Sunday night supper: leftover chicken soup. “I just have a quarter of a zucchini peel in my bowl!” my son complains about his second bowl.
“That’s what there is,” my husband replies. “It’s Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Do you know what kind of soup the Jews ate in the Holocaust? The Nazis fed Jews soup made from a giant pot of water and one potato peel.”
“One potato peel for the whole pot of soup?” The kids don’t really understand the point my husband is trying to make about appreciating what we have and not complaining so much. “So who got the potato peel?” my daughter asks.
“Whoever got the potato peel was very lucky,” my husband answers.
Apparently the kids are still in question-mode since seder night. Who made the soup? Who were the Nazis? What country were they from? Why did they feed the Jews so little? They wanted them to die? If they wanted them to die, why not just kill them? Oh, they did that, too? So, why feed them first and not just kill them right away? Slaves–like the slaves to Pharoah in Egypt? Oh, ok.
Cringing at the directness of these questions, I try to juggle them all, keeping in mind that a five-year-old and seven-year-old don’t need nightmare-inducing details at bedtime, while remaining truthful and open. I want them to know that our nation has suffered terribly, that individuals suffered terribly and lost their lives. Yet, they are still young and vulnerable. I don’t want to traumatize them, to paralyze them with fear. I have my own questions. How do we know when is the right time to tell them, and how much? Will they tell their friends at school? Do they associate themselves, as Jews, with Jews of previous generations?
They are too young to hear many details. Each answer widens their eyes and brings more questions. I feed them answers slowly, one spoon at a time.