Imagine Life Module: Addressing Trauma

Imagine Life HMV

Addressing Trauma

By Steven Mandel, MD

The history of the Jewish people is punctuated by a series of traumatic events from which we gain knowledge, a sense of morality, and a community identity. Whether the slaying of Abel in the first documented sibling rivalry, the great flood, being enslaved in Egypt, the destruction of the temples, the genocide of European Jewry during the Holocaust, or the shooting of eleven Innocent congregants at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, we are steeped in loss and suffering. As a result, we are expert at identifying with what it means to have been victims of atrocities, to be overly acquainted with loss and to understand the need to educate ourselves about these and events and to be part of a larger Jewish community.

On a more individual, yet similarly broad scale, Jewish men and women have dealt with personal traumatic events which often are less publicly acknowledged and less understood by the community. Many events can be traumatic for an individual. Including the loss of a Job, being bullied, antisemitism, a serious health condition, the breakup of a relationship, or experiencing abuse. It is well known that traumatic events can have a negative effect on one's mental wellness. In severe cases, such as early sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, such events can even lead to long term changes in brain function. Helping to bring these dark moments into the light and sharing our experiences around this can help to reduce stigma and increases a sense of support.

Before we get started, I’m going to do a quick review of the Rules that apply to all HMV sessions.


  1. Our goal is to have an open discussion where everyone’s opinion is respected, not criticized. Conversation is encouraged, confrontation is not.
  2. The conversation can be of a rather personal nature, so please respect everyone’s privacy by agreeing that all comments made in this space stay in this space - what’s said here, stays here.
  3. Please discuss only your own opinion from your own experiences.
  4. Please allow others time to speak as well and don’t interrupt.
  5. My role as facilitator is to keep the conversation on track, as well as to do my best to ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak. In that role, it may be needed to gently interrupt, or redirect someone. Please try to be understanding.


  1. Enable your video so that the other participants can see you.
  2. Be sure to login under your actual full name. Guys aren’t going to want to express themselves candidly with ‘Sara’s iPad.’ If necessary “Rename” yourself. If you need help, the host can do it for you.
  3. Ensure that no one else is in the room with you during the session.
  4. Try to be in a quiet environment or keep yourself muted until It is your tum to talk.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION (these can be used in any order):

  • When you think of trauma, what comes to mind?
  • From a Jewish perspective. how were our historical traumas addressed through either your Hebrew school or public education?
  • Did your family talk about Jewish traumas when growing up? What type of negative events did your family experience?
  • Were you a witness to traumatic events at any point during your life?
  • Have you personally experienced trauma and how have you addressed this?
  • How do you feel we as a community can be more inclusive, accepting, and helpful with individuals suffering from trauma?

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