Professor Anna Ornstein stood at the front of the room to help frame an extraordinary day at Hebrew SeniorLife. In her presence were eleven wounded Israeli soldiers who had been on the front lines of battleserving their country. These soldiers were visiting the United States on a healing mission with the organization Brothers For Life, which supports the physical and emotional needs of wounded Israeli veterans. Twelve Holocaust survivors from the Boston community, including HSL’s NewBridge on the Charles, Center Communities of Brookline and Orchard Cove sat at their sides, along with 12 middle school children from the Rashi School. Professor Ornstein, a Holocaust survivor herself and psychotherapist, offered words of guidance to facilitate conversations about resilience and recovery post trauma. Paraphrased from Kierkegaard, she advised, “Life must be lived forwards but can only be understood backwards."
How does one carry on after experiencing physical and emotional trauma? What are the important steps to take on a journey to recover and rebuild a life that has been forever changed? Holocaust survivors and the Brothers for Life soldiers struggle with these same questions. During a special luncheon on June 3rd at NewBridge on the Charles in Dedham, soldiers and survivors shared their stories with one another. The survivors were able to model for soldiers that life can go on, and healing is indeed possible. And the soldiers relished the gratitude expressed for their efforts to defend Israel.. The students in the room took in this historic moment, recognizing this as a once in a lifetime learning opportunity.
The program was a collaborative effort between Brothers for Life, Hebrew SeniorLife, The Rashi School and Facing History and Ourselves. The voices of participants and program coordinators offer the most powerful way to understand the magic of the day.
A Rashi parent commented: “[My son] is bursting with stories and balancing the delicate line of enthusiasm for the topic with a profound understanding that this real, scary and life altering. Jacob will remember this day for years to come. Many thanks.”
A Facing History staff member said: “At Facing History, we explore examples of people who have learned to be "upstanders"…. People who have seen a need in the world and make things happen. I'm adding [the Brothers for Life Director] to my list of examples of people I want students to know about who have chosen to participate and make a tremendously positive impact on a group of people who desperately needed it.”
Brothers for Life shares: “To say the soldiers were moved, would be a complete understatement. I think this was a highlight of their week. They were deeply moved.”
Indeed, the program was the highlight of the week for everyone in attendance.