Transforming Trauma Episode 023: Exploring Historical and Intergenerational Trauma in the Jewish Experience with Rabbi Lynn Feinberg
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“It's about really getting into that experience of compassion for myself, my people, for our journey, for what it means to adjust within… all those different layers.” ~ Lynn Feinberg
In this special “High Holidays” episode of Transforming Trauma, host Sarah Buino welcomes guest Rabbi Lynn Feinberg, the first female Jewish Rabbi in Norway, as well as NARM Practitioner, to reflect on her research into intergenerational trauma for second and third generation Holocaust survivors in Europe. One of the tenets of NARM training is the idea that a practitioner must first attend to their own trauma before employing the model in practice with clients. For many, that means an exploration of patterns left-over from unresolved early trauma, including any cultural, historical or intergenerational themes.
Lynn, who is the daughter of a Norweigan Holocaust survivor, certainly has been on this journey. While she is a Norweigan citizen and lives in Oslo, she has spent time living abroad in Israel, Denmark and the US, and has focused professionally on advanced degrees in Judaism, psychology and feminist spirituality.
One of her main areas of focus is on belonging. As the only Jew in her school and friend groups growing up, from early in her life Lynn reflected on the differences being Jewish and the unique challenges she faced due fitting in. Similarly, due to her father being a Holocaust survivor, her family’s relationship to their Jewish identity was complex. So while she officially belonged to the larger Norweigan culture, she says that it “was not quite mine.” As she got older she came to the realization that there was a whole other culture, her Jewish identity, in which she had no accurate mirror from anyone around her. Her current research is “really getting into that experience of compassion for myself, my people, for our journey, for what it means to adjust within [to] all those different layers.”
Lynn quickly began to realize that there were invisible forces that were impacting people like her, second and third generation Holocaust survivors that no one was talking about. Growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust (“Shoah” in Hebrew), she recognized an initiation, a journey of liberation in facing and resolving the intergenerational and cultural trauma. “Trauma integration also has an aspect of initiation in it…A trauma that’s not healed can be likened to an initiation that never was fulfilled.” Lynn reflects that she has been on this journey of “grounding myself in my own story and…owning myself in a larger perspective and from a more historical perspective…to this collective trauma story.”
In NARM terms, Lynn says she had a “big aha” recognizing that this journey is about “disidentifying” from her historical trauma story. As she is currently writing her PhD thesis, she states “it’s also about bringing in a larger story so that your story can be held in a larger story. And the more you can contain that larger story, the more you can also relax in your own story.”
One of the challenges for Jews living for thousands of years in diaspora has always been the conflict between adaptation to modern ways versus adherence to traditional ways. Having lived and studied in the United States has allowed Lynn to compare and contrast how Jews in Europe and Jews in America have adapted differently to life post-Holocaust amidst undercurrents of antisemitic policy. Sarah and Lynn connect the collective Jewish experience of historical and intergenerational trauma with those suffered by Black Americans and other Indigenous cultures living within the confines of colonial/Western structures. Woven into these collective experiences are personal stories of survival and assimilation in the face of structural othering and gaslighting. But as Lynn points out, Post-Traumatic Growth is disrupted when marginalized groups continue to experience ongoing trauma and the dominant culture refuses to address the wounds.
The episode concludes with Lynn comparing a cyclical view of intrapersonal and intergenerational healing against the Western notion of a singular, linear fix. “I think that's what's so brilliant with the NARM process,” she says, “is this seeing the hardship for what it is and recognizing the depth of it.” Lynn has found NARM to be an ideal platform with which to explore deeper into her historical and intergenerational trauma and begin to “disidentify” from the unresolved trauma patterns, thereby reclaiming deeper authenticity within herself.
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I am a historian of Religion and Rabbi presently working on a PhD at the University of Oslo.
In my thesis, I explore post-traumatic growth and trauma integration in children and grandchildren of Norwegian Holocaust survivors. During the course of my studies, I have completed the NARM training and apply some of the concepts learned through NARM in my approach to my interviews and analysis.
I am the daughter of a Norwegian survivor of Auschwitz, (my father) and grew up belonging to the very small post-Holocaust Jewish community of Oslo. This background has brought me on a life-long journey of exploring and seeking healing for my own C-PTSD. I have, therefore, chosen to include autoethnographic perspectives in my PhD work. I work as a Spiritual Director and include a NARM perspective in my work with clients.