The email said that today’s Hebrew School would start with a meeting to explain to the kids why there would be no outdoor play for awhile—because on Monday someone fired a bullet into our synagogue—and would end with candle-lighting for Yom HaShoah. My kid had not heard of either: the bullet or the Holocaust. So, today, in the rushed intermission after elementary school and before Hebrew school, over soymilk and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, we talked. The drive-by shooting plus WWI, Hitler, WWII, the number tattooed on Kenny’s mom’s arm, and so forth. It went fine. He asked how many Jews were killed and I showed him the bag the memorial candle came in: the yellow star, the “6 million.”
“Were they shot with bullets?” he asked.
Yom ha Shoah. Yom means day, ha means the, Shoah means Holocaust. I made him say it with me a few times.
Later, I was alone when I saw what he’d made at Hebrew School. “Holocaust Art,” is what the teacher had told me, but I’d tucked it in my bag without looking because the thunderstorm was intense.
So was the Holocaust Art. I texted my husband to tell our boy that I thought his art was gorgeous, and to ask “how did you make it?”
My husband put the phone into our son’s hands, where apparently it took 20 minutes to type the answer:
“I made it with chalk n crayons and making the outline of the candle and making the small flame and then smothering it all over the page and then take a baby wipe and dab that right beneath the candle to represent the table then write “HOLOCAUST” in big blue letters and then take a white something and make a flame shape and inside that you make a black Jewish star and then smother that.”
And that, my friends, is how you make Holocaust Art.
There’s something hopeful and hopelessly tender about all the smothering and blending and baby wiping and flame, about a room of squirrelly 2nd graders in Nashville making marks on construction paper to express something, anything about “Holocaust.”
This morning, he’d never heard of the Holocaust.
We now have Holocaust art on the fridge, a yellow candle on the stove.
And we know that people still want to hurt us.