- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing; 1 edition (November 24, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 158023805X
- ISBN-13: 978-1580238052
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 28 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #960,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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God, Faith & Identity from the Ashes: Reflections of Children and Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors Hardcover – November 24, 2014
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The continuing effect of the Holocaust has been the subject of much study. This volume gives voice to a broad range of children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors who describe the ways this legacy continues to impact their worldview and their work in the world. These are heart-felt and moving testimonies.
The editor imposes order but not an orthodoxy to these responses. The four themes under which these responses are collected are guideposts that help the reader understand the variety of responses. If there is one common theme, it is that these are individuals who have used their legacy to move positively into the world.
This is not the first such anthology, nor will it be the last. It is a reminder that the horrors of 70-plus years ago continue to reverberate in our world. It should also be a reminder that the other atrocities that have shaken the world in the last century continue to shape the lives of millions, and would that we had a way to hear their testimony as well.
These reflections are enlightening and engaging. I would recommend them more as the stuff for occasional contemplation than for a straight read through the book. -- Rabbi Louis A. Rieser(Rabbi Louis A. Rieser Congregational Libraries Today)
About the Author
Menachem Z. Rosensaft, who was born in the Displaced Persons camp of Bergen-Belsen, is general counsel of the World Jewish Congress, and teaches about the law of genocide and war crimes trials at the law schools of Columbia and Cornell Universities. Appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council by Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, he is founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, senior vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants and a past president of Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City.
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This book is divided into four sections, each responds to these questions through a different lens. Using vivid stories and heartfelt reflection, each short essay provides a window into the thoughts of one Jewish descendent of a holocaust survivor.
In the section pertaining to God and Faith, the writers grapple with the question: "How can Jews believe in a God who allowed this to happen?" This dilemma is pondered by Rabbis and other members of the Jewish community as they explore their understanding and relationship to faith.
In the section on Identity we hear reflections such as those from Dr. Mark L. Tykocinski, a molecular and cellular immunologist who also served as a provost at Thomas Jefferson University and a dean of its Sidney Kimmel Medical College in Philadelphia. His description of time and memory captures the unique circumstances of Holocaust survivors with accuracy and poignancy : "Time is not linear and the highest impact moments are inflated and concatenated as a stream of defining landmarks that preoccupy our memories and frame our mental lives. But what happens when the defining moment is more than five years of unimaginable hell? (Page 112) He then goes on to articulate what so many 2G offspring have come to understand, "Survivors, like my parents were masters of compartmentalization, naturally wired for sequestering impossible memories , deflating the most horrible of moments and thereby making room for normalcy." (page 113) And this extremely erudite and insightful writer, one of many in this book, goes on to explain the complex coping strategies of survivors.
Also in this section Dr. David Senesh, a clinical psychologist and also a former prisoner of war suggests that, "When remembering and retelling a story there always exists an opportunity to repent, repair and redeem oneself from its powerful hold". And he goes on to suggest that there may be a silver lining by asking the question, "How can traumatic stories be reconstructed by attentive and supportive witnesses to become meaningful and inspiration?" (page 140)
Another poignant message is from Tali Zelkowitcz, a professor of Graduate Jewish studies who is a 3G. She ends her passage with this council, "But a healthy Jewish future will also need Jews filled with Chutzpah who are willing and able to walk away, once and for all, from a terrifying and stifling dance of entanglement with the pursuers of our past." and she goes on to summarize, "May the lives of those survivors and victims of the Holocaust after who our children are named be recalled not as ominous warnings, but as strong links." (page 147)
In the section on memory Elaine Culbertson, Executive director of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendents and director of the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers' Program, expresses the idea that often resides in my thoughts, "To be a member of the second generation is to exist in a rare space. Your very presence defies the odds. You were not supposed to be here at all. You serve as a stand-in for all those who were lost."
Part IV is Tikkum Olam: Changing the World for the Better. It begins with a quote from Elie Wiesel: "We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented..." In this section individuals speak about their commitment to insure that we "never forget" and provide examples of efforts made towards the protection of human rights, human dignity and democratic values. Tikkum Olam literally means, "repairing the world"
These are some of the questions that are raised in this excellent compilation of essays:
Is the Holocaust survivor's identity inextricably linked with being a victim?
Do we have control over how we define our identity?
Would I have stood up and been a rescuer?
Can suffering be constructive? "Can it boost resilience and hope." (p.137)
How does one process trauma?
Does this legacy compel us as 2Gs and 3Gs to be the upstander to violence, bullying and hatred. Do we have any special responsibility, or calling to be the righteous, or the rescuer?
I strongly encourage members of the 2G and 3G communities to read this book, as well as anyone interested in the intergenerational reflections of the children of Holocaust survivors. Many important issues are raised that will resonate deeply with those who have lived with parents and grandparents who survived the holocaust.
There are many, many worthwhile quotes and thoughts from the book and I'll share one by Judge Karen Friedman, "To me, my (grand)parents and their generation were unbelievable heroes. The strength of spirit that it took to emerge from utter desolation, to arrive in a strange new land, and to rebuild is unimaginable. (Kindle Locations 1023-1024)."
A MUST READ!!!
Yasher koach to Menachem on this initiative-
David A. Nussbaum
Retired Jewish Federation Executive