When the Past is Present:  Trauma-Informed Care for Holocaust Survivors

By Stuart Kaplan

On Tuesday, December 6th through Thursday, December 8th of 2016, Selfhelp Community Services Holocaust Survivor Program convened an international conference in honor of its 80th anniversary.  “When the Past is Present: Trauma-Informed Care for Holocaust Survivors”, was attended by over 300 social workers, and other professionals who work with survivors, from throughout the United States, Germany, Austria, Canada and other countries.  The conference was planned in collaboration with UJA-Federation of New York, the Claims Conference and Jewish Federations of North America.

Selfhelp’s Chief Executive Officer, Stuart Kaplan, opened the conference on Tuesday evening with additional remarks from Alex Roth-Kahn, Managing Director of UJA-Federation’s Caring Commission. The evening featured an in-depth presentation hightlighting the impact of Selfhelp’s Witness Theater, a therapeutic program for holocausts survivors to work in collaboration with high school students to share their stories through performance.

Wednesday’s program was opened by Hanan Simhon, Vice President of Holocaust Survivor Services at Selfhelp and included remarks from Eric Goldstein, UJA-Federation of New York’s Chief Executive Officer followed by a day of learning with keynote speaker, Dr. Gary Kennedy, from Montefiore Medical Center, who presented “When Does Respect for Autonomy Become Abandonment?”

That morning also featured a plenary session with Gregory Schneider, Executive Vice President for the Claims Conference and six concurrent sessions in the afternoon, with topics rangingspiritual care, creative therapies and end of life care for Holocaust survivors to the preservation of memory and history, providing care for multi-generational legacies of trauma, and guardianship.

Thursday opened with Selfhelp’s Board Member, Staci Barber who gave brief remarks, followed by a welcome from William Daroff, Senior Vice President of Public Policy at the Jewish Federations of North America.

The morning program featured a diverse panel of Holocaust survivors who spoke about their experiences and how they coped during the war and throughout their lives.  The session and discussion was led by Carmen Morano, a professor at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. Eleven concurrent session were offered throughout the day with a variety of relevant session topics on working with Holocaust survivors.

The international gathering allowed participants to connect and exchange ideas and effective care models with others who serve Holocaust survivors.

“Thank you so much for the privilege of attending the Selfhelp conference in NYC last week! We all learned so much and are further energized to move forward with advancing care for Holocaust survivors,” shared one attendee.

If you would like to learn more about the conference or are serving holocaust survivors in your ocmmunity and would like to connect to the Selfhelp Community network, please let us know.  Selfhelp Community Services would be delighted to connect with you!

Selfhelp Community Services, is the largest provider of comprehensive services to Holocaust survivors in North America. Stuart Kaplan, CEO is on the Global Ageing Network Board of Directors.

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