What Do We Tell Our Grandchildren?

Sandy picks up her granddaughters, Kami and Ari, from Camp Newman, the Reform camp in Santa Rosa, CA.
Sandy picks up her granddaughters, Kami and Ari, from Camp Newman, the Reform camp in Santa Rosa, CA.

As Baby Boomers I can imagine you had some of the experiences I had back in the 50s when walking into a room of our parents and grandparents, and other elders, and hearing smatterings of Yiddish that abruptly stopped when the kinder appeared.

Suddenly the conversations turned to the new butcher on Fairfax Avenue, the current gossip about cousin Fay’s fiancé or the price of white fish. It didn’t take long to realize the words spoken, whether in English or Yiddish or Russian, were not for the young. Only a handful of time had passed since WWII ended, our dads were home from the front and the actual horrors of the Holocaust were just being told.

The bottom line: No one told us much. The adults continued to whisper and cry, pound their chest, look shell-shocked and keep information out of the ears and hearts of the children. How many of us didn’t learn about the Holocaust till junior or high school? I don’t remember any Sunday School teacher teaching a lesson on what went on in Europe during the War. What I do remember is one, 1, paragraph, short paragraph, with the bolded heading of The Holocaust in a history book in high school. I can still see it on the right side of the page, at the bottom, the last few lines. I can recall it all these years later because I have never forgotten the brief explanation of one of the most horrific pieces of world history.

Back then, in the years we Baby Boomers were growing up, Europe, Africa, the North and South Poles, the Middle East, even Israel, who had just become a state, were really FAR away. I didn’t know people who took summer vacations to these places. It was unheard of! Summer vacations were in the Catskills, Palm Springs, Florida, the Jersey Shore, Las Vegas, the beach.

But not today. In the age of our grandchildren growing up, the 20th/21st Century, the world has grown smaller. In an instant, in real time, they can have an aerial view of the street where grandma and grandpa live 3000 miles away. They can see the waves on oceans 10,000 miles away. They can talk to you while they are thousands of miles away on their vacation. They can see, in the moment, tragedies happening around the world or in their own neighborhoods. The world sits in the palm of our hand.

We now have the ability to view, share, talk and discuss the Breaking News, as it happens, with our grandkids. And that is hard. And do we want to? We ask ourselves:

Do they need to know all that is happening in today’s world? Do they need to bear witness to the injustices, the vicious views and acts of others? Do they need to hear rhetoric that is repulsive and disgusting? Do they need to see our world share in common grief and confusion? Should they march, demonstrate and mourn with strangers?

Do they need to know the difference between REAL NEWS and FAKE NEWS? Do they need to know what the dignity of a president should look like? Do they need to know how our government should be working for us? Do they need to know they must have a voice for our democracy? Do they need to know our country is worth fighting for? Do they need to know what you have contributed to preserve our freedom?

YES!          YES!          YES!          YES!           YES!            YES!

Why? You may ask, they are only children.

SO THEY NEVER FORGET!                                             



  1. Thank you for this post. I am child of baby boomers and so much of this rang true to me – in big scope, as well as in small details like looking at our homes in Europe on Google satellite. It is only now, past my fortieth year, trying to make sense of the world and my history, that I am undertaking to learn Yiddish, after doing the same with Russian in my thirties. I grew up in a culture of silence. I have had to learn to understand how that shaped me (and so many others), and how it shapes my responses to the current state of our world. I am inspired by your post to think about how to talk with the next generation differently, more openly and with honest emotion, so that we don’t keep fragmenting our souls. Thank you.

  2. I recall the following from my social studies textbook circa 1961.
    ” Over 6,000,000 Jews died during WW 2.”
    Yes, one single sentence on the subject.
    Even more chilling was the silence on the part of our parents and their generation.

  3. A Bubbe is the keeper of our stories, she tells them truthfully as no one else can or will. Her Stories encourage, reveal family secrets, and reminds us nothing is as bad as it seem. Her wisdom is powerful enough to remove the most hopeless knots in the gold chain that holds her family together. Most of all Bubbe loves extravagantly, deeply, and continually, like God loves His children.

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