Archive | April, 2023

Two San Antonio Places to See Besides The Alamo

13 Apr

I love going to museums, especially museums I have not yet been to visit.  I have been to San Antonio many times, so did not need to see the Alamo again. Therefore, during my recent trip to San Antonio at the end of February, I was excited to visit two museums that were new to me thanks to two different friends who live there. 

First, I went to the Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio that is housed in the Jewish Community Center.  A dear friend of mine, whose mother was a survivor, volunteers at the museum to share her mother’s story.  Before she knew I would be in town, she agreed to speak to a group of middle school students from a local Catholic school.  She invited me to hear her talk.

I was interested in going.  I knew my friend’s mother and I knew a little bit about her story because it is unusual.  Both she and her mother were together throughout the war, and both survived their concentration camp experience. My friend was also one of four women in Texas who worked to make Holocaust education a part of the Texas official school curriculum.

The Museum, which opened in 2000, is small but well thought out.  The main permanent exhibit tells the story of the Shoah through photos and films, maps, and personal items. Another part shows the USA response to the Shoah.  Finally, there is a room with photos of San Antonio residents who were survivors, including my friends mother.

Watching my friend speak and learning so much more about what happened to her mother and grandmother, really touched my heart.  You wonder how someone who spent her teen years as a slave laborer, who almost lost her life several times, who saw such evil, could ever become normal and raise children in the USA. But she did.

I recommend going to the museum.  It is worth the short time it would take to walk around and read the exhibits.  If you can, plan in advance to schedule a docent led tour, that would be even better. The museum is free and open to the public. Hours are Monday to Friday, 9 am – 3 pm. And Sunday’s 1 -4 pm.

My second San Antonio Museum was much more Texas oriented.  Other friends of mine picked me up at my hotel and took me to the Briscoe Western Art Museum, which is located right along the River Walk.  It is named for former Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe, Jr. You can actually see his office furniture in the museum.

The museum brochure points out that Western art is a unique American art form.  It Is!  I loved the spurs and saddles.  Some were absolutely beautiful.  I was excited to see all the different spurs, which were made in different states.  Seeing the one from Kansas was fun!

The paintings and sculptures were also interesting.  The western scenes and Native America art is both inside the museum and part of an outdoor sculpture garden that you should not miss. There are also sculptures along the River Walk just outside that entrance to the Musuem. I also enjoyed the gallery that was devoted to the art of women in the Ruth Bowers Women of the West Gallery.

The building itself is wonderful, once the home of San Antonio’s first public library. I loved the ornate ceiling and actually took several photos just of it!

This is also a small museum that you can visit and see all within a few hours.  It is open Thursday through Monday, 10 am – 5 pm. Children under 12 are free.  Adults are #14 and seniors $12.

Expanding my Spiritual Care Volunteer Work

8 Apr

Over the last six months, I realized that I needed to expand the work I do as a spiritual care volunteer (SCV) for Jewish Family Services. For the past four years, I have been working with the senior population at one elder care facility. To be honest, it is one of the most rewarding volunteer positions I have ever held. I believe I am really helping people and making life a bit more pleasant. It gladdens my heart.

But six months ago, we had a family event that changed me. My daughter lost a pregnancy at five months as their much wanted fetus was not viable. Making a choice to end a pregnancy is not an easy decision. It hurts the heart. I traveled to be with my daughter and son in law. I realize during the time that I was with them, that my spiritual care training was helpful as we walked and talked and dealt with this unhappy time.

When I returned home, I saw that the Bikur Cholim, an organization that provided programming for chaplains and SCV, was offering a three-week summit entitled, “Perinatal Loss Summit” with a group called “I Was Supposed to Have A Baby.”  I thought that would help us as we dealt with our loss, so I signed up.

The Mission of “I Was Supposed to Have A Baby” is “is to utilize social platforms (Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) to support all Jewish individuals and families struggling to have a child by providing a warm and nurturing space for those going through infertility, pregnancy loss, infant loss, surrogacy and adoption, and by making connections to resources in the Jewish community at large.”

I found this three-part programming informative, helpful, and thought provoking as I learned about Jewish rituals, or rather lack of, for women who suffered pregnancy loss, infertility and death of an infant. I was excited to learn that women were developing their own rituals. I read the book that was discussed, “Tears of Sorrow, Seeds of Hope,” by Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin. Its subtitle is “A Jewish Spiritual Companion for Infertility and Pregnancy Loss.” It provides ideas for both rituals and prayers. I found it extremely helpful.

The third meeting impacted my SCV/NCJW volunteer mind. It included representatives of a National Council of Jewish Women section in New York who provided individual peer support and group support for women going experiencing pregnancy issue: infertility and loss. They would pair a woman who had a similar problem 20 or more years ago with a women going through it now for peer counseling.

As someone who also suffered through infertility, ending with both biological and adopted children, and this more recent family loss, I thought this might be something I could do. I spoke to the JFS Rabbi who is my supervisor for SCV to see this was possible. He said that spiritual care volunteers could help wherever they were needed.

I also spoke to the woman who runs a program in our area called Priya, which is focused on helping couples who are having infertility, trying to adopt, and other birth related issues. I asked if they had a peer support program or anything like that. She said they had tried, but people felt uncomfortable talking to others and revealing their feelings afraid that the information would get into the public. But as I am HIPPA compliant as a spiritual care volunteer that is not an issue. I do not talk about who and what I learn.

They both agreed that this is something that might be useful in our community. With that encouragement. I am continuing on my quest to help. Recently Jewish Family Services paid for me to attend a one-day workshop on “The Mental Health of Women in the Reproductive Years.” Of the 30 participants, I was the only one not in the medical field…most were social workers who worked with or planned to work with pregnant women dealing with postpartum depression, as well as pregnancy loss. Centimano Counseling, which is focused on Perinatal Mental Health, held the workshop. I learned more than I expected and was glad I had the opportunity to attend.

My belief is that if I even help one person or one couple, then it is more than worth all these extra trainings. I remember the black hole of despair I had when I could not get pregnant and all around me my family and friends were having babies. I understand how difficult it is to speak to someone who has no idea what heartache was happening within me. I knew how it was easier to speak to someone who was going through the same problems as me than even my own mother, who had no idea what infertility was like.

So I am hoping that as a compassionate, HIIPA compliant, friendly sounding board, I can help those in need get a little bit of hope and joy back in their lives.