Understanding trauma from the horrors of Oct. 7


Sadly, Jews have had their own relationship with trauma. From the pogroms to the Holocaust, this trauma has left a long-lasting effect on the Jewish people.
Studies like those reported by Psycom, an online mental health resource, have shown that “trauma can leave a chemical mark on a person’s genes, which can then be passed down to future generations. This mark doesn’t cause a genetic mutation but does alter the mechanism by which the gene is expressed. This alteration is not genetic, but epigenetic.”
This means we each carry with us trauma we did not personally experience. Each of us exhibits behaviors that result not from just our own lives.
What happens to groups of people who experience generations of trauma? What happens when a new trauma is introduced? What about the effects of the Oct. 7 attack in Israel on the generations to come? What about the released hostages and their trauma?
Today we understand that generational trauma can cause anxiety, depression, anger, irritability, substance abuse, feelings of distrust and alertness toward others. Recognizing these symptoms allows mental health providers to help treat and even begin altering the chemical mark on future generations. This makes it imperative to recognize them and provide proper mental health treatment.

In regard to the horrors of Oct. 7 in Israel, the trauma is complicated. Because of technology, people were affected on many levels.
There were those who experienced the horrors firsthand. Those on the phone with loved ones who were experiencing it in real time.
Those loved ones who had to witness it on Hamas videos, friends who had friends, Israelis, and fellow Jews all over the world. And the Hamas videos many of us saw.
And then there are the hostages, with a different set of issues. Each will carry their own level of trauma. It’s important to recognize all of the levels, and not to dismiss our own sad feelings.
My friends, please take care of yourselves, and never hesitate to seek a professional if needed.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you”: Deuteronomy 31:6.
The Jewish people are strong, courageous and resilient. We always prevail, even after the most horrible of atrocities. Today, however, we will triumph in a healthier manner than we’ve done in our past. We will acknowledge our mental health needs and provide the care they require.
Only time will tell us how the survivors of Oct. 7 will fare. For now, they must come to terms with their own survival and the loss of loved ones and of friends. They will have to deal with how they survived — many having used dead family members and friends to hide under.
Some hostages — particularly the children — may have formed friendships with their captors and have guilt for leaving. There are so many unimaginable emotions many of us will never understand.
I am proud of my fellow Israelis in the health field for the work they’ve done, and for the long, hard road ahead. For now, I offer this: “God is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. For the righteous with heavy hearts may God ease their troubles”: Psalm 34:18-19.
May all find sholom nefesh — peace of the soul.

Jeshayahu ‘Shai’ Beloosesky is the rabbi at Temple Avodah in Oceanside.