You know those amazing moments when you meet someone for the first time and unexpectedly you just “click”? On the surface, you have little in common—you live in different cities, maybe even different countries, have completely different lifestyles, vocations and even politics so there is no reason to feel this “click”. Why? We’re all the children or grandchildren of survivors finding that we share so many of the same feelings and childhood experiences. The explanation for why I return year after year to the conferences, traveling at my own expense to across the country and even the world, is simply because I meet mishpocha, individuals who also grew up with some version of guilt, fear, secrets, anxieties, hope, resilience and determination. These are both the burdens and the gifts of growing up in a family of survivors.
I have a beautiful family and caring friends and live a busy, fulfilling life. Until I attended my first conference 12 years ago, I didn’t know there was something or someone lacking. It can be hard to put into words but here are a few reasons I help organize and attend.
I love meeting survivors who share their histories with me along with their amazing attitudes. I love observing them together, greeting their friends like each one is a member of their families. I like seeing first time attendees discover he or she isn’t the only one whose mother had to have crackers with her at all times, just in case she got hungry. I love seeing the tenderness of survivors’ grandchildren attending with them and coming away inspired to carry on their family’s stories of courage, survival and resilience. I love listening to the plenary speakers, carefully chosen for the information and message each will provide to us. I love just listening in workshops to those who share both the burdens and pain as well as the benefits received growing up in a home with survivors. I come away replenished with resolve, hope, new friends and a fresh outlook on my family’s past. I belong to a special “club” I didn’t choose to belong to but cherish.