October 29, 2023
Jewish Matchmaker Journal: Our Collective Trauma and How We Heal
Jews are no strangers to trauma; we have a long history of it. We live every day with the knowledge that there were, and still are, people who literally want to wipe us off the face of the earth. That knowledge in itself is traumatizing, but the incomprehensible brutality of the recent Hamas attack has traumatized us on a whole new level. Whether or not you live in Israel, the horror of what our brothers and sisters experienced on Shabbat morning of October 7th has ripped out the hearts and souls of every one of us. We have all been affected. We’re all in shock. We’re a small, close-knit nation, connected by religion, culture, and ethnicity, and somehow we need to find a way to heal.
I feel a bit like the walking dead right now, maybe you do too. I know that life goes on, yet I feel numbed out. I know that I’m not alone. We’re all in a state of shock and disbelief. The unfathomable has happened, again. It’s happened to our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, our loved ones. And as always, throughout our history, we’ve got to keep going, keep moving forward, find our way through this without completely shutting down. How do we get there?
There is a term for what we are currently experiencing, it’s called collective trauma. This is a term given to the profound emotional and psychological wounds experienced by groups, communities, or societies as a result of events or circumstances that impact a signficant portion of their members. Collective suffering is caused by shared traumatic events such as wars, genocides, armed conflicts, natural disasters, systemic oppression - even pandemics. Our long Jewish history is marked with many shared traumas, and now, a new generation will bear the scars.
Healing our collective trauma requires acknowledging, understanding, and addressing the deep wounds that we’ve sustained as a people. Acknowledgment is essential in order for us to regain our peace, stability, and sense of unity. We need to admit to ourselves - and to each other - that we are hurting, that we feel broken. Let’s not minimize or deny this pain. Acknowledgment is validation, and we need validation. This is why it’s so important that society and its institutions validate the severity and brutality of what Hamas did, without justifying it or making excuses. When society diminishes the experience of its members, their anguish and suffering are increased and healing is delayed. I’m astounded by those people who justify the attacks or focus only on Israel’s response. IMO, this is gaslighting perpetuated on a grand scale and it’s toxic and prohibitive to healing.
Healing requires a safe space to share our stories and feelings without judgment and in an environment of compassion and understanding. Let’s provide that for each other - both personally and as a community. News outlets, YouTube, and other forums are posting videos that tell the story of each survivor’s experience. As difficult as they are to watch, they are a way for the survivors and family members to share their personal horror and release some of their pain. This is important. Sharing traumatic experiences with a compassionate audience diminishes their psychological and emotional imprint. Reach out to friends and family and talk about how they are feeling and how you are feeling. Children, in particular, need encouragement to release and process emotions. You might be reluctant to bring up the subject with your child if he/she seems fine, but none of us is fine right now - children, least of all. As horrific as all of this is for us as adults, imagine how horrifying it is for children. A true life nightmare that comes with a lot of fear. Help children to process and release the myriad of emotions they are experiencing right now. They need our understanding and reassurance in order to minimize the inevitable emotional wounds they’ve sustained.
Community and Social Support
Jewish communities and organizations go a long way in helping us feel connected and it’s likely that almost all of them are organizing support and assistance for the victims, the families, and the soldiers. Get involved with intitiatives that your local Jewish community has undertaken. Involvement, feeling needed, and working together will go a long way in helping us heal our personal and collective pain. This scenario left us feeling defenseless and vulnerable. Helping others is the antidote. Coming together as a community is one of our strengths. It’s unfortunate that it often takes an outside threat to unite us, but once we come together, we are unstoppable. Let’s put our political and ideological differences aside and just show love for one another. We are incredibly strong when we are united, and that sense of unity will also help us to heal.
Healing collective trauma isn't just about admitting and addressing our wounds, it's also about building resilience and regaining a feeling of power. Israel is our home, and this was a home invasion on a whole new level. If someone had told me a month ago that hundreds or thousands of Hamas and Palestinians could breach our border and commit such violence I never would have believed it. Yet it seems to have been so easy for them to do - and help was so long in coming.
Even today, when at least the border seems to be contained, we are not resting peacefully. We don’t feel secure. We are guarded, cautious - from all sides we now feel the threat. It will be important for our collective healing that we get back to a place where we again feel safe and secure in our homeland. Whether or not you live in Israel, you’ve always known there is one place you can go if anti-semitic shit hits the fan. That’s not the vibe today. Today, Israelis are leaving the country in order to feel safe. Unbelievable. A renewed sense of safely will need to come from a strong leadership that we trust and respect. A leadership and security force that is focused and committed to the safety of our borders. I hope we can get back to that feeling of security soon.
Mishpacha - my Jewish brothers and sisters, healing from our most recent trauma will require us to be strong and resilient, two things we might not be feeling right now. By acknowledging our pain, sharing our stories, supporting each other, and coming together as a community, we honor those we have lost, and strengthen our nation. I pray for our hearts, our souls, and our unity.
Am Yisrael Chai.