Our Past - Does It Really Matter?
There is an old Ashkenazi
phrase: “Fuers Gewesene Gibt der Jud nichts.”
(The Jewish person gives nothing for the past), or simply, the past does
not count, has no meaning or is worthless.
These words have duel connotations.
We must strive for the future instead of looking behind us. On the other hand, what has happened in the past has created
the occurrences of today. An old
cliché is that “We learn from history that we have learned nothing from
history.” The facts are otherwise: With awareness and normalcy we learn a
great deal from history, from the history of the world, the history of humanity
and our very own history, and what we did or did not accomplish and who we are.
Our very being, our very personality is a conglomeration of the past.
This is especially true of our Jewish history;
the persecutions, the restrictions, the opportunities, the blessings, the
beliefs and the advantages, all viewed together, is who we are.
If we have learned nothing from history we are ignorant and cannot avoid
the pitfalls and the lessons of what has gone before.
Our unconscious mind often reminds us of yesteryear through our dreams or
the Freudian slips that creep into our thinking or our expressions,
although they may come out in convoluted ways. Our grandparents are our past, so are our parents and others
in our immediate past environment. How
we were trained, the expectations, the beliefs,
the practicing of these beliefs, the culture, our surroundings, the
affection we received or lack thereof, are all who we were and who we are today.
If the past is understood
we can understand the present, our behaviors, our outlook, and our persona, as
well as have a glimpse into other people’s lives to some extent.
Let’s look at a few of the feelings, expressions, and lifestyles of the
Jewish or erstwhile Jewish person that we encounter today. Aaron is a well
adjusted male whose parents lived in a mid sized American town surrounded by
friends both Jewish and otherwise. He
attended a public school in an upper middle class community; attended Sunday
school, occasionally attended Synagogue with his doting parents; had a few
friends and felt comfortable with himself and his being. For the most part
he knew what to expect and he had a positive outlook on the future.
Rosalyn was a child who
was born in Nazi Germany during the times of persecutions.
From a very young age she was taunted and called “dirty Jew” and
other more picturesque epithets. She
was beaten up by her classmates and unprotected by Nazi teachers and their
sadistic mentalities. Although she
was an outstanding student she received no accolades for her efforts and
abilities. She was eventually sent
to a Jewish School, to a distant city, away from her beloved parents.
She suffered a great deal, was homesick and unable to concentrate.
Her loneliness became more pronounced each day. When the hatred became
unbearable and the Nazis rounded up all the Jewish men for transportation to
concentration camps her father, through the underground, escaped to Belgium and
from there to the United States. By
night and fog and much pain and fourteen months later her mother, Rosalyn and
her siblings escaped Nazi land for America in a boat that
“sailed” through a “mine filled” endangered ocean.
She became an anxious, ambitious adult, a person who never felt secure.
No matter how many degrees she attained, nor how hard she strove, she
never felt good about herself. She
needed to work into old age to ascertain
that she would never starve again. She
never felt accepted and, like all of
humanity, she was a product of her past, of her history!
In the times that we are
currently living, let us be cognizant of the difficulties that we are facing;
that which is occurring today; the giving away of the hard earned funds of those
who worked diligently to those who await handouts for expending no energy; the
attempt to reduce our beloved America into a socialist state.
Let us make every effort to do
what we can do to change that which is unhealthy or damaging in whatever
small way that we are able. Let us
vote for the candidates that are on our side, the side of the people who are
honest, unprejudiced and just. Let
us consider those hardworking people who do not seek unearned advantages, or the
anti-semites who seek to destroy us, fraudulent politicians or persuasive
demagogues who, with their diatribe and rhetoric, can achieve their selfish
goals without honest efforts. Let
us beware of Hitlerian tactics and continue to learn from our Jewish history,
our own history, the history of humanity, and the history of the world.
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).