My heart stopped, and then began to pound with heightened awareness as I saw a symbol that once branded Jews of Europe as visible targets of hatred. I knew I would have to say something to the bakery lady, but in so doing, would have to say something to Jacob about the Holocaust — not some abstract event of history that happened to others elsewhere, but a personal family horror that wiped out virtually all of his family roots.
We proceeded to have a discussion about how people mistreat others. "People are people," Jacob asserted in his no-nonsense way. Logically it made no sense to him that people — a unifying concept in his mind — would be treated differently from each other.
A few weeks later, Jacob pressed to have his Chanukah coloring book present early. As he began to color, he suddenly asked, "Is it OK if I color a star in yellow?" Before I could respond, he added, "Oh, never mind. I don't want to. I don't want to make Grandma and Grandpa feel bad."
He got it. He learned something. Not about Holocaust history per se, but something about the value of knowing that history. That it's important to care about how others feel. That you don't intentionally make others feel bad. A good beginning, I thought, feeling pride in him as well as myself. Marta Fuchs Winik is a Albany psychotherapist specializing in the multigenerational effects of the Holocaust. An expanded version of this piece appeared in "The California Therapist."