Trauma Breeds Trauma
I have heard people criticize the miniseries Unorthodox for an unrealistic portrayel of the Satmar community while maintaining that Esty's return to Germany seems implausible.* And while that might be true I want to look at the story through a different perspective without arguing fact or fiction. I want to look at it through the lens of communal Holocaust trauma and healing. Throughout the series, we are reminded that the community holds a deeply ingrained reponse to the Holocaust. The message I hear repeated throughout is that they feel a deep responsibility to repopulate the world for the 6 million who were lost. I am struck by the communal trauma response, and the juxtaposition of Esty’s return to the original location of the harm.
Since the Holocaust Jews have worked hard to remember the harm. Some have built lives based around it, in hopes that it would protect them from future harm. This is a normal trauma response- We try to control the world so we cannot be harmed again. But the series does a good job showing us that the protection we try to create for ourselves often comes with a high cost.
But Esty's journey back to the source of communal harm, back to Germany to the place where it all started may seem implausible but may actually be the perfect place for her to return. Oftentimes the victims of harm become perpetrators of new harm in an attempt to protect themselves. As the Nazis are the perpetrators of the Satmar community, the Satmar community becomes the perpetrators of Esty's harm. Her return to Germany, her ability to return to the place where the Nazis decided on the extermination of the Jews becomes the place where she not only releases herself from the bondage of the community but also allows her to begin to release the PTSD from the original trauma. When Esty removes her wig she signifies the end of her communities attempt to control life in the vain attempt at protection. Her search for self and her reclaiming of a life beyond the walls of protection is when the true healing happens and it is in this moment that the Nazi's truly lose their power. And for me this symbolizes the end of the effects of intergenerational transmission of Holocaust trauma in the place where it all began.
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Rabbi Esther Azar