Veterans. Community. Stories. Our Stories. Our History.

Kara Krauze is a writer, a mother, and  a member of our community.  Recently she brought an idea to us here at the Y that we thought was pretty great.  When we asked her to blog about it for us and tell the story, she very generously said yes.  Please read on to learn more about our Veterans Writing workshop led by Kara and housed at the 14th Street Y!

Last September, I started teaching Voices from War here at the 14th Street Y, a writing workshop for veterans, with fellow writer and veteran, Jake Siegel, from Ditmas Park. If you had asked me the previous winter, in my youngest son’s final year of preschool at the 14th Street Y, if I thought I would be teaching a class here a year later, I probably would have looked puzzled. And I would have said no.

But the fantastic, warm community that I’ve so cherished for my children has embraced and nurtured Voices from War. What began as a need I saw for expanded opportunities for veterans to shape and tell their stories, has become a reality with support from people like our own Kiki Schaffer, Camille Diamond, and Wendy Seligson.

I don’t come from a military family—I have to reach pretty far to find a relative who is a veteran—but I have felt the isolating nature of silence, and seen how it damaged my father. He was a professor, born between the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II, and he took his own life at age fifty-nine. After my father’s suicide, in 1994, writing helped me to understand and integrate my experiences surrounding his death, his history and silences. By forming narratives, I turned memories that were jagged and fragmentary into more cohesive experiences. At the same time, writing pushed me into talking, and both of these acts helped me to find a vocabulary to speak about suicide and its related complexities. We have been slow learning similar lessons from the wars of the 20th century, including Vietnam, the shadow of which shaped the childhoods of those of us growing up in the 1970s.

It has been so gratifying, now, to listen and to seek out others’ stories. It is too easy to think that because only .5% of the population served in Iraq and Afghanistan that the past ten years of war don’t affect so many of us. But the whole country went to war, whether or not each citizen agrees with the decision, and all of us are impacted by its effects and after-effects—by the experiences of veterans, fellow citizens of a nation, of a shared humanity. Stories emerging from war, veteran stories, are part of our communal history. Their stories are necessary stories for all of us.

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This event was funded in part by Poets & Writers, Inc. with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

~ This class is supported and sponsored by the 14th Street Y. ~

What Kiki Schaffer Learned from Her Mom

kikiWe recently sat down with Kiki Schaffer, Director of the Parenting, Family and Early Childhood Center, to talk about her mom and what she learned from her. 

Come hear Kiki tell her true life mother stories on November 25th atWHAT’S THE MATTER? A night of storytelling with your favorite Jewish mamas,” an evening produced by and LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture

Question: Describe your mother in five words.

Answer: Strong, loving , adventurous, dramatic, glamorous.

Question: What did you learn from her about motherhood?

Answer: I learned to be fiercely loyal to my family.  And I learned that spending time with my children was life’s greatest joy. My mother was a brave, bold, independent woman, but she worried so much about her kids’ safety and happiness.  I learned there must be something about giving birth that releases into the Mama a long-lasting worry hormone.

Question: Does she influence the way you teach parents to parent at the Y?

Answer: Absolutely.  I carry her inside of me always.  She was the quintessential caregiver.  My mother was also a lot of fun.  She had very creative strategies for those challenging parenting moments, strategies that involved playfulness and surprise:  inventing games,breaking into song in tense moments, acting out little shows, word plays.  But she was also very, very critical and sarcastic.  That is something that I wanted to avoid as a parent and parenting professional.

Question: Can you give us a little sneak peak of the story you will be telling about her on the 25th?

Answer: In 1941 my parents left Brooklyn Harbor on a freighter bound for Africa.  Their ship, the Robin Moor, was about to become the first US ship to be torpedoed by the Germans during WW II.  They were given 20 minutes to get into lifeboats and then they watched the German submarine sink their ship.  What happened after that was the stuff of an enduring family story.

Make sure to join us at this unique event where you can hear writers get personal about their lives as modern-day mothers. Featuring writers from the Forward, Kveller, Tablet and LABA Fellows, including: Carla Namburg, Jordana Horn, Tamara Reese, Adina Kay-Gross, Marjorie Ingall, Brooke Berman, Karen Hartman, Elissa Strauss, Adi Ezroni and LABA teacher Ruby Namdar on the meshugganah mothers of the Torah.

WHAT’S THE MATTER? A night of storytelling with your favorite Jewish mamas takes place November 25, 2013 from 7-8:30pm at the Theater at the 14th Street Y. Tickets are $10. Click here for tickets and for more information. Come from the kvetching, the kvelling, and the free wine.