We felt privileged to be part of the 34th conference of the World Federation of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants (WFJHS&D) in Washington DC. Over the 3-day weekend, we listened to stories of survivors, shared our own experiences as 2Gs, re-connected with friends from other states that we met in last year's conference in St. Louis and made new connections not only with 2Gs, but 3Gs and 4Gs. It was such as delight to see and talk with the future generation of young people motivated to carry the message of their ancestry forward - to never again be a bystander, and to combat social injustice.
Over 300 persons attended this event, with a large representation from Michigan. In addition to our three authors, Rita Benn, Eszter Gombosi and Ruth Wade, were 16 individuals that belonged to the Detroit CHAIM chapter, and many others with a Michigan connection, either as alumni or whose children attended University of Michigan. Rita and Ruth had been invited to facilitate a writing memoir workshop at this conference. There was so much interest in their session, that they had to turn away over 10 to 15 people due to space constraints. During the workshop, participants were very engaged, eagerly responding to the writing prompts that were offered, and in sharing their short narratives with one another. Many remarked that this was the best break-out session of the conference. Rita and Ruth plan to offer this workshop again next year when the conference will be held in Toronto. Contact us if you would like them to offer a writing memoir session to a 2G or 3G group from your organization.
This June has been a wonderful month where we explored insights from our book with audiences on both sides of the coast. On June 9, authors Eszter Gombosi and Rita Benn presented at the Peninsula Jewish Community Center in Foster City, California, and on June 28th, another author panel, Ava Adler, Rita Benn and Ruth Wade, zoomed with a second-generation support group from Teaneck, New Jersey. Participants at both venues were very engaged with our stories, asking question after question. In California, one individual was so moved that she wanted to buy a book for herself and one to donate to the local Jewish high school in town. In New Jersey, many in the group shared how how much they resonated with aspects contained in all our stories. One person, in particular, exclaimed that our book transformed her life. She felt she was able to see her parents' pain differently and felt validated that she was not alone in what she experienced in her own family. We are enormously grateful that sharing our lived experience is proving to be so valuable to our readers.
On our YouTube channel, do not miss watching the most amazing presentation held at the Longmont (CO) Public Library on May 24th. You will see three different voices amplifying the family story of Joy Wolfe Ensor’s (author and co-editor of our book) mother and aunt, Henia and Ilona Karmel. Inspired by their wartime poetry, composer Michael Udow shares excerpts of his recently completed chamber opera “A Wall of Two”. Joy follows with readings from her chapter that speaks to the themes depicted in these opera selections. The presentation culminates with clips from a 1984 radio interview where Henia describes the genesis of her poems and remarkable story of her postwar reunion with her husband. WOW!
Co-editors and authors Rita Benn and Ruth Wade facilitated a writing workshop through ZOOM for adult children of Holocaust survivors in the Chicago area on April 19. Yonit Hoffman who is the Senior Director of Holocaust Community Services and Doris Lazarus, an educator and coordinator of a 2G group affiliated with the Illinois Holocaust Museum, had participated in Rita and Ruth's memoir writing workshop at the 2022 World Federation of Child Survivors of the Holocaust and their Descendants (WFCSH&D) last November. They valued their experience so greatly that they wanted to offer this same opportunity locally to the second generation community groups that were part of their networks.
The 2G persons who participated in Chicago offered a variety of reasons for their attendance. Some wanted inspiration to better organize the memoirs they had already started writing about their parents, some wished to deepen their understanding of their childhood experience through writing and still some attended the workshop because they were just curious. After offering writing process and feedback guidelines, we provided short structured writing times with prompts, and partner breakouts where participants shared their writing. We were gratified to see the new insights gained by this 2-hour session. As one participant reflected, "Listening and writing were both interesting because you could see the connections and where it goes — different directions, and a spider web of connections." And another, "Normally I write factually and I let that go. Results were more powerful." In a follow-up email to the organizers, she further wrote, "This definitely was a one of a kind experience. I think all of us really delved into it and got a lot out of it, each in their own way. I already ordered Rita and Ruth's book. They make a great team."
Rita and Ruth thoroughly enjoyed working with this group and hope to continue offering this workshop to others. Contact them if you are interested to have them lead a workshop for your community!
On March 28th we were honored that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum sponsored a program with three of our authors at Lincolnwood Jewish Congregation in the Chicago area. Ruth Finkel Wade, Eszter Gombosi and Phil Barr spoke to an audience of descendants of survivors, family and friends. They read from their book The Ones Who Remember; Second-Generation Voices of the Holocaust and engaged with the audience, sharing the gifts and challenges of growing up with their survivor parents.
Sponsored by EMU's Center for Jewish Studies with Psychology as a departmental co-sponsor, and the Ann Arbor chapter of ORT America, authors Rita Benn, Fran Lewy Berg and Avishay Hayut were invited to share their experiences in writing their stories to a mixed audience of EMU faculty, students and community members. The recording of their March 27 panel presentation and Q & A is available here.
The authors were enthused in particular by the personal discussions they had with several non-Jewish college students during their book signing. A student of Polish background talked about the interest happening in her home town of Lublin to learn about the history of the Holocaust. She shared that she was buying our book to send to her mother living in Poland. Another student majoring in psychology and international relations indicated she wanted to read our book to learn more about this period in history because of her specific interest in trauma, and potential work with people who might have a somewhat similar history in terms of displacement and loss of home. Still another student's interest was deeply personal. Originally of Mexican and German descent, she hoped to better understand the history of her German ancestry from a Jewish perspective. This interest amongst the university students affirmed the importance in educating these young people about the Holocaust.
The Women in Reform Judaism's (WRJ) Heartland Convention invited our authors to present a breakout session during the first morning of their conference. On March 10 Nancy Szabo and Ava Adler, our two presenting authors, shared their family histories and book excerpts to a capacity-filled room of close to 50 participants. Their session had the largest crowd over any other breakout session offered during the entire conference. Interest in discussing and sharing the experiences of the Second Generation continued past the session time frame - well into the line-up for their book purchase and signing, and during the lunch and evening table discussions. We are grateful to Trina Fuller of the program leadership committee for inviting our presence and supporting our work.
On March 7 two of our book authors, Avishay Hayut and Phil Barr, shared their experience growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust with students and faculty at Indiana University. They participated as part of a panel to enrich the program of scheduled performances of the Anne Frank Opera by the Jacob School of Music. The panel presentation also featured Yoav Hayut, a third generation descendent of the Holocaust and University music student. Yoav hoped that the intergenerational impact of the Holocaust that he, his father and our other contributing book author shared through their lived experiences would help audiences bridge the past history with the present day impact of the Holocaust. You can read more about their presentation in the Indiana Daily Student Newspaper.
On February 28, we were honored to be invited by Irit Felsen to serve on a panel via Zoom at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York with Michal Govrin, an incredibly talented Israeli novelist, poet and theater director. Authors Rita Benn, Avishay Hayut and Ruth Finkel Wade met Irit at the World Federation of Holocaust Survivors and Descendants in November when she attended a workshop they presented. Irit Felsen herself is a 2G and gifted clinical psychologist in private practice who specializes in treating and researching the issues presented by Holocaust survivors and their descendants. She facilitated a fascinating discussion with these authors and Michal on learning about the history of their parent's experience and process of writing of their experiences. Do not hesitate to listen to this recording available at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Michal's story is amazing!