Holocaust Memories in Art: Slides of My Lecture from September 16, 2017

Last Sunday, I gave a lecture about the expression of Memory in Art related to the Holocaust at the opening of the exhibit “Generations” at the JCC in Whippany, NJ.

The artists who present their work in this exhibit represent individuals at different distances from the epicenter of the cataclysmic catastrophic events of the Holocaust. Milton Ohring and Hanna Keselman are child survivors of the Holocaust, Lev-Gal Wertman is “second generation”, the child of a survivor, and Joanie Schwarz grew up in a family that lost many relatives in the concentration camps. Memory comes back and is experienced in images and sensations and therefore lends itself particularly well as a subject for artistic expression. The works exhibited by this artistically diverse group reflect a wide range of themes associated with the individual artists’ experiences relating to the Holocaust. In my presentation, I discussed these themes. You can find a pdf copy of slides that go along with my lecture at this link .

Shana Tova and best wished for the start of a New Year!

             Irit Felsen

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REMINDER: “Generations” Art Reception and Exhibit on September 17/2017 at the JCC in Whippany, NJ

On September 17, 2017, just before the Jewish New Year, the Holocaust Council of Greater Metro West will open “Generations”, an art exhibit consisting of paintings, sculpture, conceptual art, and photographs created by artists Hanna Keselman, Milton Ohring, Joanie Schwarz and Lev Gal Wartman. The exhibit will be open from September 17 through the end of November.

As part of the Opening Reception, I will present a lecture entitled “Memory in Art”. The lecture will start at 3:30 pm on September 17.

“Generations” is an aptly chosen title for this exhibit, which references the multi-generational effects of the Holocaust on survivors, their children, and further descendant generations. The pain surrounding the broken generational links, and the loss of generations of family members that would have been here had they not been murdered, is one of the profoundly tragic aspects of the Holocaust for survivors and their descendants. This loss has impacted those who directly experienced traumatic separations from their loved ones, as well as the children of survivors, and even those who were living in safety during WW II but have lost many extended family members in Europe. The artists Kesselman and Ohring are both child survivors of the Holocaust; Wertman is a son of a survivor who lost dozens of family members during the Shoa; Schwarz lost many extended family members in Theresienstadt, Treblinka and Auschwitz.

More information about the exhibition can be found in this flyer. The exhibit is open to the public and there is no admission fee. Please join us at the Gaelen Gallery West, at the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus, 901 Route 10 East in Whippany, NJ 07981.

               Irit Felsen

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Videos of My Lecture “The Impact of Early Trauma on Holocaust Survivors” Available on Youtube

On June 22, I gave a lecture in New York for community professionals and healthcare providers of the MJHS Hospice and Palliative Care, as part of a program about the impact of the Holocaust and its aftermath on survivors and the Second Generation.

Videos of the event are now available online. The videos can be found by following this link to my Youtube channel.

                   Irit Felsen

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Loneliness – What Do Studies Teach Us About How to Fight It

Why is it that certain people struggle with the effects of chronic loneliness, while others do not?

A recent article in Psychology Today called “Solutions for the Solitary” offers an interesting perspective about the subjective contribution to feeling lonely. The article concluded that feelings of loneliness are not directly tied to objective measures such as a person’s number of relationships – in fact, the study reported that 60 percent of the people who reported feeling lonely were married. Meanwhile, while these married people can report debilitating feelings of chronic loneliness, others can feel perfectly content despite having much fewer strong relationships and friendships. This is because the root cause of this sense of loneliness is not objective isolation, but the subjective experience of the person struggling with it.

Of course, we can also feel lonely while being surrounded with people if we don’t feel we belong; or if we feel we are treated in ways that subtly exclude us. We can certainly feel terribly lonely if we are in an intimate relationship where we feel misunderstood, frustrated, disappointed, or unappreciated. As the Harvard Study of Adult Development showed, the subjective experience of loneliness does not depend on the number of our meaningful relationships but on the presence of at least one or two such connections in our lives.

So what is new from the science of loneliness? The recent article in Psychology Today points to a tendency, a certain bias in the way some people perceive their existing interactions with others, which might contribute to their feelings of loneliness. Studies have shown that lonely people regularly numb their perception of gestures that confirm their bonds with others, while they continue to place a strong emphasis on the significance of events that disconfirm these bonds. A lonely person is inclined to overlook the caring gestures of a friend, but much more likely to dwell on a snide remark or minor personal slight.

The overall effect of these tendencies leads the chronically lonely to undervalue their friendships and to perceive themselves as insignificant in the eyes of their peers, as well as socially isolated.

This, in turn, can lead to a whole host of negative consequences, including a depressed immune system, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and clinical depression. Research presented in the same article even shows that chronic loneliness can increase the chances of an early death by up to 14 percent.

Luckily, there are ways to combat such feelings of isolation and insignificance before they have the chance to ruin your life. If you or someone you know struggles with chronic loneliness, consider seeking treatment, or at the very least attempting to use some of the strategies s that can help mitigate it. For more, follow this link to the article.

            Irit Felsen

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“Generations” Art Reception and Exhibit on September 17/2017 at the JCC in Whippany, NJ

On September 17, 2017, just before the Jewish New Year, the Holocaust Council of Greater Metro West will open “Generations”, an art exhibit consisting of paintings, sculpture, conceptual art, and photographs created by artists Hanna Keselman, Milton Ohring, Joanie Schwarz and Lev Gal Wartman. The exhibit will be open from September 17 through the end of November.

As part of the Opening Reception, I will present a lecture entitled “Memory in Art”. The lecture will start at 3:30 pm on September 17.

“Generations” is an aptly chosen title for this exhibit, which references the multi-generational effects of the Holocaust on survivors, their children, and further descendant generations. The pain surrounding the broken generational links, and the loss of generations of family members that would have been here had they not been murdered, is one of the profoundly tragic aspects of the Holocaust for survivors and their descendants. This loss has impacted those who directly experienced traumatic separations from their loved ones, as well as the children of survivors, and even those who were living in safety during WW II but have lost many extended family members in Europe. The artists Kesselman and Ohring are both child survivors of the Holocaust; Wertman is a son of a survivor who lost dozens of family members during the Shoa; Schwarz lost many extended family members in Theresienstadt, Treblinka and Auschwitz.

More information about the exhibition can be found in this flyer. The exhibit is open to the public and there is no admission fee. Please join us at the Gaelen Gallery West, at the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus, 901 Route 10 East in Whippany, NJ 07981.

               Irit Felsen

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Starting teaching again at Yeshiva University, for Fall 2017 Semester

The Fall 2017 semester at Yeshiva University in the Bronx is about to get underway.

 

This semester I am teaching a graduate level psychology course at the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. The course is “Couples and Family Counseling” (Course #6440), and starts on Wed. Aug. 30.

              Irit Felsen

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“Atypical”: A New TV Series About an Autistic Adolescent and His Family

The Netflix TV series “Atypical” (here is a link to the trailer) centers around the life of a suburban middle-class family, and particularly of Sam, a high school senior on the autistic spectrum who has recently decided that he wants to start dating. The show follows Sam as he warily confronts a host of new challenges, from learning how to smile in a way that doesn’t scare off girls to figuring out how to preserve his own happiness and sense of comfort in a (spoiler alert!) relationship that is pushing all of his boundaries.The show provides a stark but overall forgiving look at the life of Sam’s surrounding family: a well-meaning father who does not know how to talk to his son, a highly involved mother who must re-establish her own identity as she is confronted with her son’s newfound teenage independence, and a protective sister who has often been forced to relegate her own needs to the background in order to allow her parents to focus on Sam.

The eight-episode first season of “Atypical” is characterized by its compassionate but honest portrayal of some of the challenges faced by a person on the spectrum, as well as those that affect the loved ones closest to this person. It does so with humor, sensitivity, and fantastic acting, and is a must-see for anyone who wishes to get an inside glimpse into what it might be like to be autistic and the impact of having an autistic child in the family, or has someone whom they wish to educate and inform about it.

                Irit Felsen

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