesses. They transcribe the testimony verbatim as heard on the cassette.  An Oral History Summary Report will be provided to them as a guide to the correct spelling of foreign words, cities, places, etc. The transcription of the testimony is word for word, as spoken by the interviewee and the interviewer.

Audit/editors listen to the audiocassette and read the transcribed copy of the interview. They make the necessary typing corrections and add punctuation or any additional wording that was left out of the transcript.

Foreign audit/editors listen to the cassette. They correct and fill in foreign words and expressions, names of people and places, camps and the personnel, etc.

Proofreaders check the entire transcript for formatting, punctuation, spelling, and any other errors in the transcript. It is the final step before the transcript is sent to print.

Abstracts are written from the text of the transcribed interview. Key words and information such as dates and places are abstracted from the testimony. The abstract is a short version, approximately one page, of the full interview.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Rita Hofrichter at (954) 929-5690.

Opening The Eyes Of Our Youngsters

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

   As we all know, time is of essence to transmit the saga of our parents’ suffering in the Holocaust before there are no more witnesses alive to tell their stories. Chavi Diamond, a daughter of survivors, is a woman with a mission. She feels this urgency keenly and has initiated a groundbreaking series of Holocaust children’s books geared to ages 6-12.


 


   In recent years, a Holocaust curriculum was introduced at the junior high and high school level, but the younger students have zero or minimal knowledge of their great-grandparents’ travails.

 

   As a vehicle to gently expose children to the Holocaust, Diamond has published The Promise – a touchingly illustrated account of her aunt’s survival that is an age-appropriate depiction of the war years. The storybook is done with much sensitivity and was created with the guidance of leading educators and psychologists.

 

   Diamond plans to publish many more true stories, covering the different European countries and varying backgrounds of survivors, and has founded Heart to Heart Memories to perpetuate the legacy of loved ones.

 

   The Pesach Seder is an opportune time to broach this topic, deftly weaving our recent history into the narrative of yetzias Mitzrayim. Our children are more resilient than we give them credit for. Just as they are familiar with the Egyptians’ cruelty and enslavement, it is incumbent upon us to share the details of our nation’s suffering throughout the ages.

 

   The Promise is available at Eichler’s, Torah Treasures, Judaica Place. For more information about this book and forthcoming publications or to share your story go to www.h2hmemories.com, or contact Chavi Diamond at onfo@h2hmemories.com.

Survivor’s Guilt

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

In my previous three columns (1-7, 1-21 & 2-04-2011) I wrote about my experience with thyroid cancer – a disease that I actually had twice, almost nine years apart. I was very lucky that this is a very curable carcinoma, and even more fortunate that I never felt any real discomfort or pain from the two surgeries and radioactive iodine treatments I underwent. Even when I was very hypothyroid – a prerequisite for the radioactive iodine to have the maximum affect on any cancer cells that were not removed by the surgery – I still felt fine. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism are sluggishness, depression, loss of appetite, weight gain (that’s me on a good day), fatigue, joint and muscle pain, headaches, dry skin, brittle nails and hair and memory loss. (If an elderly family member is getting forgetful or seems to be thinking more slowly, please have his/her thyroid checked to determine if hypothyroidism is a possible cause, before assuming it is Alzheimer’s or dementia. Hyperthyroidism means that not enough thyroid hormone is being produced, a condition that often is quickly remedied by medication).

If indeed I had any of these symptoms, they were not severe enough to get my attention.

While physically I had a relatively easy time of it, emotionally, I was on a dizzying merry-go-round. I was terrified – especially while waiting to hear test results; elated when the news was good; numb – not wanting to think of what lay ahead; angry; grateful that I felt well; optimistic; pessimistic; proud that I was given this test; ashamed that I was given this test – sometimes all at the same time.

However, there was one very strong emotion that I didn’t at all anticipate, one that would sink its barbed teeth into my psyche: Guilt. Guilt because I didn’t “suffer” enough – that not only did I survive, but I did so with out paying “my dues.”

I know these feelings are not unique – there is even a medical term for this emotional reaction, called “survivor’s guilt.” Often, a person can’t help feel some measure of guilt for having gotten through a life-threatening trauma when others did not.

When I was dealing with my first bout of thyroid cancer almost 18 years ago, two of my friends were being ravaged by other, more vicious and debilitating malignancies. Their ability to function, to live, was slowly and insidiously being whittled away and destroyed. Both were ultimately niftar at relatively young ages.

I would often wonder why I was spared. We all had children who were dependant on us; we all had “unfinished businesss.” From where I stood, I certainly wasn’t better than them, nor more deserving to live. Why did they suffer and lose the battle they had fought with such mesirat nefesh and bitachon, while my fight was, in comparison, a non-event?

You definitely feel great pride, and of course, joy when you are given a clean bill of health after facing a potentially lethal event – whether you survive an illness, a car accident, a fire or an act of violence that others succumbed to. You walk around feeling like you’re special, even superior. You’re a survivor! I too from time to time had “gloat” moments. Yet, I also felt very confused as to why I was chosen to live, when others weren’t.

I know this question has haunted many survivors of the Holocaust – and because of my own experience, I gained much insight into the mindset of this community which my parents, a”h were also a part of. I came to understand that there is a driving need for survivors of any calamity to justify their survival, to validate their continued existence, and ultimately, assuage the unforgiving guilt that gnaws on their souls. They are driven to excel, to make a difference, to do something amazing – or to produce children who will.

Collectively, there was relentless pressure on children of Holocaust survivor parents to be the best academically and/or socially. Excellence wasn’t good enough. You had to get the highest mark in your math test; you had to be the most popular kid in your class. For many of the children who understandably fell short of these often-unrealistic goals, praise was sparse and compliments were few.

But because I too am a survivor, I now understand what fueled this hunger for super achievement. Holocaust survivors were wracked with guilt for being able to walk in the fresh air; to eat and drink and partake in whatever pleasures life has to offer. Many of their family members were murdered in their youth; they never reached the milestones that were their birthright – growing up; getting married; having children; growing old. I remember my mother, who was very beautiful and very sharp (everyone who met her walked away with this opinion) lamenting to me that her brother and sisters were so much better looking and smarter than her, and were more deserving than she of surviving. They perished in their twenties. She was her family’s only survivor.

She, and I imagine the typical survivor, subconsciously could not forgive themselves for living while their siblings, children, nieces, nephews, parents, etc. were prematurely and unnaturally dead. For them, the only way to mitigate the grinding guilt was to either achieve greatness on their own or raise amazing children. Thus they could rationalize and excuse the fact that they lived when the others didn’t. They could silently shout out to themselves, “I survived so I could give birth to my son, the brilliant, life-saving neurosurgeon.” This was their ticket to a guilt-free existence.

I’m not so hard on myself. I don’t need to win, for example, the Nobel Prize in Literature, to make sense of why I am still here, why I was given a “mild” cancer as opposed to a “vicious” one. My job, my purpose, my task is to be b’simcha. Like laughter, I hear it’s contagious!

A Lesson From King Saul On Exposing Child Molesters

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

“Whoever has mercy on cruel people will in the end act cruelly to merciful people.” So the Midrash deduces from the story of Shaul HaMelech – King Saul. When commanded to kill out the wicked nation of Amalek, the king had mercy on its monarch, Agag, sparing his life. As evidence that Saul eventually acted with cruelty to merciful people, the Gemara quotes the Navi that years later Saul showed no such compassion when he killed out an entire city of Kohanim because they had given shelter to his nemesis David.

But is this always the case? Must being kind to the cruel inevitably lead to the reverse? If we view the Midrash as only using the example of the Kohanim to show the middah of cruelty in Saul, there is actually a deeper meaning in the observation that kindness to the cruel leads to cruelty. When one is kind and helpful and protective of those who are cruel to others, it is automatically an act of cruelty to innocent people.

Clearly there was no conscious cruelty motive in Saul’s allowing Agag to live. But what was the actual result? Although Shmuel HaNavi executed Agag the very next day, Agag still had time to impregnate a woman with a son whose descendants rebuilt the nation of Amalek, leading to everlasting misery for the Jewish people (until Mashiach comes).

The mitzvah to confront child molesters is incumbent upon each of us. As Rabbi Shea Hecht charged at a recent gathering for the National Jewish Week for the Prevention of Child Abuse, when Shimon and Levi held the entire city of Shechem accountable for the rape of Dina by only one of its citizens, it taught us for all time that someone who abuses even one Jewish girl or boy must be confronted by every member of society.

Excuses for not doing so include bogus halachic claims of mesira, lashon hara and chillul Hashem; concern over the “unfair” suffering of the abuser’s innocent family (who are often victims themselves in need of help); and fear of lawsuits against yeshivas that have knowingly harbored molesters. Not one of these makes sense when the physical, emotional and spiritual safety of children is at stake. Psychological studies repeatedly find that molested children are significantly more likely to suffer later in life from depression, anxiety, substance abuse and addictions, posttraumatic stress disorder, sexual and interpersonal problems, and suicide.

On a communal level, we have protected abusers by not exposing them. We should be ashamed of ourselves. If we are to be redeemed, we must change our ways.

An open letter in 2007 from the Vaad Harabbonim of Baltimore stated that “it is already well established by our own Poskim that an abuser is to be considered a rodef (literally a ‘pursuer’), effectively poised to destroy innocent lives and, therefore, virtually all means may be used to stop him and bring him to justice.”

It is not good enough to teach children about “good touch and bad touch” in the hope that they will be able to protect themselves. We are responsible for their protection. We cannot afford to be squeamish about sending a message of zero tolerance to those who would abuse and harm them.

This is not about punishment or justice, though publicizing the molesters does put the shame back where it belongs. It is about public safety. Having compassion on the cruel molesters and protecting their identities is an act of cruelty that destroys innocent lives. If a doctor failed to quarantine a patient with a deadly contagious disease because it was embarrassing to the patient and his family, it would constitute the height of professional negligence, not an act of compassion. Child molestation is a deadly disease and parents need to know whom to keep their children away from.

Our gedolim have finally acknowledged that children are being abused, but as of yet have not named one single molester – not even publicizing those who have been convicted of crimes. This defies rationality. How can so many be molested without there being any molesters? Are parents supposed to be protecting their children from Martians?

At parent training programs, therapists from a leading frum mental health agency present a slide show with pictures from the newspapers of non-Jewish convicted sex offenders and soberly warn parents, “These are not the people you need to be afraid of.” Would it not make more sense from an educational perspective to show pictures of the people whom parents do need to be afraid of?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-lesson-from-king-saul-on-exposing-child-molesters/2011/01/19/

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