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Reflecting on my talks on Second Generation

It has been just over three months since I started giving presentations and facilitating discussions on Second Generation (children of Holocaust survivors), just about the right amount of time to sit back and reflect as such. After my PhD was awarded (not without opposition due to the war in Gaza, which I found offensive), I looked forward to the opportunity to share my knowledge, insights and questions with various audiences. Now, with an apparent "break in the action", a number of reflections come to the fore, which I will associate with the particular audience and medium.


My initial online presentation as guest of the Together Plan, a UK NGO dedicated to strenghtening the cultural heritage and Jewish populatioin of Belarus:

As they say, "the first is the first", and I felt most welcomed, supported and appreciated at this venue in which I gave a full hour of presetation as well as showing the emotional "survival testimony" of my dear late father, Mordechai Dunetz. I was showered with emotional reactions of support, thanks and accolades from many Second Generation in the virtual audience. I was told, and could viscerally "feel" that I was connecting: to them, to their own sense of search, to their own longings for their deceased parents as well as their feeling of responsibility, conviction and legacy. I am sure that the audience was nearly all Jewish, related to the Holocaust, and very receptive to hear what I had to share. This no doubt gives me strength.


Addressing Second Generation (2G)from Australia and Israel


This was a free event that I sponsored myself, reaching out and inviting 2G from Ausralia and Israel only- two countries where the percentage of Holocaust survivors within the Jeiwsh community after the war was very high. The first event was mostly my presentation and a shorter discussion session in breakout rooms, the last event (26 May), had a much smaller turnout and was totally dedicated to discussion by, for and with 2G. What I could feel is that the "2G identity" across borders and cultures can differ significantly- I wonder if there is really such a cohort as "Second Generation"?Perhaps it is so among certain types of people who are stronger in their "Jewish identity", not exactly sure of this. What did come up for me is the feeling that not all 2G like to see themselves as "2G"- the evolution of the term from a type of pain, sadness to one associated witih resilience and pride, may not be universally appreciated.


Invited to address the Resilience conference in Rwanda


I was honored to have been selected to give a presentation at the 6th World Congress on Resilience in Kigali, Rwanda, and was honored that they would allow for me to do so my means of a pre-recorded 15 minute presentation. It as not easy shrinking down 3 years of work, a life time of reflection into 15 minutes...I have been told by the organizers who viewed the presentation that it was well-done and appreciated.


Be that as it may I would like to share one strong feeling I have- that of pride and a sense of "mission" in connecting to my colleagues in Rwanda! In Feb., 2022 I traveled for a holiday trek to Rwanda, but acually used most of my non-trekking time interviewing survivors of the 1994 genocide, their second generation and mental health professionals. Everywhere I went I felt that people were open to listening to me, asking of me, sharing with me. Time and again, when I shared my 10 minute video of my father's testimony, I was asked: "How can we do something like this?...How do you in Israel create so much work on legacy, documentation, personal stories?"



For me, I felt as if I was not only resonating with my colleagues in Rwanda, but also mentoring AND learning from them. The bond that was created as "children of genocide survivors" moved me greatly and has prompted me to delve into new areas around my own journey in life and the existential quest for meaning that I have found amongst second generation Jews (like myself), as well as possibly in Rwanda itself.



Existential Offerings: My online talk of may 23, 2024- "A Philosophy of Sacred Legacy, Harvesting Wisdom, and Holocaust Survival"


I deeply admire the work, direction, authenticity and openness of Dr. Natalie Fraser of "Existential Offerings" in the UK, in creating and offering a plethora of free and low-cost, accessible content and learning opportunities online:


"The Existential Offerings project is an ever-evolving collection of resources, events, and connections which invite us to explore the curious journey of being a human in a historically and globally inclusive way...This project has been put together to offer people from all backgrounds the opportunity to look into existential ideas from a more accessible and creative approach. "


I participated in one of the project's Existential Summit in 2023 and invited in several dear personal and professional colleagues and friends in various areas of interest in the general realm of existential exploration.


Thus, I was intrigued to recieve an opportunity to share 90 minutes online about my doctoral research and passion. Once on the youtube site of Existential Offerings, my talk would be open to any or all who wish to explore the topic, it is a good way to get one's word and story out there in the world. It is a diverse audience, definitely not anything connected with Judaism or Jewish identity. A seminal part of my sense of identity has long been one of "Belonging to global humanity", in addition to any "particularities", so I welcomed and became excited by the idea.


However, I was hesitant, and the closer we got to the date of May 23rd when my talk would be live and online, my hesitation continued to grow. The world after October 7th and the long and protracted, painful war in Gaza, the north of Israel and around the world, was a different world than before. The huge waves of anti-Israel demonstrations, antisemitic incidents, Israel's position in the world- all these and more, heightened my skepticism: who will be attending my talk? What kind of knowledge, awareness and consciousness will they bring with them? Will they be coming to hear ME and the story of my father, "our story", or might some be coming to disrupt, intervene, attack and dishonor? I really could not know. The social media has been flooding the senses with so much content, most of which is biased, partial, "reconstructed history", vehemently accusatory, and so on and so on...Here I was about to talk about stories of great pain, legacy and "core" to who I am and what I come to share from a very deep place- will I be contributing to desecration of the sacred? Will it actually interest anyone to hear from a person coming from Israel, in a world where the world "Israel" has been vilified, maligned and blackened to an unprecedented extent? I came into the talk with both a sense of purpose and a clear feeling of "walking in insecurity".


In the end there was no problem, but not for the reasons I had feared. There were only handful of attendees, only one who was there with full camera, the others behind black screens- and one can never know if they are actually "in" or "out" of the Zoom event. I gave the entire program- presentation of 50 minutes, 10 minute film on my father's testimony and left time for questions and reactions. It was powerful after all. But it did make me think- is this not "overdoing it"? Should I not be more careful to whom and what I present? I am not a believer in "hiding behind fences" and feel called, honored and passionate about sharing what I need to share. Where this will take me from here I do not know. Uncertainty is the ultimate state we live with anyway, just might as well live with it and await the next challenge ahead...


Holocuast Rememberance Day- main ceremony in Kadima-Zoran



It was an honor and an experience to show the 10 minute film of my father's testimony from the mass grave in his small town in Belarus, as well as to add my own 10 minutes of personal sharing as well as research insights. This was a different kind of presentation: a shorter one as part of an overall memorial program. It was amongst the Jewish community, the Israeli community where I live. The connection and sense of belonging made me feel that I was part of "passing on legacy", I have a "bigger role" than just the subject at hand, and the "subject at hand" is much bigger than "just the subject".



Annual Memorial Ceremony of the Zhetl Community in Tel-Aviv






If belonging has an impact on all this then presenting for 10 minutes in the annual commemeration of the Zhetl community in Israel was as "home as you can get". Here I did not talk about my father's story so much as share some of my feelings and insights around my doctoral journey. I was approached eagerly and emotionally by many after the commemeration event, in which indiviuals shared with me how much what I said resonated with them "spot on". I felt I was facilitating some process, teaching people something they are longing for, sharing myself in a different role which has great meaning for me. We are all in this together...


Looking to the Future


I will continue to offer my presentation around the world and show my father's short video and testimony. It is a mission that I have taken on, a mission of love and sacred legacy. I am well-aware that to much of the world the Holocaust may be "old stuff", there is a feeling of "enough Holocaust", that our world requires "new content" at a breathtaking pace.


Perhaps this is precisely the reason that I must keep on doing what I have begun, to stand with those who are dedicated to perserving authentic legacy no matter how many years have passed.

It will be interesting to see what form and direction the world will offer me in doing so.


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