Grappling With the Holocaust From a Jewish and Buddhist Perspective

In 2006, Ellen Korman Mains embarked on a series of life-changing journeys to Poland to reconcile her unexplored Holocaust inheritance with an experience she had on a German train.

A year earlier—on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz—she felt the troubled dead reaching out for help and asking: “How can you still believe in basic goodness?”

The answer to this question eventually took the form of a memoir, “Buried Rivers: A Spiritual Journey into the Holocaust,” published last October, which won a Nautilus Silver Book Award and a Bronze Independent Publisher Book Award.

Beyond recovering her family’s lost history, this compelling memoir reveals powerful connections between spirituality and trauma, between Judaism and Buddhism, and intimately explores the challenges of family loyalty, crossing religious boundaries, and opening to the invisible blessings of ancestors.

On May 1, Yom HaShoah – International Day of Holocaust Remembrance – Ellen comes to the Boulder JCC for an author talk at noon. The longtime Boulder resident will talk about the importance of our connection with those who perished, and the implications of this connection for personal and collective healing.

The daughter of Polish-born Jews who survived the Holocaust, Ellen has led meditation retreats internationally, and explores the confluence of spirituality and social change, and the power of ancestral connection. Trained in several somatic disciplines, she also works one-to-one to support individuals in aligning with their inner wisdom and spends extended periods in Poland teaching, promoting dialog, and connecting with her roots.

At the ACE Lunch and Learn, she will read excerpts from her memoir and share thoughts about forgiveness and blame in our current climate of polarization. We will also observe a few moments of silence together.  Signed copies will be available for purchase (cash or check) after the presentation.

Co-presented by Boulder’s Jaipur Literary Festival



“. . . provides a fresh take not only on the Holocaust, but also the proper response to the seemingly inerasable stain left by profound anguish . . . A moving and original contribution to an inexhaustible body of literature.” –Kirkus Reviews

“A rich prose journey into the author’s ancestral homeland where she unearths her Jewish family’s trauma legacy. Her search for answers is gutsy, yet elegant. Hers is a tempered soul, refined by her spiritual practice—Tibetan Buddhism—which adds a surprising layer of complexity to her quest. A beautiful and important memoir that uplifts as much as it compels.” — Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, PhD, author of “With Roots in Heaven” and “Wounds into Wisdom: Healing Intergenerational Jewish Trauma” (2019)

“A powerful testament to human resilience and courage, this book reflects the power of inquiry in a world riven with suffering, and the capacity to transform that suffering into wisdom. — Rev. Joan Jiko Halifax, Abbot, Upaya Zen Center and author of “Standing at the Edge

“Part memoir, part spiritual chronicle, Buried Rivers takes the reader on a journey into our most pressing real-life questions about good and evil. This Buddhist reflection on the intimate legacy of the Holocaust is a riveting page-turner.” — Judith Simmer-Brown, Distinguished Professor of Contemplative and Religious Studies, Naropa University, author of “Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism

“A compelling personal spiritual journey that crosses religious boundaries in order to tackle some of the deepest mysteries of life and death. Revealing how the past, present, and future intersect in the very cells of our bodies, Buried Rivers shows how we can more fully discover spiritual truth and personal healing through the conscious meeting of our ancestors as they appear to us in the here and now.” — Zvi Ish-Shalom, Ph.D., founder of the Kedumah Institute and author of “The Kedumah Experience: The Primordial Torah

“Ms. Mains takes us on a courageous personal and historical journey into the world of her Jewish ancestors and the atrocities of the Holocaust. What makes her venture so remarkable is the haunting question that accompanies her and a deep conviction in the human disposition for goodness. By shedding light on something so dark, she demonstrates that healing, opportunity, and magic can emerge from the densest suffering.” —Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, author of “The Power of an Open Question and The Logic of Faith

“A wise and deeply stirring memoir that takes the reader on a powerful journey of body, mind, and heart.” — Lama Tsultrim Allione, author of “Wisdom Rising: Journey into the Mandala of the Empowered Feminine

“An evocative and deeply spiritual book about a journey through space and time that also unfolds into a mystery about how the body carries and receives messages from the past. Read this and be prepared to think about your own ancestors in a new way.” — Sonya Huber, author of “Opa Nobody” and “Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, and Other Essays from a Nervous System

“Deepening insights culled from years of Buddhist contemplative practice, and courageously assembling the puzzle pieces of her family’s past in Polish cities and remote villages, the author shares a colorful and revealing picture of contemporary life in post-Communist Poland and her own inner life. An intimate and illuminating memoir that depicts how trusting in the spontaneous wisdom of one’s own body and heart can heal intergenerational trauma.” — David I. Rome, author of “Your Body Knows the Answer

About Kathryn Bernheimer

Kathryn has spent her professional life writing about, teaching, and presenting the arts. Founding Director of the Boulder Jewish Film Festival, Kathryn was Director of Menorah and ACE at the Boulder JCC from 2003 through August, 2019. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time."

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