On Wednesday, January 27th, 2021 we observed International Holocaust Remembrance Day with an interfaith commemoration in a year of rising anti-Semitism in our borough, including signs of white supremacist literature. The celebrated keynote speaker Dr. Irit Felsen explored anxiety and other post-traumatic reactions in survivors of mass trauma and their descendants. She also discussed the particular strengths that came with surviving the Holocaust and genocide and its relevance in the current moment.
The event opens with students singing "Blessed is the Match," a poem by Hannah Senesh. Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Wagner College alumna, offered virtual remarks early in this program co-sponsored by the Wagner College Holocaust Center, the Inter-Religious Clergy of Staten Island, Congregation B’nai Jeshrun, Communities United for Respect and Trust, and Council of Jewish Organizations of Staten Island. Imam Tahir Kukaj of the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center and Reverend Terry Troia offered powerful remarks.
Holocaust survivors and their families shared their own personal experiences. This year has been particularly hard on Staten Island’s Holocaust survivors and we pay homage to ten survivors who passed away. Rabbi Mark Ben-Aron, lit a candle in honor of his father Chaim Ben-Aron. The event is co-chaired by Manny Saks, whose father survived Buchenwald concentration camp, and his daughter Shannon Saks.
A clinical psychologist specializing in trauma and traumatic loss, Dr. Felsen serves as a member of the Yale University Genocide Trauma Research Group and teaches at Columbia University and at the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Yeshiva University. She recently participated in a panel examining intergenerational trauma in African-American and Native American communities and discusses that briefly here.
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