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I have never given birth, but...

As I man, I have always felt that there is a major part of life that I will never know anything about and it is really a major thing: giving birth. Of course, I am privileged to be the father of two lovely offspring, but as you know, I am not the one who carried those children, nor did they come through me into the world. Thus, one might accuse me that in using this metaphor of "giving birth" I really don't know what I am talking about- and they would be correct.


Nevertheless, I love this metaphor so it will stick with me, at least within the limits of my cognitive imagination and emotional abilities. I have given birth quite a few times in my life, and each time it is joyful, emotional and rewarding.





And so it was that on March 19, 2024, I "gave birth to a presentation"; not just any old presentation, but one which delivered for the first time the fruits, conculsions, thoughts, insights and questions of my docotoral path and dissertation- over three years in which this "baby" was always in "progress" and now it was my time to share with the world. A feeling of accomplishment swept through me along with a fear of responsibility at not "doing it well enough".


After all, I was not just talking about my "research", but also about my life, the lives of 41 others whose parents were Holocaust survivors, their fathers and mothers, and about my father, most of whom are no longer with us. It had been a fascinating journey, and in many ways, the journey was still in progress. It was one thing to interview, research and write 233 pages with 34 pages of references, quite another to begin getting out in front of audiences and sharing it all. With so many Second Generation ("2G") in the zoom audience I was especially aware that I would be hitting some chords in many people, most of whom I did not know. In this post, and a series of posts to follow, I will discuss some of the insights and feelings that have developed around this seminal experience for me.


The Topic: Reflections of 2G in the second half of life


Why this topic? The topic was anything but a random choice. I knew I wanted to study children of Holocaust survivors and that I wanted to study them NOW, at this time of life, when many are retired, most have already lost their parents and the focus of remembering, commemorating and creating legacy projects in society are now more with their children- the third generation. Of course, I was a qualitative researcher not only studying others, but also myself. I was part of this cohort, and given the freedom to personalize one's dissertation journey at Ubiquity University, I was also able to explore and reflect on my own personal journey throughout.


Why ''Reflection"? This is a powerful word, in my opinion, one that engenders pausing and looking back at life, letting judgement fall to the wayside and compassion and understanding to come forth. It was what it was, as the saying goes, and it is what it is. To reflect on something invites seeing a holistic perspective of how life transpired, invites understanding and wisdom while not fearing regret. The hours upon hours that I had to interview the participants who came from 11 different countries, transcribe their words, pull out the different themes and exude the meaning of what they were saying- touched and moved me profoundly.


The "Second Hand of Life"- what is that you may ask? Obviously it is a not a mathematical fomula to signify when we are at "half time", but a term that transmits that we are in a "different phase of living". To be a 2G at this time of life means that we can now apply the wisdom of a life full of our experience to the memories of being a child and growing up with parents who had survived the worse genocide in modern history- the Holocaust. It was this type of perspective that beckoned me...


(A short excerpt from my first presentation on my doctoral research: "Reflecting Back and Looking Forward", sponsored by "The Together Plan", based in the UK.)


Thus, these were the questions that comprised each of the interviews and also set the path where the discussions were to to:


  • What was it like growing up as a child to parents who went through one of the most horrific genocides in modern history- the Shoah?

  • How do these Second Generation individuals (“2G”), in their second half of life, view the impact and influence of the Holocaust on their life’s journey, on the people who they became?

  • What messages do these 2G carry with them from their parents and what legacies are they transmitting to the generations after?

  • What is the existential search for meaning exhibited by many 2G and what forms has it taken?

There were many themes that developed-15 to be sure- not all of them I will discuss in the series of posts that I plan to write. But I do hope to share some of the major nuggets of information and insights I was able to receive, I should say privileged to receive.


1.Reflections on growing up in Survivor families

2.Communication with Survivor parents

3.Feeling “different”, intense interest (even obsession) to know more about the Holocaust

4.Messages communicated by parents

5.Second-generational trauma

6.Second-generation resilience

7.Identity

8.Relations with family members

9.Influence on career choice, development and evolution

10.Seeking justice: how was this impacted by being a 2G?

11.Pilgrimage and “Roots Trips”

12.Philosophy of life, insights and the influence of being a 2G

13.Do they harbor regrets looking back at this stage of life?

14.Caring for elderly Survivor parents

15.Legacy, memory and commemoration (this one deserves an entire post in itself)


Finally, the feedback I received from my first two public presentations were most rewarding and encouraging in themselves. I feel that not only was I excited by the last 3 years of my life in immersing myself in this topic (which I can say has been with me for most of my life anyway, in one way or another), but that others "out there" are partners in this excitement as well. It is always nice to have some others with you on such journeys in life...




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In the Words of Attendees:


“The extent of the trauma that we carry and pass from generation to generation as an outcome of the human tragedy that was the Holocaust has yet to be confronted. Ronnie, through your research and your initiative you are taking us into a new paradigm and a place where people need to talk, explore, listen and be heard. This is badly needed and I salute you for taking this forward.” (Debra Brunner,​​​​ CEO, The Together Plan).”

 

“I was impressed by your thorough informative presentation. I related to and understood so many of the 2G experiences and responses. Thank you for your hard work to research and share the voices of Second Generation.” (Peppy Margolis, US).


“The talk affected me very deeply [as a 2g]. It is hard to speak now.” (Ed Stein, US).


"Thank you, Ronnie, for a profound lecture about so many points that have resonated with me throughout the many stages of my life. There is no doubt that looking back is very important in improving my life in the present and future." (Michal Shaltiel, Israel).


“You presentation was perfect, so comprehensive, so real. My home was a very difficult place, there was no talking about anything. Today things look so different. Thank-you for the very important work you have done!” (F.B., France-Israel).


“Since hearing your presentation I have given so much thought to your presentation and have shared it with many people.  I never cease to be amazed by details of the commonality we 2Gs share. You articulated so clearly our experiences and thoughts.” (Sandy Druck, Canada).


 “Ronnie Thank-you! I was very moved by your presentation and I want to thank you for your research and for sharing it so generously.” (Miriam Suss OAM, Australia).


“You have helped me better understand post trauma stress of survivors.  I have met 2G people in my working life and I can now better relate to their personal issues. I wish I had had this insight at that time.” (N.B., UK)


“Thanks very much Ronnie , I found our session very important and rewarding.” (J.K., Australia)


"Ronnie, my congratulations! Your presentation was very powerful indeed!"

(Tamara Vershitskaya, Belarus)


"Kol hakavod! Thank you for this very informative lecture." (Eva Vasdaz, Hungary-Israel).


“Thank you for the great presentation today and the great work you all are doing there.”(A.N.M., Rwanda).


"Very powerful and impressive. Amazing work. Thank you for sharing."(Elise Ciner, US).


"Very moving presentation! Very well presented and very professional. Great and important work. Your father and thousands of others would be very moved and proud to know their lives are being honored and remembered". (Jeremy-Krauss, US- Germany).


“Thank you again,  Dear Ronnie. Till my 40’s, I thought I was not normal and I am so relived to see that not only me is suffering of those characteristics.”

 

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