When Janice Friebaum moved to the Valley from Florida in 2011, she was surprised to find that there was not an organization for adult children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. Now there is.
Operating under the auspices of the Phoenix Holocaust Survivors’ Association, Generations After will launch the first of its monthly discussion groups on Nov. 6 and its first community event, a Book Talk, on Dec. 8.
Friebaum, whose father was a survivor, got involved in her first children of survivors group about 20 years ago. “Having immigrant parents and parents who came out of traumas like the Holocaust gave us a very different experience growing up and a different way of looking at the world,” she said.
“When we connect with one another, it’s very much akin to joining a support group … You find you have things in common and you find that you understand each other in a very special way.”
As a PHSA board member, she spent a year interviewing children of Holocaust survivors in Phoenix to see what they would like to see in such a group and partnered with Jewish Family & Children’s Service Aleinu in February on a program called “Second-Hand Survival: Inheriting the Holocaust.”
A 25-person steering committee was formed this past April that established four committees to address the varying interests 2gs and 3gs (second generations and third generations) might have. “We realized that one group wasn’t going to meet the needs of all children or grandchildren of survivors,”
The committees are:
Discussion Groups Committee is organizing monthly discussion groups for children and grandchildren of survivors, with guest speakers and a professional facilitator, Dr. Phyllis Palm, a psychologist recently retired from her psychotherapy practice in New York City. The first one is Nov. 6 and will feature speakers Evelyn Levine and Henry Goldberg, both children of survivors.
Education Committee is hosting its first event, a Book Talk facilitated by Sheryl Bronkesh about “On Both Sides of the Wall: Memoirs from the Warsaw Ghetto,” by Vladka Meed. This discussion is open to the community and will feature the author’s daughter, Dr. Anna Meed Scherzer.
Assistance to Survivors Committee is engaging in efforts to help and comfort aging survivors. In partnership with Jewish Family & Children’s Service, Duet, Bene-villa, Smile on Seniors and Hospice of the Valley, Care Across Generations will launch later this year. Through this, specially trained volunteers who are children and grandchildren of survivors will be matched with survivors requesting assistance.
Social Events Committee is planning recreational gatherings and events.
The PHSA, which celebrates its 30th anniversary next year, currently has 229 members, said Edie Wade, who oversees PHSA membership. This includes 106 survivors, 23 second-generation members, two third-generation members and 98 other members, which includes spouses. To date, Generations After has about 100 people on its own mailing list, Friebaum said.
The PHSA has a speaker’s bureau in which survivors speak to schools, as well as community and religious organizations, to share their experiences. In 2014, Generations After’s Education Committee plans to launch its own speaker’s bureau.
The survivors have the most important things to say, “they are the eyewitnesses to what happened and the world will be much, much poorer when they are no longer with us,” Friebaum said. Children of survivors can speak about “what it was like to grow up in the shadows of that horrific experience and the very interesting and unique impact that type of upbringing had on us and the people we have become today. And it’s not all bad … along with whatever burdens there may have been with that type of upbringing, there also have been immense blessings.
“Perhaps we can serve as inspiration to other children who are growing up either with immigrant parents or children who are immigrants themselves to this country. Maybe our stories of how are families came from tragedy and wound up doing fine and becoming very functional and even happy in our lives can be a positive example.”