Hate, bigotry and discrimination don’t solve problems, they make bigger ones- Lessons learned from the Holocaust

As I got on the treadmill at the gym this past Saturday, I watched in disbelief the pictures that met my eyes. For a moment I was hoping I clicked on the wrong TV channel and was watching a movie, rather than the breaking news. The sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach informed me, even before the fully conscious realization hit, that this was reality on this Saturday morning in Charlottville, USA.

As a child of Holocaust survivors, I feel dread about the current state of affairs in the country that been the beacon of democracy, equality and multiculturalism in the modern world. In my twenties, I lived for several years as an employee of the Israeli Government in what was then West Germany. I had a beautiful apartment in a charming little cottage that belonged to an old woman, who perceived herself as a liberal, an open-minded person, and who rented out several of her properties to foreigners. I remember my landlady trying to explain (and excuse) what her compatriots, the people of her generation, felt as they were watching Hitler’s thugs wield their power in the streets. She described the scorn with which main-stream Germans like her viewed these right wing “hooligans”, thinking this was just a fringe of society, a small disgruntled group of trouble makes. No one in their right mind thought they’d come to anything, or get anywhere, she said. Another man of her generation, a plumber who came to fix the heating in my apartment, expressed to me his opinions about what he perceived as Germany’s inflation and unemployment problems at the time. His solution to the problem was clear. “What Germany needs now”, he stated without hesitation, “is a Dictator!” Coming from a man who lived through the ravages of WWII and its catastrophic consequences for the world and for Germans, this was one of the most disheartening experiences I had in meetings with the older generation in Europe. It seemed some people never learn. However, I could console myself then with the platitude that “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” and that, on the whole, the world has learned a terribly painful lesson and my generation and the generations to follow will make it a more peaceful place for all.

It is so much more painful, frightening and discouraging to see young generations of Americans embracing such hateful Neo-Nazi, White Supremacist views, as has been expressed in Charlottesville this past weekend. If there are any lessons to be learned from the Holocaust, they are about the importance of tolerance, respect for others, and for working together to solve problems. There are still Holocaust survivors who valiantly spend their time speaking to school children and teachers, telling their personal stories to visitors at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, in the hope that the encounter with a real witness of history will make the new generation witnesses to such history, who will carry on the lessons to be learned from it.

Hate has never solved any injustice, any problem. It has only created even bigger ones.

               Irit Felsen

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sinead O’Connor’s Viral Video: #OneofMillions – Mental Illness Doesn’t Discriminate

I recently came across “Nothing Compares 2 U” singer Sinead O’Connor’s viral video, in which the tearful musician describes her years-long struggle with mental illness and her feelings of profound isolation and abandonment left in its wake. The 12-minute video, which was uploaded with the hashtah #OneofMillions, can be seen from this link.

The video, which has since been viewed over 2 million times, offers a heartbreaking insight into the hidden struggles of a well-known celebrity who notes that there are “millions and millions and millions of people like me, that don’t have the resources I have.” O’Connor cites as the reason for the video her desire to “somehow [be] helpful” to these people, presumably by raising awareness for the prevalence of mental illness and the fact that it can affect any one, no matter how successful or famous – as she puts it, “[Mental illness] doesn’t give a shit who you are.” O’Connor asks her viewers predominantly for compassion and for support, reminding them through the lens of her own difficult experience and sense of loneliness that “People who suffer from mental illness are the most vulnerable on Earth. You’ve got to take care of us.”

More recently, a statement was released on O’Connor’s page saying that the singer “is surrounded by love and receiving the best of care.” While this is certainly comforting news for the video’s viewers, who were rightfully concerned about the singer’s wellbeing following the release of the emotional video, the video nevertheless continues to serve as a poignant reminder of the impact of mental illness and the dire need for compassion and care for those suffering from it.

             Irit Felsen

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Slides Posted from Presentation on “War-Related Traumatic Reactions in Veterans and Their Impact on Families”

Some time ago, I gave a presentation entitled

“War-Related Traumatic Reactions in Veterans and Their Impact on Families”

at a conference for an audience of directors of nursing homes and directors of social services in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The presentation focused on the impact of war trauma on veterans and their family members, especially as the veterans age and family caretakers suffer from the long-term effects of caretaker burnout, and the stress of living with a trauma-survivor parent, spouse or partner. Much of the information in the presentation is also relevant to those living with long-term effects of other traumatic experiences, and their caretakers.

               

A pdf version of the slides from the presentation can be downloaded here. I hope you will find it helpful, and pass it along if you know someone who might benefit from it.

Irit Felsen

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Audiorecording Now Available: Lecture on Sibling Relationships in Holocaust Survivor Families

I just posted on my Youtube channel an audio recording of a lecture I gave on March 30, 2017, under the auspices of the Claims Conference in partnership with JF&CS, Atlanta and the Bikur Cholim Chesed Organization in Brooklyn. This lecture, on the topic of Sibling Relationships in Holocaust Survivor Families, took place in the form of a teleconference, and was made available to service providers around the world who work with Holocaust survivors and their families.

The audiorecording of the lecture can be found from its direct link here, or by going to my Youtube channel.

           Irit Felsen

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

TOMORROW: “Helping Parents Towards Growth-Promoting Parenting”: Workshop for Mental Health Professionals at Chemed, Lakewood, NJ on July 27/17

On Thursday, July 27, 2017, I will be giving a day-long workshop at Chemed Center for Health in Lakewood, NJ. The workshop is entitled “Helping Parents Towards Growth-Promoting Parenting”, and will address parenting issues and suggested guidelines for parents in their relationships with children and adolescents.

The workshop is intended for the mental health professionals within the Chemed system and will present several approaches to working with parents when their child or adolescent is not willing to participate in treatment, or is physically present but not truly collaborating in the treatment.

               Irit Felsen

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

REMINDER: TUESDAY: Tenth (and Final) Meeting of the Discussion Group for Children of Holocaust Survivors, Tues. July 25 at the Boro Park Y, Brooklyn NY

On Tuesday July 25, I will host the tenth meeting of the Discussion Group for Children of Holocaust Survivors at the Boro Park Y in Brooklyn, NY. The series of meetings is entitled “Survivor Families: Our Parents, Ourselves, Our Changing Lives”. The meeting will begin at 7 pm.  More details are available below.

This will be the final meeting in the ten-part series of discussions, which started in May 2016.

The summaries of the meetings so far have all been posted on this blog, and will be collected together after the final meeting to be more easily available to potential readers. Also, audio excerpts from the lectures will be made available online soon, for those who were not able to attend.

               Irit Felsen

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

“Helping Parents Towards Growth-Promoting Parenting”: Workshop for Mental Health Professionals at Chemed, Lakewood, NJ on July 27/17

On Thursday, July 27, 2017, I will be giving a day-long workshop at Chemed Center for Health in Lakewood, NJ. The workshop is entitled “Helping Parents Towards Growth-Promoting Parenting”, and will address parenting issues and suggested guidelines for parents in their relationships with children and adolescents.

The workshop is intended for the mental health professionals within the Chemed system and will present several approaches to working with parents when their child or adolescent is not willing to participate in treatment, or is physically present but not truly collaborating in the treatment.

               Irit Felsen

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment