July 2019 -- Sivan-Tammuz 5779,  Volume 25, Issue 7

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Support Groups for Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants

by Halina Rosenkranz

Counselor/Support Group Facilitator

Westchester Jewish Community Services

 

This year Yom HaShoah, May 2, 2019, the Day of Remembrance, Jews came together to commemorate those who suffered and perished in the Holocaust. For the Survivors, who survived unspeakable odds and grieve unspeakable losses the Day of Remembrance knows no calendar date, it sits in their minds and hearts with every breath they take. “I’m afraid to close my eyes at night; I’m back in hell,” said a survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. “Not a day goes by when I don’t think of my beautiful family who were murdered. My little brother was only four years old; what did he do?” cried a survivor of the Lodz Ghetto and Auschwitz. “I miss my parents,” said a Survivor of Auschwitz and Ravensbruck who was only fourteen years old when she saw her family for the last time. “I was slated to die, but the gas chamber wasn’t operating that day” said a Mengele twin. These horrific experiences that live on as vivid memories defy reason and comprehension. The language of the Shoah is difficult to translate. How does one explain the ravages of starvation, apathy to mounds of corpses, indifference to nakedness, existing among the dead in a place where living was a miracle and death the norm? Survivors and their families don’t need a defined day to remember the magnitude of their trauma and sadness.

 

For more than thirty-five years, Westchester Jewish Community Services, along with sponsorship from the Claims Conference, has offered a place, free of charge, for Survivors and their families to come together in a supportive and congenial setting to share their stories and feelings around personal issues and current events. There are three separate groups—Survivor, Child-Survivor and Second Generation—that meet monthly for two-hour sessions, sharing light refreshments and meaningful conversation. These group meetings have become an integral part of the lives of the participants providing opportunities to socialize, develop close and intimate friendships, as well as gain valuable insights about themselves and their families. In addition to the meetings, the groups gather for an annual holiday party at the end of each year, as well as, occasional educational and informational events and outings.

Coming together with others who lived through the Holocaust and continue to bear its effects provides a temporary reprieve from feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Survivors and the Second-Generation are both strengthened and comforted by sharing the weight of this tragedy.  The strong familial bond that grew within these groups allowed for the expressions of a broad range of emotions from tears to uninhibited laughter. As the Shoah continues to flow from one generation to the next, these gatherings offer Survivors and their descendants a platform to not only disclose their pain but to rejoice in their survival and resilience to go on with life.

 

If you wish to learn more about WJCS Holocaust Survivor and Second and Third Generation groups,  contact Halina Rosenkranz, Counselor and WJCS Holocaust Program Facilitator: hrosenkranz@wjcs.com (914)949-7699 extension 541.