JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Suicide in Family History #general

Matt Friedman

Davida Noyek Handler asked about the repercussions of noting a suicide
within a family tree. I would urge her to include it. Family history
is family history and there are valuable insights that can be learned
from difficult circumstances. In the past generation we have witnessed
people being more open to discussing many topics including cancer,
mental illness and genetically transmitted diseases. All of these items
have genetic factors The knowledge that certain attributes are present
in a family line provide clues for treatment and prevention. In addition
our reaction to these conditions have shifted >from fear and even scorn
to treatment and support.

However, suicide is more of a challenge. Jewish tradition rejects suicide
and indeed denies honors to one who has committed suicide. Despite this fact,
does Judaism always follow the "letter of the law?" As a rabbi I have
officiated over several funerals for suicides and been present at others.
I have viewed these suicides as the outcomes of mental illness or effects
of medication. (For those interested in greater details regarding my
reasoning, please contact me for a more extensive discussion off-line.)
Providing full honors, while not concealing the cause of death, has been a
healing event for family members and friends.

from a family history perspective the inclusion of suicide, like other
details of family history, can provide information that could be invaluable
in ways that are not known at the present. We do not know what questions
we, or future generations, will have. We do not know what advances in science,
psychology or even sociology will take place that would find this information
to be valuable.

As family historians our interest has always been more than names and dates.
The inclusion of a death by suicide in a family history is an important fact.

Matt Friedman
Sacramento, California, USA

Horodenka, Jasienow Polny: FRIEDMAN, MANN
Raczki: LITVANOVSKY (and variants), Barnett

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