This International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we can find strength in survivors’ testimonies and harness it as an inherited gift to navigate this period.
Remembering the Holocaust takes on new meaning following October 7, a day which brought every living Jew back into a shocking yet shared low point in the collective Jewish story. This moment marks the lowest ongoing period of the Jewish people since the Holocaust. It follows one of the perceivably greatest times to be a Jew with a thriving Jewish nation-state and Diaspora.
All of us are looking for signs of Hope. It is only with Hope that the modes of strength and resilience that sustained the Jewish people through time can be identified and exercised.
This International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we can find this hope by listening to Holocaust survivors’ testimonies.
Those amongst us with the strongest, most practiced muscles of resilience are our remaining survivors. Their experiences live on in the stories of second and third generations, and the collective Jewish memory. Taking in Holocaust testimony in this period can be an active exercise to find comfort and identify elements of resilience that we can choose to harness as our own.
These elements lie within Jewish individuals and communities. The Jewish people received not only trauma from the Holocaust but also inherited gifts of resilience embedded in the stories of survivors. Their testimonies are lessons not only on the horrors of the Holocaust and the need to ensure “Never Again”; they hold frameworks for how to bring about the light within sustained and chaotic darkness.
Hope is born out of narrative – How we tell our story. The narrative of the Jewish people is one of rising and falling and rising again. Every fall comes with the hope that the next rise will be higher than the previous one. It is this intentional telling of the story that holds the secret to the Jewish people’s resilience. The story weaves through our traditions, beliefs, text, language, community, and culture.
Understanding today’s story within the Jewish Timeline that stretches across time and space provides a certain clarity and confidence. It places this moment within, what Psychologist Dr. Marshall Duke calls, “Our Grand Narrative.”
“An event, such as the war, the Holocaust, or going back even as far as Egypt are all placed in a grand narrative, which is an oscillating narrative. It’s important that the trauma that might exist in any one place is seen as attachable to that place,” Duke explained at a recent webinar on narrating the Holocaust in a post-October 7 world.
Telling this kind of narrative brings not only coherence, it creates strength and resilience within and after a crisis, said Psychologist Dr. Robyn Fivush, Duke’s colleague and research partner at Emory University.
According to Fivush, connecting this period to the Holocaust brings to the surface the idea that, “We are survivors. We have faced challenges and struggles and horrendous things, but we are survivors because we keep going, we share, we support each other. We love each other. We’re there for each other.”
While much is uncertain and out of our hands, this is a narrative for anyone to practice. And International Holocaust Remembrance Day creates an opportunity to do so in community.
In this spirit, we put together a Hope Kit Zikaron BaSalon as a guide to navigate the collective processing of the October 7 tragedy and its aftermath and find hope within it. This guide is based on Zikaron BaSalon’s unique methodology and the research and insights of both Duke and Fivush. It intends to foster a shared sense of narrative, community, and vision for the future. While perhaps not intuitive, participants are meant to walk away with a kind of intentionally practiced hope that identifies the resilience and strength in all of us to be used in the days to come.
Each of us has a story to share from this period.
As Fivush guided, “There isn’t a story to be told, or the story to be told [today] or ‘The Day After.’ It’s a process.”
“But the stories won’t die. We know this from the Jewish tradition. We still have the stories and those stories define who we are. And we are strong.”
This International Holocaust Remembrance Day, join us in telling this story.
This piece was co-authored by Sharon Buenos. Buenos serves as the Global Director of Zikaron BaSalon. She is passionately dedicated to Holocaust education and preserving survivors’ testimonies for future generations.
January 27th marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Jewish communities and individuals around the world are invited to host their gatherings using the Zikaron BaSalon Hope Kit, a collaboration between Zikaron Basalon and the Tisch Center for Jewish Dialogue of ANU: Museum of the Jewish People.