My Jewish family.

I just watched the documentary Prisoner Number A26188: Surviving Auschwitz. Whenever I watch any documentaries on the Holocaust,  I cry such tears of sorrow and almost throw up at the visuals and the graphic details of suffering. I have only watched a few and I have done this because I feel that some things must not be forgotten. In this documentary, the survivor spoke about the healing process and how there were no psychologists or psychiatrists to help. She had seen, witnessed, been a part of, torture and death and had noone to help her process this. I cannot even imagine. Here I have PTSD from being molested and I have had therapists help me and I am STILL struggling. These survivors had no one, and they had lost everything. 

If you have read in my previous blog posts, I have discussed my family that left me. I have not talked yet about the family that did not. So I will give a brief introduction to that part of my life. 

My father was adopted and raised by two Christian parents. He married my mother and my twin brother and I were raised in a Presbyterian church. After I was married and started having symptoms of the muscle disease, I asked my father if I could find his biological family. He gave me the information that he had on his birth mother. Through that I researched for months and finally found some phone numbers. I called one of the numbers that had the same last name as my biological grandmother. That person told me I had the wrong number because the Sylvia in the family had never had a child. I gave up for 10 more years. Then I called a different number.  The man that answered did not believe that I was who I said I was because apparently my biological grandmother, Sylvia, had never told anyone she had a child. She had passed away and so they couldn’t ask her. But I had all of her information, her signature, etc, so I faxed it to him with a picture of myself. Soon after I get a call from a cousin who was in shock that I exist! He said all he needed was to see my face and he KNEW. But he was in shock that my grandmother did in fact have a child. We had a very long tearful phone conversation. I had found my father’s biological family. Before I hung up the phone he said, ” You know we are Jewish right? And you are Jewish too!”After that we exchanged more pictures. I look just like them. Cousin Randy. I adored him so immensely. Words cannot express how much I adored him. We talked every day, then every week, then once a month for 10 years, until he recently passed away. This part of my family supported me, they knew the things that had happened, and did not stop supporting me. When my mother and her side of the family all left me, this family stayed. I learned about growing up Jewish, Yiddish, etc. I also learned that my great grandparents, after the Holocaust, brought over a family to the US. My daughter interviewed their daughter, Helen, for a class presentation on the Holocaust when she was in the 10th grade. Here is her interview:

If you cannot hear the sound, the interview was written out if you push the down arrow on the link. The parts in quotes are Helen’s words about what she learned from her parents during their experience in the concentration camp.

My daughter chose this topic on her own and felt very passionate about hearing first hand knowledge about what had happened and sharing it with others. We feel very blessed that Helen was able to share this to spread truth and awareness. I’ve watched it a few times and as I read Helen’s words I am brought back to tears every time. 

Shortly after connecting with all of my new found cousins, we did the genetic test 23 and me offers. We were all a match. I am 49% Ashkenzi Jew. And I am proud of it! I love how they love me. I love how they stand by me. Even though I could not meet my grandmother I have hundreds of her stories that the cousins have shared with me. They have said I am a lot like her and I must say that makes me smile. 

When I became a Chaplain I did so not as strictly a Christian Chaplain. A Chaplain prays for those of all religions. There is no discrimination or judgment. I prayed with, comforted, and loved, many Jewish, Christian, Native American, and many other family while I worked with Hospice. The stories of being Kosher that Randy taught me helped me respect and honor the Jewish families I was blessed to be with as their loved one passed away. I was raised Christian. I also have Jewish blood that is a part of me and I embrace that. 

Truths must be told. Stories need to be spoken. Perseverance of those in the concentration camps need to be remembered. The deaths need to not be forgotten. 

My blog is about truth. Breaking the silence of abuse. Talking about subjects that others have deemed unimportant or taboo. Unless we continue to speak, then those who wish to oppress us win, the perpetrators win, the criminals win. Our voices need to be heard. The Holocaust is one of those subjects. I rarely hear it spoken about. How is this so? We cannot forget the millions that were starved, tortured, and murdered under the regime of a terrorist and monster. Their stories need to be told. Their truths need to be spoken and remembered. Watch a documentary, or the one I listed above, listen to the words of Helen. Hear what others choose not to. They are hard words. Just like rape and molestation and the details are hard to hear but they need to be heard. They need to be heard because they need to be validated. I don’t know how to stop men like Hitler. I don’t know how to stop child molesters and rapists. All I know how to do is tell the truth. Stopping the silence in hopes that in revealing these truths we will get closer to justice. 

I am proud of my Jewish heritage. I am proud to be a part of a family that took me under their wing when they didn’t even know I existed and welcomed me. Unconditionally they have loved me. 

That is the other part of my family. The ones who didn’t leave. I’ve never met them. They live across the country. My heart knows their hearts. They are what family is supposed to be. 

6 thoughts on “My Jewish family.

  1. What a treasure to find! During this latest time in counseling (4 years) I have become intensely interested in reading and watching movies about the Holocaust. I don’t know why but probably I identify (although in a small way) with their being face to face with evil and trying to survive their ostracization and inhumane treatment.

    Like

  2. This article was beautiful, made me cry a little.

    My father has a photo of his mother’s classroom at a Jewish girls’ school in a town that was part of Poland during WW2. His mother and her sister left about 10 years prior because of the pogroms, but most of her classmates in the photo were killed in the Holocaust.

    I found out about the Holocaust at quite a young age (around 6) and in some ways it was hard to cope with, but also I think it helped shaped the person I am now: railing at injustice, and wanting to make the world a better place and reduce suffering.

    I’ve had a personal experience of severe trauma as well, and what you said about not being able to stop evil but being able to stop the silence really resonated with me. We’ll never understand those people, we’re just fundamentally made of something different, but we can’t let them dull our shine. Oddly enough, my trauma made me super-resilient and strong and in the end it’s something that helped me to shine, but I still spend time wondering how such things can happen in the first place.

    I think you’d enjoy the famed Austrian-Jewish psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor Victor Frankl’s work. He’s particularly known for Man’s Search for Meaning. There’s a quote of his that really helped with my recovery:

    “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

    And, in the words of Kimmy Schmidt (the main character in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, who spent a decade trapped in a bunker): “You can either curl up in a ball and die… or you can stand up and say we’re different. We’re the strong ones, and you can’t break us.”

    We’re survivors, we live in an amazing world that bad people can’t appreciate, and we rise from the ashes like phoenixes. And we’re both descended from people who went through centuries of abuse and came out stronger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is incredible the things that each of find life changing and moving and inspiring and empowering. I am so sorry to hear you have endured trauma and yet you write in a way that makes me feel you have used all of it to fight for others and stop injustices wherever you can.
      I will look up the psychiatrist. Elie Wiesel is one of my favorites for his advocacy and perseverance. Pretty much everything about him.
      Thank you so much for your encouragement and taking the time to write me a message. It really means a lot. I have read it many times and greatly appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

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