When I was a child, I attended a parochial school. Half our day was spent in secular studies, the other half in religious studies. As young Jews, we studied the Old Testament, prayed together, celebrated holidays, and received a very thorough education in a particular historical event. The Holocaust. This was not a unit we studied briefly, but a subject we revisited regularly. Many of our grandparents had escaped the Nazis. Several of our teachers had numbers tattooed on their arms. Every year on the Shoah (Day of Remembrance), we would file through a gallery of photographs that depicted the horror that occurred years before. The message was clear: these are your people; this could have been you.
Those horrifying images are forever emblazoned in my mind. Emaciated figures, haunted eyes, piles of broken bodies, people lined up along a mass grave awaiting their inevitable fate, barbed wire, gas chambers, sorrow, death, EVIL. Those victims committed no crime. They were simply different… feared… skapegoated and tortured. I was a young, impressionable and sensitive girl. Those images became a part of me. They define WHO I AM. I dare you to do a search of Holocaust images. See what comes up. What if that was your family? What of that was you?
On the morning of November 9, 2016, this part of my psyche, which had been dormant for so long, awoke in fear. My personal demon, borne of collective suffering, is now stirring and pacing inside my soul, gripping my tender heart.
Dramatic? Yes. Too dramatic? Absolutely not.
As a child, I was taught to always REMEMBER the atrocity that was done to the Jewish people, so nothing like it could ever happen again. As a child, I vowed to NEVER FORGET. Now I’m begging all of you to do the same. For the sake of all marginalized groups who live in fear, who have to defend their very right to exist. Please understand what can happen when hatred and fear are fueled by propaganda and manipulation. DO NOT TURN AWAY from the suffering of others. Don’t delude yourself into believing it doesn’t exist or is somehow deserved.
Slinking through the shadows of my darkest places has me bumping into all sorts of old ghosts–fear of abandonment, insecurity, guilt, shame. It has also illuminated my various vulnerabilities–as a Jew, a woman, the child of an immigrant, a progressive liberal, etc–I am many things many people do not like or respect. But I’ve got it easy compared to so many others. I know this. I am privileged.
I believe that it is necessary to explore the darkness in order to stop living in denial or fear. I must acknowledge the things I used to hide from and confront the things that terrify me most. This is the only way that I can muster the energy to fight the power that threatens the lives or liberty of human beings. It is also the only way that I can learn how to illuminate and offer compassion, despite intense challenges. It is what I need to do to be fully present for my family and raise self-aware, socially conscious, loving children. I refuse to look away or bury my head in the sand.
What emotions have you been feeling? What lies beneath the obvious cause of that emotion? How does your emotion impact your behavior? What do you need? What are you going to do to differently? How are you going to be a positive influence on others? How are you going to make a positive difference in the world? I ask you to ask yourself.
With love & compassion,
Adina Arden Cooper
I'm a lover, a guide, a supportive companion. A storyteller, an artist, an ally and an advocate. I help individuals thrive and communities come together through counseling, coaching, and community building. I believe that shared humanity is a powerful strength and that our stories connect us in beautiful and sacred ways. As I stumble, skip, or soar my way through this life, I invite you to join me on the journey. Likewise, I'm honored to travel with you. In witnessing one another, we find meaning.