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New Discussion Series in Boro Park For Children of Holocaust Survivors

On Tuesday evening, May 10, the Project for Holocaust Survivors at Bikur Cholim Chesed Organization will begin offering members of the Second Generation a monthly discussion group, “Survivor Families: Our Parents, Ourselves, Our Changing Lives.” The gatherings, held at the Boro Park Y from 7:00-8:30 p.m., will be facilitated by Irit Felsen, Ph.D.

Dr. Felsen’s research contributions on transmission of trauma and the treatment of survivor families have been monumental. In her professional practice, she has focused on identifying characteristic patterns in the families of Holocaust survivors and on using these families’ unique strengths to create pathways to understanding, growth and healing. Some children of Holocaust survivors have taken on the responsibility of caring for their parents from a tender age. Yet they may face new challenges as their parents grow older and more vulnerable.

They have long been sensitive to events that triggered anxiety, sadness, and Holocaust-related memories and feelings in their parents. Now, when physical limitation or dementia enters the picture, or if someone new must be hired to help their parent, the potential for uncomfortable interactions may increase tenfold. Children of survivors have already forged their own paths in life, in a world unfamiliar to their survivor parents. Now they must create a new template for helping loved ones age with dignity and with a sense of physical and emotional safety. In caring for aging parents, children of Holocaust survivors often encounter new pressures on their relationships — with their parents, with spouses and children, and with their siblings. Often, conflict arises around the sharing of responsibility, and strong feelings may surface (or resurface): feelings of duty, of guilt (even when doing all one can), and of being overwhelmed.

Understanding how sibling roles came to be, and what purpose they have served, may be a valuable first step in redefining and renegotiating these roles, and signify an era of new growth for the family. Similarly, learning to provide good care while managing expectations and seeking respite can help create balance in the adult child’s life. Monthly discussion gatherings, beginning on May 10, are a time for Second Generation community members to come together to explore both today and tomorrow. Topics may include providing good care to parents who are with us, and if they are no longer among us, moving ahead to explore new sources of meaning and peace in our lives, and with those whom we are close.

This program was developed with support from the Center for Advancing Holocaust Survivor Care of the Jewish Federations of North America, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, and Guardians of the Sick/Bikur Cholim Chesed Organization. The first program will take place on Tuesday, May 10, 7:00 -8:30 p.m., at the Boro Park Y, 4912 14th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11219. The program is free of charge, and no registration is required. Separate seating will be provided. For more information, please contact Mrs. Devorah Naomi Waters, at 718- 4382020, ext. 7452. With thanks to the Boro Park Y.