The field of intergenerational trauma healing, also called ancestral healing is both very new and extremely ancient. It applies to all groups and ethnicities who have suffered grave challenges such as war, discrimination, poverty, or displacement.
Intergenerational Trauma Healing is based on the understanding that the past does not simply disappear. The painful histories that our ancestors endured as well as their rich cultural wisdom linger and intertwine within us to create the patterns of who we are and who we are becoming. Even when past pain remains unspoken or has long been forgotten, it becomes part of us and our children—a legacy of both strength and woundedness that shapes our lives.
When family members suffer traumas and separations such as war, poverty, mental illness, addiction, suicide, or early death, painful patterns can get frozen in time and lodged in the resonant field of the family. Such patterns can then act like magnets, profoundly influencing our lives and the lives of future generations. Often the disturbance created in the family field is felt by the most sensitive descendants.
However, it is in our power to transform our families’ traumas into blessings, and their wounds into wisdom. We can learn to release the patterns and behaviors that have come down to us and strengthen and energize the legacies that are positive and life-giving.
Three elements are key to this healing work
The more awareness we have about what our ancestors and families went through in the past, and the patterns that grew out of what they endured, the more compassion we naturally have for those who came before us and for ourselves. The more compassion we have for our people and for ourselves, the less reactive and fearful we become, and the more freedom we have to choose how we want to live our lives and what we want to pass down to our children.
Wounds into Wisdom Online Course: Healing our Family Legacies and Changing the World: June, 2019
In this month-long course, we will study our family legacies through texts, exercises and ritual. Classes will orient around trauma science, depth psychology, and case studies to better understand how personal life-riddles are founded on our ancestral legacies, and how we can transform their seemingly impenetrable lead into radiant meaning.
This course is for you if you
Wish to deepen your transformative work in the world from a place of personal awareness.
Want the blessings of wise and well ancestors whom you feel are out of reach.
Want to move forward with your life but feel some heaviness in your family of origin that keeps you unsure, unsteady, or lacking direction.
Have relatives who have died or left the family under difficult circumstances such as war, displacement, accidents, suicide, mental illness, or addiction.
While this work is based in Jewish source teachings, it is open to people of all ethnic and faith backgrounds.
Intergenerational Healing Workshops
The historical patterns of our ancestors as well as their rich cultural wisdom intertwine within us to create the psychological and genetic material of our future. Painful patterns from war, displacement, poverty, early death and other traumas can get frozen in time and lodged in the resonant filed of the family. Such patterns can act like magnets, profoundly influencing our lives and the lives of future generations. However it is in our power to transform our families’ traumas into blessings. This healing retreat includes both study and experience in the forms of ritual, meditation, and ceremonial family constellation work.
Tirzah guides weekend-long ancestral healing retreats, 1/2 day classes, evening events, and more. To schedule an offering with Rabbi Tirzah Firestone please contact us.
Jewish Ancestral Healing Retreats
What is Jewish Ancestral Healing?
Our venerable Jewish lineage has accrued much wisdom over the past 3,000 years and many wounds too, due to generations of relentless historical trauma. We know now that traumatic wounds don’t simply disappear over time. The difficult circumstances that our ancestors endured over generations ripple across time, often cascading downward, causing painful patterns that become stuck in the unconscious field of our families, affecting us and our children.
The Jewish Ancestral Healing work is designed to help alleviate these traumas and dissolve their negative influences. We do this by facing and honoring our ancestors and deceased family members. When we restore our avot v’imahot to their rightful roles as ancestors—those who are meant to bless and guide our lives from beyond—our family body is healed and energy can begin to flow again.
In this two-day retreat, Rabbi Tirzah employs both didactic and experiential teaching modalities. Guided meditation, genogram construction, and ceremonial family constellation compose the elements of this restorative and healing time.
Jewish Ancestral Healing Retreats are for anyone interested in the healing of their legacies as well as those interested in personal transformation. To schedule a workshop with Rabbi Tirzah Firestone in your community, please contact us.
2,500 years ago, the prophet Ezekiel said: The fathers ate sour grapes, and the children’s teeth were set on edge. So, the Jewish culture and religion has understood that children bear the burden of their parents’ legacy. Fair or unfair, it’s a fact. It’s a cultural fact. It’s a biological fact. Everyone is born with a unique set of genes. The task is to refine from these traits the best self that we can have and not get distracted by the traits that are weaker; build up the traits that are stronger. We all have the same job to do. — Dr. Rachel Yehuda
Objectives of Jewish Ancestral Healing
To identify trauma patterns and other psychological tracks that have been laid down by earlier family members and ancestors, and understand their effect upon our lives.
To find keys that open doors and set us and future generations free of unconscious compulsions caused by earlier traumas, injustices, or separations between family members.
To create and experience the power of an intentional healing vessel, kli kodesh, and through it, to constellate resonant family fields by which to unlock persistent patterns so that order and joy might be restored.
To add our energies to the ongoing healing and repair of the Jewish people, as well as the larger world.
Featured future offerings
Rabbi Tirzah will be guiding a Jewish Ancestral Healing retreat at Isabella Freedman retreat center in June, 2020.
“I signed up for the workshop because I was drawn to your depth of wisdom and authentic energy. I didn’t consider myself as traumatized – in fact, I felt quite lucky given the tremendous sufferings going on in this world. Yet, I was reduced to tears and uncontrollable sobbing during the pair exercise. I remembered the traumas in my family – death in WWII, orphanage in Civil War, suicide during Culture Revolution, disownment, paralysis, prolonged vegetative state… There must be a lot more that I don’t know because I left home at 19 and Chinese families tend to be tight-lipped about such things.
“For the first time I was able to actively look back in my family history to seek out the queer and trans ancestors in my lineage. I know they are there even if I don’t know them by name.” -RB
Thank you for bringing the awareness and showing the path to healing.” -Mx
“I caught your’s and Gloria’s[Steinem] talk at the 92nd St Y via live streaming. Very inspiring and real…the acknowledgement of the pain and the hope that you embody is absolutely enlivening. And I so appreciate your connection to struggles for liberation from suffering and generational repetition from peoples from around our globe.” -T
“You capture the choice we have in dealing with cultural, personal, and intergenerational trauma–to become permanently victimized, or to choose resilience and hope. And your way of dealing with the complexities of Jewish trauma, including in Israel, is complex and nuanced.” -MF
“When I read this one line [about Yizkor], it validated my own story and experience and I realized, this isn’t just ‘my little story’, this is a universal story (or tribally universal : – ) And it totally unlocked my writing this story and I could access the feelings in the background, all because of your one sentence about Yizkor. Suddenly, I was no longer alone… So, thank you thank you thank you. I am so profoundly grateful for your work and for you bringing this knowledge into the world, more than words could ever express. You gave my stories a home. ” -N
“Thank you for checking in on me and thank you so much for this weekend. Being seen and witnessed in such a way was humbling and profound. I’m still struggling to find the words for being a part of an event so enlightening, connective, and universal and yet so deeply raw, exposing, and personal. I drove away feeling a sense of community with you and those women (and men) that I haven’t felt in such a long time. Your understanding that bringing up traumatic events needs grounding and nurturing long after is noticed. I appreciate your responsibility to the work and to the people trusting you with their inner most demons. I felt safe and cared for the entire time.” -E
Suggested Readings About Intergenerational Trauma
Firestone, T. (2016). Stopping the Trauma Train – blog post — note this is the first of seven blog posts on stopping the trauma train, posted on this site in Tirzah’s blog
Gallagher, J. (2013, December 1). ‘Memories’ pass between generations. Health and Science, BBC News.
Hurley, D. (2013, June 11). Grandma’s experiences leave a mark on your genes. Discover Magazine.
Johnson, G. (2016, July 14). Cellular healing of inherited trauma. Science & Nonduality.
Ancelin Schutzenberger, A. (1998). The ancestor syndrome: Transgenerational psychotherapy and the hidden links in the family tree. New York, NY: Routledge.
Yehuda, R., Schmeidler, J., Wainberg, M., Binder-Brynes, K., & Duvdevani, T. (1998). Vulnerability to post-traumatic stress disorder in adult offspring of holocaust survivors. American Journal of Psychiatry; Vol. 155: 11163-1171.
Rachel Yehuda (2014, December 11). Do Jews carry trauma in our genes? A conversation with Rachel Yehuda. Tablet Magazine.
Rachel Yehuda Interview (2015, July 31). How trauma and resilience cross generations. On Being with Krista Tippett.
Wolynn, M. (2016, June 13). Epigenetics: What are we really handing down to our children? Science & Nonduali