For Shulie. ~ Rabbi Tizrah Firestone

Via Tizrah Firestone
on Aug 3, 2013
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Death of A Revolutionary: If A Soul Lives On.

Susan Faludi’s painstaking account of Shulie’s life and death (New Yorker 4.15.13) raised my sister’s ghost.

As if she were waiting for this final telling and the public assent to her dark trials before she could take her rest. Now the map of her madness has been unfolded, the trail of her exile has been marked. And the hard shell of her life can begin to fissure and fall away.

If a soul lives on, then Shulie is relieved to be out of this place, to return to kinder quarters, a more native home where her sweet, yes, sweet and supple self can abide. And I am suddenly awash with memories of this side of her: Her soft, able hands; her carefree laugh; care-packages full of carefully marked treasures; art lessons—how to draw real trees, shadows, faces in side and three quarter profile.

Almost a decade older then me, Shulie was a dark-haired goddess whose visits home were both exciting and tempestuous; a Lillith who refused to bow to the father’s dictates, whatever the cost. I recorded her brazen courage deep in my cells.

Ultimately, she paid for her defiance with her life.

I have heard it said that no two siblings experience the same family. While I got off much easier and was free to follow another kind of feminist quest, Shulie caught the brunt of our family’s grim trauma. Born into the still smouldering ashes of the war in early 1945, our mother had just fled Germany; all of her cousins, aunts and uncles had been murdered.

She never spoke of them.

Our father returned from liberating the camps only after Shulie’s birth, with hidden photos of what he had just seen. He met his new daughter with eyes still filled with horror: corpses stacked like firewood, children strewn like hay, the machinery of methodical murder.

How could he take her into his heart?

And underneath our parents’ trauma lay their own version of violence: dogma, rage, panic.

If a soul lives on, then we will one day see clearly the mystery and cause of our human pain here on earth: a father’s abuse, a mother’s absence, the ancestral trauma that rumbles through history like a train, depositing its load car after car into our newborn skin.

That which we do not bring to consciousness appears in our lives as fate,” said Carl Jung. Many of us struggle to bring to consciousness the hidden legacies that our families bequeath to us.

My sister railed against the disease in our family and the larger culture by forming a separatist feminist movement, by holding a redemptive vision of a new world. Perhaps her cronies too, were working against their own demons.

But in the end, their world became brutal and loveless, impossible to endure.

If souls live on, then I hope yours is home free, Shulie, in that place you named, where “all relationships are based on love alone,” a world that allows “love to flow unimpeded.”



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Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: via Pinterest}


About Tizrah Firestone

Rabbi Tirzah Firestone is an author, Jungian psychotherapist and founding rabbi of the Jewish Renewal Community in Boulder, Colorado. She was ordained 20 years ago by Reb Zalman Schachter Shalomi, is a student of the Zohar and Hassidut, and  is working on her doctorate in depth psychology, on the topic of transgenerational trauma. She can be reached at [email protected] or through her website.


One Response to “For Shulie. ~ Rabbi Tizrah Firestone”

  1. Claudia Kuzniak says:

    An amazing, tender and heart breaking piece of writing. The difficult truth and wonderful imagery of "the ancestral trauma that rumbles through history like a train, depositing its load car after car into our newborn skin." I didn't know Shulie but I am her, my partner and children are her, my students are her. I must read about her now, as I've already checked out your blog. Thank you for sharing this, my Sunday morning is now enriched.