The 2G Tuesdays Zoom program on November 14th, with Ruth Finkel Wade, Rita Benn and Ava Adler, was truly multi-generational. The audience was so engaged that the one-hour program went close to 2 hours before closing. This presentation was made possible by a third-generation descendant of Holocaust survivors, Michael Mantell. Inspired by the grandfather he never met, Michael, a psychotherapist and educator, has taken it upon himself to gather and feature the testimonies of both survivors and their children each month. Earlier in the fall, Ruth’s father Sidney “Sevek” Finkel, author of Sevek and the Holocaust; the Boy Who Refused to Die, shared his story of resilience together with Ruth. This month, Ruth along with her fellow authors, focused on their story growing up in the shadow of Holocaust trauma. We are encouraged that the work of ‘Never Forget’ and the lessons of inhumanity vs tolerance are being carried forth in the hearts of the third generation.
With the support of the Kurt & Tessye Simon Fund for Holocaust Remembrance of South Bend’s Temple Beth-El and the Jewish Federation, we keynoted their annual community-wide commemoration of Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) on November 12. Ava Adler, Joy Wolfe Ensor, and Avishay Hayut spoke about how our book’s messages are especially relevant in the present day, as we reel from the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, the war that followed, and the antisemitic hate that has exploded in the U.S. and abroad. The authors chose excerpts from their chapters that aimed to address the questions that so many have in this moment: What helps us break the silence and speak out when we witness horrors? What keeps us grounded and centered when so much is out of our control? How do we hold our minds and hearts open to the suffering of others, even as we are being attacked? The Q&A invited us to reflect further on our own stories and the differences we see between the survivors and the generations that followed in making sense of the Holocaust and its impact. Most important, we discussed what we can all do now to make a difference.
On November 8, the Ethnic & Gender Studies Institute of Siena Heights University (a Catholic University founded Dominican nuns) invited us to present stories from our book to their students and faculty. This program was co-sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and as well, the Department of English. Simone Yehuda, now a Professor Emerita, had taught at the university for over 40 years, so this was a homecoming of sorts for her. Along with Simone, authors and co-editors Rita Benn and Julie Ellis read excerpts of their book chapters to an audience of close to 50, all of whom were deeply engaged. We were each very impressed by the many thoughtful questions posed, particularly those by the students. For instance, they wondered how our Holocaust family history affected our response to the war between Israel and Gaza, and how they as non-Jewish persons can get involved in combatting antisemitism and spreading knowledge of survivor and 2G stories. We feel very grateful for the warm welcome of the Siena Heights community and for this opportunity to share and educate the attendees.