Lessons on healing trauma from a rabbi and an imam

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Throughout centuries of conflict, discrimination and persecution, religious believers have relied on faith and prayer to guide them. Religious leaders are now seeking answers from the past to cope with the current pandemic crisis. Rabbi and psychotherapist Tirzah Firestone explores how her Jewish ancestors maintained their “courage and faith” in the face of trauma. She says believers  “lean-in” and “reinvent ourselves [with] new forms of thinking, new practices, new ways of worship and new ways of caring for ourselves.” 

Imam and President of Bayan Claremont Islamic Graduate School Jihad Turk points to scripture for support.”The Quran indicates that it's the human condition that we will face trials and tribulations that will rock us to our core,” he says. Muslims are taught that although they “don't quite understand the wisdom of what it is that we're facing, we know that if our response is the right response, then it will be good for us,” says Turk.

To navigate isolation, fear, stress, and trauma, Firestone says that “now is a time to energize our faith in a power that is larger than ourselves.” She says believers can acknowledge and have faith in the “power of goodness” they see exhibited everyday by those who risk their lives on the frontlines, and by the outpouring of small acts of kindness and care. 

Turk and Firestone draw on strong traditions within their respective religions to navigate periods of when they have confronted fear or been marginalized. Firestone says Jews empathize with those who suffer today because they “wear the same shoes that we used to wear.” Turk tells the story of the Prophet Moses who, fearful of leading his people out of Egypt, leaned into his own “attitude and posture” before facing the tyrannical pharaoh, Ramses II. 

While faith plays an important role, it’s not always enough when it comes to mental health. Seeking help from mental health professionals is one of the things Iman Turk focuses on at Bayan Claremont Islamic Graduate School, “training American Muslim imams in how to identify young people with mental health problems.”

In her book “Wounds into Wisdom,” Firestone shares the message of hope and encouragement, from people around the globe who have emerged relatively unscathed from trauma. “No matter what trauma you are enduring, you can control your own narrative” and ultimately “we're in charge of our destinies with God.” Turk highlights a Quranic verse which offers a strong message of comfort: “God does not burden any soul with the responsibility of more than it has the capacity to bear.” 




Andrea Brody