A Jewish Elders’ Workshop

I attended the Jewish Elders’ Workshop, in Auburndale, Massachusetts, USA, in May of this year. It was led by Cherie Brown, the International Liberation Reference Person for Jews, and Pam Geyer, the International Liberation Reference Person for Elders, and was a joyful and powerful experience. The following are a few of my many takeaways [things I learned].

1) Our bodies and pain: Pam encouraged us to work consistently on chronic pain, especially on the early related distresses. We can discharge on all that was happening when the pain started and on the victimization and “giving up” patterns that may have become associated with it. We often compromise our lives in order to alleviate pain. I work on pain only when it is in my face [impossible to ignore], so I decided to dedicate one of my weekly sessions to working on it.

2) Blame: When an oppression is not recognized as systemic, we often blame ourselves and believe that something is wrong with us. This is particularly true of anti-Semitism, in which blaming Jews is a key feature. Since the workshop I’ve laughed with relief as I blame the Nazis for my struggles, including those that my parents passed down to me.

3) Facing anti-Semitism: For years I’d held on tenaciously to our beautiful RC Jewish commitment: For the long-range survival of my people, I solemnly promise that, from this moment on, I will treat every person I meet as if she or he were eager to be my warm, close, dependable friend and ally, under all conditions. This will mean that ______. However, I hadn’t been able to actually discharge or move much in its direction. Recently I’d been feeling resentful and pulling back from co-activists and people at work, unable to think about them as humans and potential allies. With Cherie’s permission and encouragement to have sessions screaming, “You’re an anti-Semite!” I finally started discharging toward making the commitment.

4) Safety as a decision: I loved hearing safety described as a decision. During the first Intifada, in Jerusalem (Israel), I’d decided that I wouldn’t live in constant fear and limit my life. In sessions I’d given myself the direction that I was inherently safe, just as I was, and good, intelligent, and powerful. In fact, it had been a decision not to believe my age-old chronic terror.

5) That there’s room for error on either side of facing reality: On the one hand is accepting the messages of oppression and of our chronic distress. On the other hand is ignoring and rigidly denying real problems that we need to face and handle. For example, we might accept pain and slowing down as being inevitable with aging, or we might deny that there is an oppression or a physical problem. There is no one obvious answer; we may need to both discharge and see a doctor. Similarly, for Jews, “I am already safe” is a contradiction to feeling terrified; however, anti-Semitism is real, and there are dangerous situations that require thoughtful action.

Miri Sager

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of Jews

(Present Time 193, October 2018)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00