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Genocide, slavery, and displacement have affected far too many communities of people. While each community’s experience is different, massive collective trauma often results in cumulative emotional and psychological wounds that are carried across generations and remain potent in 2021.

Dr. Irit Felsen is a clinical psychologist trained at Yale University and in Germany and Israel. She has seen these types of cumulative wounds firsthand, as a researcher focused on the long-term effects of intergenerational trauma and a clinician with extensive experience working with Holocaust survivors and their families.

In this program, Dr. Felsen explores historical trauma and cultural healing with experts from Jewish, American Indian, and African American communities. In addition to Dr. Felsen, the discussion features:

  • Dr. Nina Fischer, a scholar of Jewish Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt and granddaughter of non-Jewish Germans who has authored Memory Work: The Second Generation (Palgrave 2015) and other publications exploring the legacy of the Holocaust.
  • Dr. Jessica Gourneau, a clinical psychologist and member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa who serves as Clinical Director at American Indian Family Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, with more than 25 years of experience of providing culturally-informed therapeutic practices interwoven with traditional healing practices in Native communities.
  • Sam Simmons, an alcohol and drug counselor with more than 30 years of experience in culturally-sensitive, trauma-informed work with African American men and their families, founder of the Community Empower Through Black Men Healing Conference, and co-host of Voices on 89.9 KMOJ FM radio.

Watch the program below.

 

This program’s original recording transcript is below. This transcription was created automatically during a live program so may contain inaccurate transcriptions of some words.

Ari Goldstein: i'm Ari Goldstein Senior Public program producer at the Museum of Jewish heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust and it's a pleasure to welcome you to today's program on historical trauma and cultural healing.

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Ari Goldstein: We have a very esteemed panelists with us today you'll hear more from in just a moment, including Dr JESSICA or no Sam simmons Dr Nina Fisher our moderator today is Dr you read felton.

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Ari Goldstein: you read is a clinical psychologist and researcher and the daughter to Holocaust survivors.

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Ari Goldstein: you read as an adjunct professor at Columbia University and you've she be university.

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Ari Goldstein: A member of the American Academy of experts on traumatic stress and the co Chair of the trauma working group and the NGO committee on mental health and consultative relationship with the United Nations.

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Ari Goldstein: He will introduce the rest of our panelists in just a moment, but please feel free to share questions for any of our panelists and the zoom Q amp a feature throughout their discussion we'll get to as many as we can, towards the end.

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Ari Goldstein: This program is being recorded and so will send out a copy of the recording tomorrow, along with some suggested resources.

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Ari Goldstein: The discussion today is sponsored in part of the battery park city authority Community partnership.

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Ari Goldstein: All of us at the museum are deeply grateful for the battery park city authorities generous support and collaboration over so many years, and especially on a topic as timely timely and interesting as today's that further ado, take it away.

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Irit Felsen: Thank you very much, very I am incredibly grateful and honored to my guests for joining us today we have Dr Nina Fisher, who is a scholar of Jewish studies at the.

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Irit Felsen: University in Frankfurt and a granddaughter of non Jewish Germans.

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Irit Felsen: Nina offered memory work, the second generation a book about the experiences of the children of survivors in many other publications exploring the legacy of the Holocaust.

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Irit Felsen: Dr Fisher has focused on her career on Jewish literature and culture in Israel and in the Jewish diaspora.

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Irit Felsen: On Holocaust studies memory studies and the complex ways in which religion and literature are engaged in the representation of memories of historical trauma and.

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Irit Felsen: On in political conflict, especially in the context of the political Israeli, Palestinian conflict.

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Irit Felsen: Dr JESSICA will know, is a clinical psychologist and member of the turtle mountain band of chippewa.

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Irit Felsen: Who serves as clinical director at American Indian family Center and St Paul Minnesota she has more than 25 years of experience.

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Irit Felsen: Providing culturally informed therapeutic practices and interventions with inter inter woven with traditional healing practices in native communities.

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Irit Felsen: Dr garner is also a member of the American Indian mental health advisory council.

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Irit Felsen: which provides recommendations and advises the state of Minnesota on mental health issues that impact the American Indians in the state and on ways in which the state can provide support to this Community.

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Irit Felsen: In addition to that Dr UNO is also an educator teaching and supervising young professionals.

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Irit Felsen: In the development of their careers.

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Irit Felsen: Sam simmons is a licensed chemical dependency counselor with more than 30 years of experience in culturally sensitive trauma informed work with African American men.

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Irit Felsen: and their families he's the founder of Community and power through black men healing conference and he's The co host of voices on eight 9.9 km OJ FM radio.

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Irit Felsen: Sam is also the founder of Samuel simmons consulting which offers a wide range of services to individuals and organizations promoting educational and culturally sensitive trauma informed initiatives.

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Irit Felsen: Addressing African American male and Community trauma training staff developing curriculum and helping those working with the American with the African American Community as well as with other communities of color welcome, and thank you very, very much for joining me today.

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Irit Felsen: So I just wanted to say a few words, before we start about what we're hoping to do today we're here to share our insights is the.

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Irit Felsen: As who we each of us are in the children of the families and the group so much we come our perspectives on intergenerational trauma and on that elusive yet very much hoped for.

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Irit Felsen: prospect of healing from intergenerational trauma and even better healing together we are the four of us descendants of mass collective trauma that has really severely changed and impacted our people.

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Irit Felsen: We come from very different ethnic backgrounds very different cultural backgrounds and our intergenerational legacies of trauma.

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Irit Felsen: are different, and in some ways, even from the other side of the same historical traumatic events we are here, an American Indian native to this country.

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Irit Felsen: A black man, the descendant of black slaves who were captured and brought to this country and to white women, none of us born in this country.

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Irit Felsen: one of us, myself, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, the other, the daughter of the granddaughter of Germans who are part of the Nazi war machine is, as it was.

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Irit Felsen: And what we hope to do is find a way to share our suffering with each other.

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Irit Felsen: And with the audience and try to find similarities in our experience and try to see if one can forge the gold of mutual empathy from these intergenerational experiences of mutually inflicted traumatic experiences.

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Irit Felsen: Can we find a bridge, can we try to be part of an effort to find the bridge over these past atrocities, so that we can offer a safer, more just world for our children.

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Irit Felsen: With that I will open our discussion and I will put my first question to you, Dr garner.

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Irit Felsen: And I will start by saying you know the acknowledgement of the experience of trauma or head of having gone through trauma that it was a trauma.

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Irit Felsen: The impact of it on the person that suffered it, who is acknowledged as a survivor all of that depends greatly on the social context and on the Zeitgeist on the on what's what's accepted at a certain time in a certain place.

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Irit Felsen: There has been very little world community acknowledgement for the trauma of the American Indians.

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Irit Felsen: And there is even been little acknowledgement of it in our professional circles, the mental health professions until as late as the early 1980s, with the work of some.

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Irit Felsen: native American professionals, including Duran Duran and braveheart and others, yet these.

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Irit Felsen: Researchers say that the American natives have been aware of what is their soul wound for many generations, what is your experience when did you become aware that you are carrying historical trauma in some ways, and how did you become aware of it.

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Jessica Gourneau: I actually had a lot of small little tiny revelations.

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Jessica Gourneau: Without really understanding the terminology of trauma So when I speak of these things it's without that language it's more of.

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Jessica Gourneau: What I carried and felt in my body, I actually had to really significant revelations actually that we were somehow different than other people and the largest one was when I was a young girl.

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Jessica Gourneau: For those of you that have never been on a reservation or understand our relationship with the Federal Government, one of the things that was provided us to us.

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Jessica Gourneau: As a result of our sale of the United States, of the land was medical coverage or medical services for Native Americans for the length of their their life.

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Jessica Gourneau: that's that is provided through what is called Indian Health Service, so if you're on a reservation, they have the services available available to them, however, what people don't recognize is that.

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Jessica Gourneau: These services are woefully underfunded and understaffed, especially in certain areas where they may not even have a medical doctor.

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Jessica Gourneau: So what typically would happen for me while I was growing up was that many doctors were not from our reservation, they were from Canada are they from various areas within the United States.

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Jessica Gourneau: As a way for them to pay off their student loan debt, so we often had these doctors who had no exposure to native people.

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Jessica Gourneau: Their history, in particular, our relationship with the Federal Government and our traditions, our values, our ceremony, and our language.

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Jessica Gourneau: So what would happen is that the local hospital was the only place to socialize.

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Jessica Gourneau: And we're very we're communal community we get together we visit so many of the elders and Community Members would go to the hospital to visit.

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Jessica Gourneau: And so what I would notice when I would be sitting there was that the treatment that was received by our people, especially our elders was extremely contradictory to what I expected a doctor to act like.

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Jessica Gourneau: So, for instance i've been to other doctors outside of the reservation system and people would be treated with you know calmness and respect, but what would happen is.

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Jessica Gourneau: That the doctors would come out and they would literally yell at elders and other Community members, sometimes in the lobby calling them names swearing up them calling them hypochondriacs.

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Jessica Gourneau: And I would just notice, nobody speaking up and the elders just putting their heads down often being talked to in a very condescending tone as if they were children and they didn't understand.

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Jessica Gourneau: English and they didn't understand what they were saying to them, and I remember thinking as a young child like.

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Jessica Gourneau: How can these doctors be speaking like this to elders in particular because of our elder respect, how could they be speaking to them like that and that maybe that meant that somehow we were different than other people that we somehow.

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Jessica Gourneau: That we deserve that treatment, since I missed, I did not understand when the elders were putting their heads down and when they didn't say anything.

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Jessica Gourneau: I didn't understand that that was our internalized our response to to the majority culture was not to say anything because we had learned.

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Jessica Gourneau: That, if you speak up bad things happen to you and your community we and that's where it came to me like we didn't have a voice or power.

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Jessica Gourneau: That would, I would say, would be the biggest thing the other one would be that most reservations are surrounded by bordering towns, a lot of these towns were extremely racist.

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Jessica Gourneau: And so there will be many comments left very racist comments when we go grocery shopping people visibly coming up to you, calling you drunken Indians.

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Jessica Gourneau: Coming up to you saying you probably got your government check you're just going to spend it on so on so on that, let me go over and I couldn't say anything I was told by my grandmother don't say anything don't say anything.

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Jessica Gourneau: And I that put the message in my head that maybe we deserve this treatment as a young person that's what I was thinking like I had to keep my mouth shut.

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Jessica Gourneau: Otherwise bad things would happen and that's how some of the parents would have to raise us at that point in time.

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Jessica Gourneau: The second time was really as a college student I went to the University of North Dakota the logo at that time was the fighting Sue.

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Jessica Gourneau: For those of you don't know soon as a derogatory term that a jib way tribes and given to a lakota Dakota Dakota sioux people, and it means snake in the grass so it's not a respectful name to be using anyway.

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Jessica Gourneau: And when we would go to games, they would do things like the tomahawk chop and.

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Jessica Gourneau: I really, really felt that to be extremely I didn't realize how much shame was me about that, and how painful that was.

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Jessica Gourneau: And when we asked people to stop the response we received was it's not a big deal get over it, and so, again I received that message that hey.

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Jessica Gourneau: Your your history is not going to be acknowledged the respect and that is not going to be acknowledged, I would also be asked in classes 200 people like well JESSICA is native in this class let's ask her.

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Jessica Gourneau: to represent all native people and people would turn around and look at me it was at that point in time, I had to get my voice and I had to talk to that professor and ask them.

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Jessica Gourneau: You know, pleased you called me out in front of 200 people to represent a very.

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Jessica Gourneau: varied and rich tradition of many tribes, please don't do that, luckily I got a good response, but those were the two that I would state were really that's where I held my trauma I didn't have words for that.

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Jessica Gourneau: But I understood it was there within my body and that I held it and then I was different from others, as a result of being a native person, but I don't want to take up any more of your time, thank you for the question.

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Irit Felsen: i'm a little speechless, I must say JESSICA, you know.

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Irit Felsen: So.

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Irit Felsen: Thank you for that, and I hope that we can get in the later part of our discussion to hear from you a little bit about how does one cope with that, how does one become the clinical director of services for your people with a PhD after that yeah.

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Irit Felsen: Sam my friend.

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Irit Felsen: And my question is to you.

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Irit Felsen: And I wanted to actually ask you, you know we talked before and I said that William cross a psychologist who focuses work on Black identity.

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Irit Felsen: claims that the problems that we see in the black Community these days are not really related to the legacy of slavery and to the internalized psychological impact of that as much as it is to the continued racism and.

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Irit Felsen: inequities that were that continued since then and I know that you.

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Irit Felsen: You actually created a conference recently that was titled the new normal and focused on.

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Irit Felsen: Speaking about what has been normal for the black community and what should be an ought to be and what you would like to see as the new normal for the black communities, can you please talk about that.

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Sam Simmons: yeah um you know wanna, thank you for allowing me to be here is I, I guess, we go back a little bit my work is really been about how does, how do we address the trauma in our Community, as a way of.

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Sam Simmons: Empowering the Community right and and I understand what the Professor was saying is you know.

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Sam Simmons: 240 some years of slavery, we knew what slavery was it was real clear, you know no if ands or buts about it, slavery was slavery right, and then you have a society that tells you that you're free.

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Sam Simmons: Right and then treat you everything but free.

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Sam Simmons: Know think about how confusing that is right it'd be like having a child taken out of a abusive home.

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Sam Simmons: And then put into foster care and telling the child, it will be better and the foster care is no better matter of fact, it might even be worse.

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Sam Simmons: And, and so I understand his concept about that.

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Sam Simmons: And you know, because we know that reconstruction only lasted about eight to 10 years and how much how well Africa America is dead, because the thing is.

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Sam Simmons: Is after after slavery, our whole goal was to get everything that wasn't allowed to us like education.

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Sam Simmons: And and and let us do our work for ourselves and and and all those great things that we thought that we need to do not only to take care of ourselves, but to prove to other people, we were human.

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Sam Simmons: We weren't the stereotypes that was proven, you know the whole in the extra pressure that put upon us like being real clear about how well, you were dress when you left the House to prove that you didn't look like the cartoons.

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Sam Simmons: is part of a trauma response.

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Sam Simmons: And, and you know we just started realizing that right.

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Sam Simmons: Fighting in every war in America to prove that we're just as patriotic as anybody else, and I know this is true in many of the other cultures, like native American culture.

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Sam Simmons: And the other cultures that prove that we are just as patriotic and love this country as much as anybody else and every time we keep trying to prove that we're Okay, the more we feel like we get smacked in the face by the response right.

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Sam Simmons: And so, so yeah earlier after slavery, you know we we wanted to you know we tried that get our families back together and every time we turn around we get hit by a.

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Sam Simmons: Another thing and one of the things about African Americans is we we wrote we didn't deal with the trauma we rode with the trauma.

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Sam Simmons: And, and, over time, that has become a problem you cannot ignore your trauma and not deal with the pain, as a result of the trauma and thanks that's gonna be okay, in the long term.

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Sam Simmons: Right and so yeah we are known for being resilient you know, every time it's about black folks were so resilient but it's like you know.

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Sam Simmons: You know it's like the commercial with you know the little boy give it to Jimmy or Tommy he'll eat it well you know you can do whatever you want to black folks because they'll get over it.

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Sam Simmons: Because we're so resilient when do we get to be more than more than resilient.

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Sam Simmons: When it and see and that's you know the piece that has been difficult, in terms of the work I do because think about it, if you are a community that when it's always so you a community that there's a focus on.

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Sam Simmons: Like the spotlight is on you and everything around or bad bad about America it's about you somehow is include you right, so the last thing you're going to want to do is deal with the problem.

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Sam Simmons: Because if I if I admit that I have these issues he's negative sides of trauma because because there's some resilient sides to trauma as well right, but these negative sides of trauma.

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Sam Simmons: and admit to that, then when we have a history where the systems have used what we would call being human against us.

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Sam Simmons: Right, and so we spent a great deal of time in.

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Sam Simmons: parts of our community we don't want to have this conversation about trauma it's bad they don't want to have the conversation now lot about trauma.

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Sam Simmons: Because again historically has been used against us and and i've been kind of going against that whole norm, saying that if we deal with our trauma as a human being, because if you are human.

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Sam Simmons: And you are mistreated.

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Sam Simmons: Right.

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Sam Simmons: there's gonna be some trump.

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Sam Simmons: And part of your humanity is not denying that trump and the one thing that we've always wanted America to do is come see us at human.

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Sam Simmons: And what I believe, if we deny our trauma we deny humanity and we denied that that first great thing we can do to heal right and I started working with a black man.

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Sam Simmons: Because a lot of times when we weren't talking about what the the systems was doing to us or it's too, Sir, racism and that kind of stuff a lot of times would always come up along the way, what black men weren't doing.

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Sam Simmons: Right, but you got to understand, we have been looking at black men through right man I.

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Sam Simmons: And white patriarchy when and when the system has done everything it can, for what we believe patriarchy is not allowing black men to have a full entry into that ideal, which I don't think it's healthy no way for anybody, but that's a whole nother conversation, to start with right.

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Sam Simmons: And so the other black man if.

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Sam Simmons: I have trauma and you tell me as a man and just a man in general that I can't do my trauma and then you want to be surprised when I become a perpetrator.

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Sam Simmons: Right and and don't deal with the fact that I was a child, at one time.

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Sam Simmons: Right and I, and I probably was traumatized as a child and have no way to deal with that trauma and then you tell me because i'm a i'm a male I have you know my trauma don't count.

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Sam Simmons: don't be surprised if i'm a perpetrator right because I would see it in my groups, because when men will be sent to me from correction.

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Sam Simmons: To deal with something they've done, you would hear this little voice will build what about me that little boy, what about me right.

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Sam Simmons: And I started listening to what about me and focus, you know, giving them time to talk about what about me and what I found is the more I allowed them to connect the dots to their trauma.

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Sam Simmons: To their behavior how it was affecting their relationships, how was affecting their relationship with the Community, they were more open to have compassion for the victims, their victims because they were able to have compassion for themselves right and so.

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Sam Simmons: So so that's what started the conference Community empowerment through black man healing was about this start there and in the ironic part it was never just about black man, it was about.

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Sam Simmons: about the black Community addressing how this trauma has affected how.

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Sam Simmons: In areas of raising our children being hard on I boys right being harder, not boys turning up boys I gotta be hard on you, because the world is going to even be harder.

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Sam Simmons: And we've learned over time by the understanding of trauma, which for me was that 35 you know I tell folks I was an adult at five because of the trauma I experienced in my house and I stopped being an adult at 35 when I understood that I didn't have to be all that right, and so.

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Sam Simmons: Being able to address that how that affects what we looking at so like, for example, being, but what I mean by being hard on our boys is if you've got a boy who's 14 years old.

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Sam Simmons: Especially in the 1950s 40s and 50s it says is that you live in one of those sundown towns where towns were if you were black you couldn't come out side.

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Sam Simmons: Without having some hassle from police departments and just the average white man and you've got this 14 year old boy, full of himself I scare the white people i'm going outside i'm your father.

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Sam Simmons: Right, no matter what we look at it, I probably will rather this you know beat you down there save your life.

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Sam Simmons: Right now think about that behavior as I started out because we look at those we look at those behaviors.

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Sam Simmons: Were survival behaviors and if you're continuing to do these behaviors now they become counterproductive and that's, the most important thing about understand the problem and connecting the dots and I know I was little all over the place, but i'm.

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Irit Felsen: know you actually.

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Irit Felsen: So you did not go all over the place at all, Sam and I think that it's amazing what you're saying, because you know it actually has echoes.

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Irit Felsen: In some of the most successful programs in Australia and here, and the work of a very, very esteemed psychologist called Peter foggy on mental ization.

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Irit Felsen: That is not only with people of color it's just with parents who are too harsh, who have suffered trauma who are you know who are reenacting it in in all of these ways for all of those reasons.

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Irit Felsen: Right at home and and and on their children on their spouses and that understanding these issues, as you say, has been shown to be so much a part of their healing and they're becoming better less harsh.

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Irit Felsen: spouses and parents, this kind of mental ization Thank you, thank you for that so Nina you know, Dr Fisher.

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Irit Felsen: Sam spoke about the impact of not speaking about trauma and my question to you is twofold one is what makes the granddaughter of German non Jewish German people make the career choices that you make.

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Irit Felsen: Focusing on the experiences of the survivors and the children of survivors and on related issues and the other part, related to what Sam just so eloquently in poignantly pointed out.

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Irit Felsen: How how little we know relative to families of survivors about the dynamics of speaking about the trauma of World War Two in families of the Germans who participated in it, so if you can speak about all of that in about seven minutes.

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Nina Fischer: well.

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Irit Felsen: 10 minutes.

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Nina Fischer: Thank you, thank you for having me here, Sam I was, as you were just speaking about two families, I was thinking, I have a three year old boy.

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Nina Fischer: I was just thinking how often almost every day, I find myself thinking so hard about how I bring up this child that he's not being turned.

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Nina Fischer: into what the history of my people was how not to be harsh with him how not to prepare him for the hardness of the world, but to keep him soft and to help him feel empathy and not you know be strong be tough, be a good boy.

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Nina Fischer: So yes, talk about the trauma I think i'm mostly going to be speaking about my family actually.

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Nina Fischer: How do you live in the shadow of being the perpetrators of the Holocaust, you know, two world wars and so forth.

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Nina Fischer: I.

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Nina Fischer: I grew up right where i'm sitting right now used to be my grandparents apartment I moved with my son we moved a few months ago, living next to my family my parents now.

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Nina Fischer: And I spend a lot of my childhood in this apartment.

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Nina Fischer: Now I live here and I watch, especially my father very much on his person to dementia, my father was born in 1941 his father was a German soldier, as well as my other grandfather.

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Nina Fischer: And my father's father was killed in Berlin and the very much in the last days of the war, we don't know how he was killed.

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Nina Fischer: But what I see today and again today during lunch in preparation for this meeting, I asked my parents, a bit more about their family life when they were younger and my dad got upset and meant Ben said, what do you mean what should we have talked about him he wasn't there, he was dead.

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Nina Fischer: All I know is that he didn't like carrots.

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Nina Fischer: So what I seen my father is how much he is shaped by this history.

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Nina Fischer: But i'm the same way, how much I am shaped by this history and i'm shaped in a very different way, because I was maybe I think I was 11 or so, when I started reading.

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Nina Fischer: children's books about the Holocaust and suddenly at some point connecting the dots these people with my grandparents, maybe not my grandparents themselves, maybe, yes, maybe no but.

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Nina Fischer: They were them and I couldn't for the life of me work out how this is humanly possible, please that I love these people so very much, and yet they had voted for Hitler.

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Nina Fischer: They my grandfather were were soldiers I couldn't I couldn't get my head around that.

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Nina Fischer: Very little was spoken and my family as in every family if that isn't very common German story I know sort of short snippets.

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Nina Fischer: You know World War and missy histories, but nothing real know stories, the one story my grandmother used to tell one of the story was that she heard about a woman, saying that Ted was a criminal and then saw have been hanged for that.

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Nina Fischer: But to go get back to me, maybe I started reading and reading and reading because in Germany and and early in my childhood, there were no Jews, so it was I didn't know anyone I started reading at some point I started university and.

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Nina Fischer: by sheer accident my university in constants had an exchange program with the University of Tel Aviv and I had already started focusing more and more of Jewish history.

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Nina Fischer: Jewish culture also learning more about the Middle East and then got offered a scholarship to go to Tel Aviv.

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Nina Fischer: And I picked that one up, and it was a life changing experience shaped by this history of my family and it's been shaping my life, ever since since then i've spent altogether something like six and a half years of my life in Israel, I started working on.

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Nina Fischer: The literature of children of Holocaust survivors, the impact of memory across generations, I continue this work turned it into a book in between, I worked in a former.

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Nina Fischer: concentration camp will convert because I wanted to challenge myself and see whether I could just read books of actually go to the places where former survivors would come and tell me that this is the place where they had been taken off the train place, I could see from my office.

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Nina Fischer: So it very much shaped me to try to understand something, and here I am now working on, you know working researching teaching these topics and not just the Holocaust past but also, increasingly.

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Nina Fischer: Looking at Israel and Palestine and understanding, also the role What role do we do we have Germans have a role in Israel and Palestine, should we be speaking up are we.

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Nina Fischer: Enabling something so these questions of suffering deeply connected suffering between Jews and Germans, but then increasingly the more time I spend in Israel, the more I needed to understand also what's going on in a conflict there.

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Nina Fischer: was shaped by the history of my family, it was shaped by you know my grandparents who sat here some 30 years ago when I was sitting under laps and not understanding how any of this could have been possible.

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Irit Felsen: Thank you Nina.

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Irit Felsen: Thank you very much it's it's it's mind boggling the the to think about the arc of all of these processes and how.

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Irit Felsen: How we.

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Irit Felsen: How we look at it and try to make sense of it, and in the remaining 10 Minutes that we have, because we will stop in 10 minutes to allow some interaction with our audience and some responses to questions I wanted to ask you, each to think about some.

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Irit Felsen: tips for resiliency that you think went down through the generations, because having enjoyed trauma is also often connected with the development and the.

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Irit Felsen: Transmission of unique resiliency is which co nz coin coexist with the traumatic reactions, they don't come instead of them, they don't erase them they going they lie alongside.

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Irit Felsen: What are they and in the case of Sam in the case of the African Americans and JESSICA, in the case of the American Indians you live.

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Irit Felsen: On the people who have.

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Irit Felsen: caused the trauma on to your people and, in many ways the trauma has not been fully addressed has not been really properly repaired.

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Irit Felsen: How does one, what are the resiliency that you think are related to your various legacies Nina maybe you already started speaking about it a little bit, but, and how does one cope with the continued.

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Irit Felsen: You know traumatic circumstances and traumatic relationships with the people around you Jessica and same So whoever wants to go first we have 10 minutes.

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Irit Felsen: JESSICA.

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Jessica Gourneau: I can go I can go, I mean very much what Sam it said earlier, is also true in regards to.

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Jessica Gourneau: Questions like resiliency and vulnerabilities and how do we cope with that they're very intertwined because what we know with our Indians that we all know, is that we know we can survive what we're not thriving.

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Jessica Gourneau: survival it developed into particular coping strategies and just like Sam said, without being able to handle the healing related to that trauma is built upon trauma.

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Jessica Gourneau: And kind of perpetuates the issues that we're trying to cope with so out of that having to survive, not having voice, not having power realizing we can be hurt and nothing would happen.

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Jessica Gourneau: we're and people not understanding our history and then in that country actively suppressing it so that people wouldn't know that dirty secret that traumatized people came from another country and traumatized a bunch of other people.

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Jessica Gourneau: Because they were traumatized people themselves as well, it the coping strategies that developed really around things like dissociation having to remove ourselves from the pain.

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Jessica Gourneau: Over identification, sometimes with the dominant culture so losing our culture and really over identifying what the majority culture as a way to try to survive and a great deal of denial.

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Jessica Gourneau: As part of the coping strategies, now the problem with those coping strategies, while we survive are also our vulnerabilities.

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Jessica Gourneau: can lead to continue vulnerabilities which can lead to continue traumas and so what I would say, is what examples, really, really quite prominent right now have a vulnerability in our trauma being re trauma triggered is this pandemic.

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Jessica Gourneau: um during when when they were committing genocide within the United States and trying to take over the land one other warfare tactics was that they knew that we had no.

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Jessica Gourneau: antibodies to particular diseases that they brought over so what they did is they infected blankets, with smallpox and they disseminate it to those to all the tribes know that, according to the numbers, we have.

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Jessica Gourneau: Actually decimated the United States American Indian community by about two thirds, which is kind of what is happening with this pandemic so honestly we've had a lot of native people.

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Jessica Gourneau: Healthy paranoia call this healthy paranoia because it's true they did it it happened and it's happened in lots of other areas that i'm not going to get into for time sake.

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Jessica Gourneau: But they have the capability of doing that, so that people are like our is the government trying to kill us and all the other brown people.

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Jessica Gourneau: has risen, which has risen, which has come out of that is fear a great deal of fear great deal of anxiety, a great deal of depression and a lot of trauma reactions, such as you know.

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Jessica Gourneau: Responding really quickly to a trauma and then hurting other people as a result of that fear is coming out not taking the vaccine because.

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Jessica Gourneau: They feel about that might be another attempt for the government to kill them.

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Jessica Gourneau: People from the outside, Michael, why is that happening, but when you know about the historical context of a community.

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Jessica Gourneau: And that that really did happen all of that trauma for 528 years is right there in the front again just really there, and you use those coping strategies.

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Jessica Gourneau: Now, if we return to the healing pieces, we can begin to rely on our values, we already have that healing within us, and if we can recognize that and acknowledge that and stop looking outside.

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Jessica Gourneau: For answers from other people it's The answer is simple about going back to those values and traditions and healing ourselves, we have all of that within us and that's kind of where we're at now is.

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Jessica Gourneau: we're trying to get back to that positive neat native cultural identity and to fall back on the truth.

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Jessica Gourneau: Our ancestors suffered for us, they sacrificed for us, we have all of that within us, but we also have that healing that they gave us as well, and so.

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Jessica Gourneau: I will end with just that piece of that positive note that some of those things are starting to turn into things like advocacy, we have to change the system we cannot work within that system if we want to.

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Jessica Gourneau: Come well and we need that acknowledgement from outside people to bring us back together and allow us to do that and to see the beauty in that Thank you.

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Irit Felsen: Thank you very much, Sam I will follow up on what JESSICA said, and say you know Nina uses in her excellent book the concept that was.

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Irit Felsen: From from already from the 1930s, I think Nina this beautiful concept of us about past, what can we take from our past and pass on to the to our children that will actually be a usable aspect, what do you think you would like the black community to pass on as a usable past.

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Sam Simmons: That that that some.

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Sam Simmons: tough one, at times, because.

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Sam Simmons: The usable pass was you know we talked about that are actually in our Community, we talked about how it used to be when we when we had.

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Sam Simmons: You know, we work so hard to get the education for our children and all the the positive pieces that.

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Sam Simmons: We had going on and how we had contained communities, but we have to remember, they were contained, and the reason why they were contained they were contained because we were segregated.

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Sam Simmons: But in those contained communities there was a kind of closeness that we have we lost a lot more along the way, when we were less contained, but we cannot ignore so so two things can see the problem about trauma that's difficult two things can be true, at the same time.

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Sam Simmons: And once you start realizing two things can be true, at the same time that helps deal with some of that that starts some of that healing right um.

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Sam Simmons: You know the Community was contained because of segregation, but there was positives in that containment because we relied on each other more.

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Sam Simmons: Right and so and and some of the thing is is that's the difficulty when you could only deal with one side of a story or the one side of the story scares you so much you don't want to deal with the results of it at all, how do you heal without the full truth.

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Sam Simmons: Right it's difficult to hear what half truths right we're resilient people you know, the whole thing about we got to work twice as hard as our White counterparts, think about the pressure of that.

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Sam Simmons: I I just couldn't do that badly when my right kind of part that I was working with was dumber than me I couldn't work prices on them I didn't have to be consistent.

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Sam Simmons: Right, I mean those pressures that keep us going, sometimes we can't live up to, or or or we we, we have to rely on people that look like us, even if they're, the ones who is hurting us.

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Sam Simmons: Right, we got to find ways to deal with those pieces right that's been very difficult and and I think the best way to describe it, so I do a lot of work around talking about the historical trauma of African Americans Pacific Lee.

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Sam Simmons: What American slavery, I got to be in Pacific about that, because there are some very different psychological.

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Sam Simmons: pieces to that right, you know because everybody wants to.

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Sam Simmons: Add it all together, and then they want to throw the Bible at you and talk about you know slavery was in the Bible, and I that.

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Sam Simmons: that's mostly my white counterparts, when I throw that at me when they want to shut me down.

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Sam Simmons: You know, because the thing is if it's in the Bible, then you you can't argue well, that if you don't only want to use the Bible selectively, then you got a problem.

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Sam Simmons: Dealing with me right, but the thing is, is when we tell that story my whole reason to use a historical trauma is to connect the dots to why we see what we see now.

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Sam Simmons: Right it just didn't come out of nowhere right and and and it also goes against don't y'all get over it right.

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Sam Simmons: In, and so I remember, and this is a be I think I need to end on a young lady was in my my training she emailed me.

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Sam Simmons: And she says Mr simmons was the best training i've been to but she says, I have i'm having a hard time and I said initially i'm having a hard time with the fact that your people suffered all that trauma.

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Sam Simmons: But you're still catching hell, how do you heal while you're still being traumatized and my response to her was we have no choice.

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Sam Simmons: We have to do both and you can't do both when you deny when you when you deny your trauma so.

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Sam Simmons: I ended on that.

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Irit Felsen: Right, thank you, and you know I wish we had a little more time to go a little bit more into how does one cope with ongoing onslaught of the traumas that continue, and how does one.

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Irit Felsen: heal and what are exactly some of the resiliency and coping strategies that we would like to pass on but.

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Irit Felsen: With this, I will ask Ari to come back on and share with us some of the questions of the audience so but before that I would like to just go back.

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Irit Felsen: Briefly again to Nina I know you started saying something about what you want to pass on to your child.

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Irit Felsen: And how important the history of your family and people was in shaping a certain enormous focus on certain things would you like to just like add anything to it Nina before we go to the.

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Nina Fischer: Sure i'd be happy to I was just remind at one time I taught a university class and Holocaust literature and in the first class of the Semester it.

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Nina Fischer: Thousands of students turn up because they're trying to shop the right classes, so it was a class on Holocaust literature generations of Holocaust literature.

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Nina Fischer: And the classroom was so full that I ended up standing in a corner, because it was the only place where I didn't have students behind me, and most of them state, it was really quite.

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Nina Fischer: A challenge to teach that class, but what I found in these young people, most of them born, you know, in the 1990s in the 2000s already at this point.

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Nina Fischer: felt guilt.

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Nina Fischer: And I it felt to me like i'm looking at children feeling guilty young people, children, maybe not the right time, young people feeling guilty for something that had happened.

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Nina Fischer: To them, two, three generations ago and I tried to convince them that guilt might not be the right feeling guilt is you know lot's wife, looking back and turning into a pillar of salt.

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Nina Fischer: But trying to talk to them about a sense of responsibility, what does it mean if you come from a from a people of perpetrators it's not enough.

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Nina Fischer: To look back and and you know beat your chest and say we did this, but what can you do today, how can you, you know fight against the onslaught of populism, how can we use this history to make something better, and for most to Mike rapes shock to most of the students that seemed.

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Nina Fischer: completely unexpected, most of them felt that they were doing enough by reading those books and going to the class, and you know.

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Nina Fischer: we're done with the guilt or maybe not done, but there was stuck in a Guild and I had a great.

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Nina Fischer: It was really challenging to talk about responsibility and what responsibility can mean I signed a chat that somebody talks about you know I can go back to my grandmother's apartment but.

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Nina Fischer: Most Jewish people cannot, in my book that's exactly what I talk about people long for the past but I can't change that people long for the past people trying to make connection.

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Nina Fischer: But how can we make a positive connection if you come from the other side, I think that is one of the bigger challenges I face both the students, but also with my own child, how do I teach empathy and you know less other written less fake news.

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Irit Felsen: And so thank you, thank you very much Nina and I think with that incredibly important point which I, by the way, think is an incredibly important thing for each of us, regardless of our legacies the difference, the difference between passive sort of.

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Irit Felsen: guilt and feeling terrible about even about something we ourselves did.

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Irit Felsen: Is as opposed to Okay, what can I take it, how can I take it now to something active that does something good outside of myself that it repairs something and does something positive for somebody else.

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Irit Felsen: Thank you so much for this and Ali, if you would like to share with us some of the questions, obviously, we will not be able to take too many, but we'll do the best we can.

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Irit Felsen: And I also wanted to say that, tomorrow, when this recording is available already said that the, we can also send some materials for people who are interested in getting some materials from us thank you Ali, please.

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Ari Goldstein: Absolutely let's start with a question from lori.

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Ari Goldstein: lori describing her mother, who was in Europe during the war but doesn't quite identify as a survivor and i'm going to generalize for question to.

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Ari Goldstein: Ask about other people who have experienced trauma that maybe don't have the language for it or don't identify with the idea of trauma and so laurie is Can you help what questions should I ask her or what should I look for to unpack this experience of trauma.

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Irit Felsen: I think JESSICA already in a very poignant way gave an example of that right when JESSICA, would you like to take that.

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Jessica Gourneau: Are you talking about the example about how to.

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heal.

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Irit Felsen: Well, I was thinking that you started speaking by saying you didn't have a language for your trauma, but you know how it was embodied how you live it and we don't have to have the language of it when we come to somebody and say so what's your trauma.

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Irit Felsen: And we can just ask about what happened to you right, can you tell me what happened to you.

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Jessica Gourneau: yeah we we asked people to go back to their body, because your body remembers these things and and we ask people to focus more when they don't have the language.

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Jessica Gourneau: To focus more on what their body is feeling, so I think that sometimes can be a really helpful conversation now older school people might really struggle with that, because that was not necessarily encouraged.

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Jessica Gourneau: To have to have those feelings and it might not be safe to do that, but I think just being with them and and talking with them, and maybe doing another activity on the side that helps them to relax.

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Jessica Gourneau: I find that stories generally come out like that when people are relaxed and i'm going to use knitting or.

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Jessica Gourneau: Or we do a lot of beadwork and all of a sudden those stories come out and you just let the story happen without a lot of questions you just let it happen and that's the thing don't get caught up and asking way too many questions.

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Irit Felsen: Right right.

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Ari Goldstein: For any of you is, could you address how gender relates to trauma and human.

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Irit Felsen: Sagan.

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Ari Goldstein: You address how gender relates to trauma and healing.

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Irit Felsen: One Sam would you like to answer that given that you have a particular focus on an African American males.

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Sam Simmons: Well i'm.

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Sam Simmons: least from my standpoint is men in general are not allowed to do with your trump I mean what in in some communities is even It shows up even more.

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Sam Simmons: You know I know in our Community once you turn five years old you're no longer a child in parts of our Community so so now you've got to be something that is humanly impossible you got to be strong, at all times.

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Sam Simmons: You cannot deal with your canon don't deal with your pain you you you in in doing that you have to keep other people in line because you're afraid to deal with your emotions and so all of those pieces that are not allowed in terms of identifying this.

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Sam Simmons: What a male should be specially that toxicity of what a male should be.

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Sam Simmons: is, I think, is it gets magnified with the trauma and the inability to deal with trauma, especially you know when the man i'm dealing with when so much of their trauma.

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Sam Simmons: With these last few generations of tied to their experiences with their mother right, I was I did a group with a bunch of young man.

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Sam Simmons: Around or not even just young men, young men and women in our Community around forgiveness, why is it so hard for the Community to forgive.

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Sam Simmons: And what I was coming what was coming up is they were having they were having a more difficult time for giving their mothers.

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Sam Simmons: For whatever they have done didn't their fathers and I said, why is that and and their thing was I have more expectations of my mother and my father.

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Sam Simmons: So so trauma that and that was in traumas attached to that right, so this is a lot.

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Sam Simmons: that's why I love to do that's why I believe it or not, I like working with trauma, because if you dig into the trauma it's it makes a lot of things, make sense.

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Sam Simmons: Right, the more you, the more you run away from the trauma, the more it won't make sense Okay, but we ever since i've been digging traveling so much that makes sense i'm so much freer you know and and and and it just I did yeah.

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Irit Felsen: Absolutely absolutely you know I just had this session, just before our meeting with the 80 something year old Holocaust survivor amazing woman.

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Irit Felsen: And she was in a terrible mood and she said it's so hard for me, sometimes to be alone, why can't I just be alone, sometimes it's so hard for me.

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Irit Felsen: And when I said well you know you told me that as a very young child in Auschwitz, you were hiding in the barracks.

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Irit Felsen: All day when your mother went out to do, the forced Labor and you didn't even know if she would come back in the night.

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Irit Felsen: And you were alone there all day, can you imagine at age five think about a child that you know today and she said.

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Irit Felsen: it's the first time that I thought about it this way, that this is why it's so hard for me still to be alone, sometimes, and you know what she said.

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Irit Felsen: Once you understand it it's a little easier to bear it just like you said, Sam it just makes so much sense yeah Ali, can you give us one last question, and then we have, I think one minute to close right.

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Ari Goldstein: Yes, our last question comes from candida is trauma passed down through DNA or is it a cultural or both.

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Irit Felsen: knees Nina would you like to take that.

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Nina Fischer: Well, very quickly, I think.

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Nina Fischer: There has been studies, saying that there can that trauma can be we can move through DNA, but I think much more influential forms of cultural trauma.

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Nina Fischer: And trauma that, especially if it's then becomes part of the national narrative if you look at Israel, where the Holocaust becomes.

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Nina Fischer: A meaningful narrative also to discuss politics today and that hangs together with the cultural trauma, so I think the cultural aspect is much stronger and familial aspects experiences, rather than the DNA, even though there are some studies that have found.

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Irit Felsen: So thank you, thank you for that Nina and I always use a very simple metaphor for people like me who are not biologists and not biochemists and loc geneticist.

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Irit Felsen: I use this metaphor, that I heard from someone is a helpful one for the epigenetic changes, so the studies that we have from this amazing new field.

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Irit Felsen: show us that there are certain changes, not to the structure of the DNA, but rather to the manifestation the expression of certain areas, as opposed to other areas and basically it's like saying the structure is like a piano with the same keys.

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Irit Felsen: But imagine now a piano in which somebody take down some of the keys with solo pay now if you play on this piano it plays a different kind of music.

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Irit Felsen: And the epigenetic changes are essentially changes to the Malian nation of certain segments in the DNA so just like an electrical cord that gets paid in some places.

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Irit Felsen: And now it is expressed differently, even though it's the same piano so that's the poor man's metaphor for epigenetic changes and.

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Irit Felsen: I agree with Nina that even though we we probably do see evidence for such changes, especially in people who suffered a significant period of traumatic events.

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Irit Felsen: We also know that there is a complex interaction with all of these social person or emotional circumstances that have an enormously important impact.

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Irit Felsen: Thank you very much, my friends for accepting my invitation Thank you Ali for everything to make this program possible, and thank you to our audience for joining us today, I really am passing the so which do you.

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Ari Goldstein: just want to echo your thanks to you eerie and Nina Sam and Jessica.

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Ari Goldstein: This is a conversation that's been going on for a long time, and will continue for a long time and I today with such a nice little meaningful contribution to it, it was we all appreciate the chance to learn from you.

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Ari Goldstein: Thank you to our audience for tuning in and special thanks to the battery park city authority for the generous support today's conversation and so much of our work at the museum.

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Ari Goldstein: As you mentioned, we will send out the recording of this discussion tomorrow, along with some suggested resources for exploration so.

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Ari Goldstein: Take a look at that in your inbox.

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Ari Goldstein: And that would be remiss if I didn't mention that everything we do at the Museum of Jewish heritage is made possible through donor support, so thank you so much to those who do support our work at the museum.

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Ari Goldstein: And if you don't we hope you'll consider it at the link in the zoom chat wish everyone a safe and healthy afternoon take care.

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bye bye.

 

This program is sponsored in part through the Battery Park City Authority community partnership.

Battery Park City Authority