Tamar Adelstein

Healing in the Aftermath of Trauma – from Crown Heights to the Land of Israel


The days were already circled months ago on my Hebrew calendar.  This is the week, when back in 1991, we lived through the Crown Heights Pogrom.

Darkness descends on the 10th of Elul and though the full moon’s light illuminates the sky, I don’t need it, my mind’s eye knows exactly where to board for the annual ride on the rollercoaster of emotions.  Disbelief, fear and fury flash by as the memories tug me upwards on the creaking rails. At the top, key points from a sicha of the Rebbe’s came to mind in astonishing clarity.  But milliseconds later the window is shattering and then I am shouting to the Almighty and my departed mother to come save us as I pass my youngest child into the arms of my other seven whom I’ve hidden in a tiny bathroom in the back.  In the next moment we go hurtling down and up and down and up and down through a wild rush of near misses and miracles.

It’s Heavenly to be saved just in the nick of time but for some reason the other parts, like the people who let you down and those lingering repercussions, chime louder.

This is the kind of week where you either want to bang on drums until someone says they’re sorry or tune it out with a treat and a fancy shopping spree.  By now I’m a realist, I’ll take the latter, please.

On the road for two weeks after fleeing our home the second night of the Pogrom, when we returned, I thoughtfully called my kids’ schools (not all locally affiliated) with a heads up that as we were still reeling, it might take them a bit longer to get back into the groove of school.

To my surprise, I am abruptly brushed off and left feeling like I’ve just made a blundering faux pas.  This kind of shushing and invalidation – the “we don’t want to hear about it” and other outrageous remarks would hardly be limited to busy principals.  Too many uncomfortable truths to deal with apparently.

Unwilling to be silenced (the principals and teachers eventually got it), my mothers’ group, Crown Heights Women, working in tandem with the community’s dedicated council leaders, stood our ground until police took our safety concerns seriously.

Actually, our efforts had begun two weeks before the pogrom when we were appalled that police were being so apathetic to reports about a strange man following Jewish women around.  The local precinct could have cared less that a man (maybe the same one) had been forcing his way into Jewish homes, assaulting at least one woman who lived alone, nearly strangling her to death.

In the chaos of the Pogrom, the story was all but forgotten.

Tragically, that same man, Romane LaFond, would murder Pesha Leah LaPine, HY”D, six months later; LaFond was caught soon after, based on a description of his looks in a report we demanded the police take after he’d forced his way into still another Jewish woman’s home, my friend’s, in August.

Because all it takes is living through one pogrom to understand what Pikuach Nefesh (protecting lives) means to the Jewish community, Crown Heights Women turned its attention to Israel in 1993 when the foolish, dangerous Oslo Accords were signed, adding “for the Safety and Integrity of Israel” to our name.

We all know the sorry outcome of the Accords and the agreements that have followed: more than a thousand Jews murdered and countless others left scarred by terrorism and a succession of wars.

The notion that Jews must learn to live with this is immoral and goes against the tenets of Jewish Law let alone all common sense.  The peace policies of the Left (with the Right and Religious parties’ acquiescence) fail every time.

How much longer must people suffer until these politicians heed the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s directives for true peace:  security, settlement and sovereignty?!

Until that happens Crown Heights Women for the Safety and Integrity will continue to publicize the Rebbe’s guidance and give recognition to those admirable individuals and organizations bringing the Rebbe’s message to fruition.

In late August we decided to launch a new program called Healing, Health and Wellness in the Land of Israel, from Holistic to Horseback Riding.  Every two months we will be inviting professionals from the Healing Arts and Hands-On therapies to talk about what they do and have to offer.

Our first guest speaker was Shira Chernoble who is a pastoral counselor, massage therapist and aromatherapist. Shira’s empathetic touch coupled with extensive professional training have given her a wise understanding of human nature.

Hugs in a Bottle is one of Shira’s special aromatherapy blends. A calming fusion of fragrant oils of the highest quality, Hugs in a Bottle is safe for anyone to take and is made available for use in many of Israel’s bomb shelters.

Shira also sends Hugs in a Bottle around the world wherever there is a need, attaching a note of encouragement in the recipient’s native language.

Our second guest was Efraim Rosenfeld.  Efraim is a trained animal-assisted therapist and part of the team at Merkaz Chossen – The Roklen Resilience Center in S’derot.  Opened in 2008, the concept has since been copied in twelve other locations throughout Israel; to its credit the Israeli Government funds the Center in full and clients, mostly children, receive treatment free of charge.

Like its name, the Center focuses on building resilience in the aftermath of trauma.  Children find it calming to hold and pet an animal. Taking care of the small animals they’re given to work with helps make it easier for the children to open up and express their inner turmoil by way of projecting what they’re thinking and feeling onto the animal in their care.

Finding the courage to touch and handle a snake or even creepy crawlers, for example, is another way of helping a traumatized child or adult build up their resilience and coping skills for whatever comes next.

Many children reported back to Efraim that they were, in fact, better able to get through the Corona lockdowns thanks to what they learned at the Center.

We concluded the program with my own presentation on Flower Essences, which I am a certified practitioner of.

To quote Steve Johnson, z”l, a master flower essence maker and founder of Alaskan Flower Essences:  “Flower Essences are often the missing piece in trauma recovery, an important piece to the puzzle when trauma continues to impact and linger.  So much goes on during a traumatic experience.  It takes time to come to terms with it.  Flower Essences are a gift that helps us along the way, keeping us in the present as we process what has happened, but without the pain and suffering.”

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About the Author
I am originally from Buffalo, NY and although I did not have a religious upbringing I always felt a strong connection with Yiddishkeit and Eretz Yisroel. I still get chills recalling the moment the Rabbi announced that Israel had been attacked on Yom Kippur. In the weeks that followed, even though I really didn't understand all the details, I was the one student in my 10th grade Social Studies class who challenged our German-American teacher when he said Israel would be wiped out. Interestingly, the rest of Jewish kids in the class who came from much more Jewishly -oriented homes than I were silent. Years later I met one of them and was astounded to find out how they were all silently cheering me on. On the day the Jews were "disengaged" from Gush Katif, I was stopped in the grocery store (in Buffalo) by a little Jewish lady who whispered to me that she didn't think it was right what Israel was doing. Which just goes to show that there is a vast silent majority of Jews who agree with the Rebbe's approach to peace.
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