When a tragedy happens, there are inevitably a rush of “how to talk to your children…” articles about how to break down what happened into manageable, kid-appropriate language.

Jews right now are facing a different issue: how not to talk to your kids about what happened on October 7th when it’s all you want to talk about. 

How do we move on with life, yell at the kids to put on their shoes or do their homework, while also hugging them too often in our despair for the people whose lives cannot move on. 


We are consumed by it. Jews around the world, who don’t know each other, are all posting the same thing. We haven’t slept since that Saturday. We see each other and our eyes are wide saucers, dark circles, full of pain. We refresh the news and absorb new, horrifying, details.

We consider where we can no longer send our Jewish children to college, which countries we can no longer visit. We pass around the familiar stories of Jewish-owned businesses targeted, Jews shouted at, Jews chased, Jews beaten. We parse which friends are suddenly not. We think about which of our neighbors would happily load us on the train. 

How do we protect our children from our despair and rage but also our fear?

My own children are blessedly too young for most of it. They know something bad happened and they know Israel is at war. The eldest, at 13, knows there was an attack in southern Israel where many died, knows hostages were taken but not much else. 

I don’t want her to know about the rapes, the details I can’t unknow about the way children who look just like her were killed. In a few years she will be going to music festivals. I don’t want her to live a life of fear, worried that someone is coming to kill her. I don’t want her to know what monsters live on the earth with us and what they are capable of doing.


Our sons are 10 and 7. The eldest boy is a history buff. He knows about historical atrocities. He’s read about torture. But he’s still a baby who calls for me when he’s sick, reaches for me when he’s hurt. I don’t want him knowing that kids were stolen while screaming for their mama, that their parents could not save them. I don’t want him to hear that parents were killed in front of their children and children in front of their parents. And that’s before the truly gruesome particulars. I don’t want him to also not be able to sleep at night thinking of beheaded, burned, baked babies. I want him to believe it when I say I will always protect them, that no one is getting by me. I want to believe it too.

The youngest is too young for any of it. Israel is a faraway land he doesn’t know. He knows he has family there but still can’t quite put together who is related to who. His grandmother’s twin, her husband, her children and grandchildren, we go over the connections to him. He doesn’t know Israel is a safe haven for Jews around the world who are just like him. I’ll tell him, someday, about the hatred and the violence, but when I look at his sweet, innocent face, I think “not yet.”


Not telling them anything is no cure either. Recently a Jewish acquaintance wrote a long piece about how Israel just doesn’t matter to him. I knew before he noted it that his family had been in America since the turn of the last century. Those are always the Jews shrugging their shoulders. They did not experience the Holocaust and they also did not know pogroms in Russia, mass graves in Ukraine, murder and expulsion from Arab states. They have lived ensconced in a safety and security that has simply never been the norm for Jews. So sure, who needs Israel, pass the lox. 

I will have failed as a parent if that is my child. It’s my life goal to not raise my children to feel so blindly privileged. It was the luckiest twist of fate that they were born Jews in America and I will not let them forget that. 

I want to tell them the truth, that we’re mostly alone in this world, that most people will not stand up for you. That will include their fellow Jews who had spoken up for others, posted all the right things, but when they see their own comrades are against them, they will quiet and shrink from view until they nearly disappear. Do not count on these Jews. Remember that there are always Jews who imagine they will be killed last. They won’t be. It’s a lesson they never seem to learn.

But if you do life right, there will be people who do reach out to you in bad times like these and offer support. They will pray for you, offer you safety should you need it, say the words to defend you and feel your fear. 

I don’t say all this. I tell them for the 5th time to get their cleats on and to put their plate in the sink. I try not to show the darkness I’m feeling. They’ll know it all someday. It can wait.