By Philippa Carr, Jami’s Education Manager
Last year I led a seminar at Jami Education on Trauma. It looked at the subject through a wide lens that included Adverse Childhood Experiences, mental illness and distress triggered by exposure to trauma in adult life, and collective trauma.
The group I had the pleasure of facilitating came to this event for a variety of personal and professional reasons. They were engaged and felt passionately that the impact of trauma on our mental health can be cataclysmic and can indeed cascade down generations. We had participants who felt that the Holocaust carried a huge legacy of trauma for second and third generations – and this was a conversation that needed to be explored further.
Today the Jewish community, collectively and individually, keeps the memory of the Holocaust alive. As a community we remember those who were tragically murdered. As individuals we often consume books, films and television documentaries about the subject and discuss them with family and friends. We feel a collective sense of responsibility for talking about and remembering the Holocaust.
For some of us this responsibility is deeply personal. We may have elders in our families who survived the Holocaust. We may have fragile sepia photographs of happier days when our relatives grew up in Germany, Austria and other countries where lives were shattered by the Nazi regime. For some, those elders have passed and have left a legacy.
For many families, the brutal memories of lives lived in concentration camps, in hiding or in traumatic separation were not told. These survivors may have felt that others could never understand their experiences or did not want to burden the next generation with their trauma.
The impact of trauma on our mental health cannot be underestimated. For individuals, trauma can lead to experiences of psychosis, depression and anxiety-related disorders and other health-related conditions. When people live with devastating memories, the impact is painful not only for those who suffered but also for those born into families of survivors.
We know that trauma changes our DNA. It has the power to alter the course of our lives and also the lives of our children and grandchildren. Yet there is hope. With help and support we can live alongside our collective memories rather than be consumed by them.
In this seminar, which Jami is hosting in partnership with AJR and Jewish Care’s Shalvata, we will look at how the trauma of the holocaust has impacted on life today. There will be readings from AJR’s My Story Project and shared insights from those working with survivors and next generations. It promises to raise as many questions as it answers and provide a space to explore a subject close to our collective heart.
To book this free event on 22nd March, visit here.
Philippa Carr is Jami’s Education Manager and Emergency Response Initiative Consortium Lead. She is also a dramatherapist and has worked in adult mental health and child, family and youth community work for many years.