Monday, April 24, 2017

Yom HaShoah, A Therapy Session, and Vera

TW/CW (Trigger/Content Warning): the following blog post contains mentions of the Holocaust. Reader discretion is advised. 

Today is Yom HaShoah (say: YOHM ha-SHOW-ah), "Holocaust Rembrance Day." In Hebrew, it literally translates to "Day of The Catastrophe." Jews, for the most part, see the Holocaust as this one massive catastrophe; approximately six million Jews lost their lives between 1938-1945.

And as decsandants of loved ones whom we have lost, we vow to "always remember, never forget."

But do we, as Jews, have to eternally carry on with the pain and suffering that our parents, grandparents, and older relatives had to endure?

Isn't that what Jews always do, Vera?

Well, Dear Reader, it has me thinking.

When we celebrate Pesach (or Passover), we remember the story of the Jews from the Hebrew Bible book of Exodus. Now, even though there is no scientific proof that the actual trek took place, we Jews retell the story during every Pesach via our own family's traditional Haggadah.

Unlike Pesach, which is a biblical tale, Yom HaShoah is a day of reflection based on actual historical events. Adopted as a national holiday in Israel in 1953, Jews in a diaspora (say: die-AS-pore-ah), or living in a land or state outside of Israel, have also adapted this holiday into both their congregations and their homes.

Some of us grew up with listening to stories from Holocaust survivors unrelated to our families.

Some of us, like me, grew up in a household with Holocaust survivors.

I made mention of this two years ago, that my father and his mother, my grandmother, survived by not getting captured in Ukraine by running for their lives (technically, my dad couldn't run then, as he was a baby) in 1943.

During my years growing up in this household, the past was just not discussed. Every Sunday, my dad and Baba would talk on the phone, in a dialect of Ukrainian with some French influence, about whatever. When either my mother, my sister, or I would ask what they talked about, my dad would just shrug his shoulders and be all like, "eh, your grandmother worries too much, that's all. She thinks she is going to die or something."

Another memory flashes before me: it's when John Demjanjuk was being deported to Germany in 2009 to face war crimes as his alleged role as "Ivan the Terrible" in Sobibor. I remember having a discussion with my dad about why they were treating Demjanjuk so bad, considering his case was overturned in Israeli court. My dad finally snapped and said: "because he is not a true Ukrainian," which at the time did not make sense to me. Growing up, my dad loved his Ukrainian culture, even though he wanted to fully assimilate to becoming an American, or so I thought.

My grandmother lists herself as a "stateless" woman (just like Mr. Demjanjuk did) so she can continue collecting a check each month from the Government of Belgium, supposedly because she (or Mr. Pletin) worked for them, I don't remember.

All of this brings me to a situation I never thought I would find myself in: a potential true state of forgiveness.

I have a theory of the situation of why my dad kept Dingbat's information. My dad, in his own self absorbed autistic way, was telling me (by proverbially reading in between the lines) to run and never look back.

Let me explain.

When I last saw him, my dad had learned helplessness, among his undiagnosed severe PTSD. He must have felt that, because he is stuck between dealing with his mother, whom he hates with a passion, and dealing with my mother/his wife of 46 years, whom he also hates, he must have felt that his life, in a sense, was over. To say he kept Dingbat's information "so he could rape me again," was some code for: "save yourself. Run. Or else you will drown in this swamp.

Whoa. How do you know what your dad was thinking during the time in which he said that nonsense?

I don't. Again, this is all theory. I don't know if I will ever find out the truth from my dad, or from Baba for that matter.

In the meantime, I propose an idea that may not win me any Jewish fans, but it is critical for us as a people.

I think it is time for us as Jews to allow ourselves to heal from the Shoah.

Do you have a death warrant on you or something? Why would you say something like that?

Think about it, Dear Reader. Do you really think that survivors of that absolute horror want to raise their children with that type of fear (outside of how my grandmother raised my father)? No, absolutely not.

I strongly believe the message, that all survivors want their progeny to know, is to fight for and live in a world where the Holocaust never happens again. The message's basis is on the principle of us, Jewish descendants don't drown in a swamp full of misery and torture. To "never forget" is to know that the Holocaust did happen, and that we will be more mentally healthy to deal with any inkling of history repeating itself.

If we can resonate that message with the Pesach story, then we can certainly resonate that message with the Yom HaShoah history lesson.

I think we as Jews need PTSD therapy. No, seriously. We already have accepted that the Holocaust did happen. We already have acknowledged the emotions and feelings attached to the Holocaust. Now, we as a people, need to do "the work," as they say in therapy groups. And the work assignment is: we need not to be afraid of tomorrow, just love for today. Don't let the actions from yesterday define you in the here and now.

This is also the same when it comes to my own complex PTSD. I need not to be afraid of tomorrow, just love for today. Don't let the actions from yesterday (from birth until October 1, 2014) define me in the here and now.

It can be done. It has to be done.

For my own survival. And for the survival of the Jewish people.

Does this qualify to go under your "Don't Tell My Rabbi" series, Vera?

Nah, I can take his opinion on. I do with yours, don't I?

No comments:

Post a Comment