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HIDDEN INHERITANCE: Family Secrets, Memory, and Faith ~Heidi B. Neumark

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

I was drawn into this story on the very first page of reading.  I agreed with Lillian Daniel, who wrote on the cover of the book, “This is a family tree worth climbing.”

Part Memoir and part detective novel this book is full of beautiful words and exegesis work, which is then perfectly meshed into current social justice issues which confront our daily lives.   There is an element where the book is also a great sermon playing out in one life and the extended family system; the examples are all personal stories of discovery and secrets explored.  How and why Neumark was called to become a pastor and work on human and justice issues within the confines of her family structures and shared experiences, was it just her environment or her genetics that allowed her to hear the call?

Neumark is called late at night by her daughter who is working on a graduate school project and discovers that her family is Jewish and is referenced on Wikipedia.  Neumark’s life had been centered on being a German Lutheran and not a Jew.  She knew her father was emigrated from Germany and now discovers that her Grandfather died in a Concentration Camp and that her Grandmother did not.  There were some of her family members still Jewish and still alive and that her Father had kept his secret even from her Mother and held on in silence to the whole story.

The book is Pastor Neumark’s journey to discover the truth and integrate the why and how her father became Lutheran and how that saved his life and his sisters lives also.  The beauty of scripture and poetry and theological concepts are penned into the story as she goes to the various sites of her family’s life in Germany and the layers of family are revealed and exposed – the silent conspiracy is broken and spoken into the pages with depth and caring.

“Hidden Inheritance will appeal to a wide gamut of readers; Christians with an interest in social justice, Jews and others interested in stories of the Shoah and its ongoing impact, those interested in issues of Jewish/Christian identity and dual identities, the impact of trauma and secrecy, readers of memoirs, and anyone interested in pursuing family genealogy. “ (From Media release)

The Meryl Zegarek PR firm sent me a copy of this book for review and I give it high marks for intelligent writing and interesting story and history.  History is well integrated into social justice and human needs and is explored on a personal level and as a well -researched understanding.

www.MZPR.com
Twitter @MZPR
Facebook.com/MerylZegarek

I have mentioned this book to nearly everyone I have encountered and now I share it with you.  It was a pleasure to read and contemplate.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: (From book cover)

“Heidi B. Neumark is a speaker and Lutheran pastor in New York City.  She is the author of the highly acclaimed book BREATHING SPACE: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx, has published numerous chapters and sermons in other books, and is a regular contributor to THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY and other journals.”

Related:
Life From Scratch
When Women Were Birds
Wild
My Stroke of Insight

Lessons From The Dead

Monday, March 7th, 2011

glass_vitral

Just last week the Conference Minister for my church came to speak to us about his Immersion Seminar at Centro Romero.

I was extremely moved by the experience and by listening to his personal stories about the Mexican and US Border situation in California, New Mexico and Arizona.    These stories had a profound effect upon my thinking and they remained in the forefront of my mind as I traveled and returned from the celebration to honor my Aunt’s life, which was held in Canada.

I learned about how farmer’s were selling their productive farms to the folks who wanted to build factories and  were then hired as cheap labor, how recently  the factory owners have found cheaper labor elsewhere, those farmers are being sent away with nothing – no work, no money, and no farms for food. I learned about all the water pollution from the factories that is causing the shanty towns to have ever increasing birth defects.   I learned about stimulus money being spent on more and more WALLS and how the latest and best wall, was scaled by 2 young women in 18 seconds (I understand there is a You Tube Video available – but I could not find it)

I learned about dehydrations, kidnappings, prostitution, rapes, and shootings are a daily part of life for those seeking work and a better life and future.   I learned about all the advertizing of the USA as the land of milk, honey and opportunity and as a way to get away from the drug war and warlords.

We talked about how one could get people to stay home and be empowered to change their culture and society. We talked about fear and how it is just permeating our daily lives and how we live in a culture of fear, and how we feed and nurture the fear.  How we are a part of the destruction and how we can be a part of the rebuilding of hope and future.

The Reverend Denton talked about being in Arizona when the people were killed in Tuscan and how the people that he was staying with were totally convinced that this was the start of a war of the borders and they were going to be killed at any moment.   The fear radiated everywhere. There was an assumption of violence. Folks were presenting arms.  FEAR was in the air they were breathing.

Turning People into the OTHER.   Dehumanizing.  Degrading.

What could we do to counter balance this fear, this violence?  What could we do to raise up the human spirit and promote justice and peace?

Then Rev. Denton reminded us that we in Washington State and all the states along the Canadian Border are under the same laws as those people in Arizona.   That thousands of pounds of marijuana and other drugs come into these states on a daily basis and already WALLS are being constructed – Drones make night flights filming the borders and the perpetrators. The forces against this flow are contracted troops and not under military jurisdiction.  Violence and fear are already here…and the problems of the migrant workers and the people left behind.

I saw evidence of our new thinking about our Northern Neighbors (and my family) as I went across the border 2 times this weekend.  The man sitting behind me on the ferry spent a part of the trip explaining to his Asian friend how Canadians had too many people from Pakistan in their country and the whites were too passive to be worthwhile, but it was a good place to come to play and drink.

The Border Agents took a great deal of time sizing up each passenger as they entered each country.

I do not have any solutions to share other than my 15 years of work with Nonviolent Communications by Dr. Marshal Rosenberg, work on relocalization, and all my work in the area of social justice.

My best idea is to educate and work at stopping the expansion of fear and violence.  We must stop saturating ourselves with violence towards the other and bathing in the waters of fear.   We need to daily work on our kindness to others right in our own neighborhoods and call out injustice in our own cities and towns.  We must each become the Velveteen Rabbit with no fur remaining.

I opened my new book from Pema Chödrön, Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from old Habits and Fears and found comfort in her words, I want to share them with you:

“We have a tendency to label one another as an irritating person, a bore, a threat to our happiness and security, as inferior or superior; and this goes way beyond our close circle of acquaintances at home or at work.

“This labeling can lead to prejudice, cruelty, and violence; and in any time or place when prejudice, cruelty and violence occur, whether it’s directed by one being toward another or by groups of beings towards other groups, there’s a theme that runs through:  “This person has a fixed identity, and they are NOT LIKE ME.  We can kill someone or we can be indifferent to the atrocities perpetrated on them because THEY ‘RE JUST HAJIS, or THEY’RE JUST WOMEN, or THEY’RE JUST GAY.   You can fill in the blank with any racial slur, any dehumanized label that’s ever been used for those we consider different.

“There’s a whole other way to look at one another- and that is to try dropping our fixed ideas and get curious about the possibility that nothing and no one remains always the same.  This starts, of course, with getting curious and dropping the limiting stories we’ve created about ourselves.  Then we have to stay present with whatever is happening to us.  What I find helpful is to think of whatever I am experiencing – whether it’s sadness, anger, or worry; pleasure, joy or delight – as simply the dynamic , fluid energy of life as it is manifesting right now.  That shifts the resistance I have to my experience.  Because I’ve been practicing this approach for some years now, I’ve come to have confidence in the capacity for open receptivity, for wakefulness and nobility in all beings.  And I’ve seen that how we regard and treat one another can draw this nobility out”

“Anything we experience, no matter how challenging, can become an open pathway to awakening.”

My Aunt Margery was a woman who radiated a warm loving spirit and every person who experienced her felt special and honored.   I would add I truly felt loved whenever I was with her.

I experienced two major lessons in my life this week and both are on my mind.  I want to be a peacemaker and not feed the fear and violence against others and I want to be like my Aunt and honor others I meet along my journey.

How do you think we should eliminate this fear in ourselves and in our world?  How do you tear down walls?

I would add on a global scale of thinking how do you think we can end the USA’s addiction to drugs and resources and figure out a reality that is honest and true?

Looking forward to your comments:

Related reading you might also enjoy:
Hats off to two wonderful world changing men and the books about them
We have met the Enemy by Daniel Akst
Border Songs by Jim Lynch
Mug vs Heart

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