I used to work in a small public library, in the Children’s book section ( which was one of the biggest collections in the library) where all the local school kids would flock to everyday after school. It was the best job I ever had, and I was there for long enough to get to know most of the regulars.
There were two brothers, Caleb and Ralph. Ralph was the older brother in 4th or 5th grade and Caleb had just started kindergarten or first. They were both Jewish. It’s not a Jewish area, and I was one of the only Jewish adults they met outside of their shul, so they would always make a point of telling me all the things they were learning in Hebrew school.
Caleb was especially attached to me. He and Ralph would get into arguments because Ralph was at that age when he didn’t want to be seen hanging out with his little kid brother. They’d get into squabbles. Nothing super serious. Caleb had the best one-liners. One time when Ralph told him he didn’t want to help him play on the “baby computer”( the kids computer with the bulky plastic casing that only has Arthur games on it that you don’t need to sign up for) Caleb balled up his fists and said “I wish I had some wolves, and I would take them into battle against you!”
He was always saying stuff like that. Me and the other librarian used to write down our favorite Caleb lines, because they were always so…perfectly unusual. He wasn’t just gonna call his brother names or threaten to tell their dad, like you would expect. No, Caleb was going to get a bunch of wolves and he was going to use them to “take them into battle and get victory”.
One day I notice Caleb looking really sad and sulking behind a bookshelf, so I go over and ask my little dude what’s up. Figured he and Ralph got into another argument or something. Caleb looked at me, and he said “did you hear about the bad man?” “what bad man?” “Hitler. I heard my dad talking about Hitler with ( name of their rabbi)” and his eyes really started to well up with tears. I felt my heart drop, like…oh..shit I don’t know how to handle this conversation with a kid who isn’t mine while I’m at work, but he’s crying so I can’t ignore this. Shit. So, I say ” Oh, hm.. I see. What did they say about Hitler?” “Hitler hated juice. He wanted to get rid of all the juice. That’s so mean. Everyone should be able to drink all the juice they want”.
He was SO upset. I was a little taken aback when I realized he was talking about a beverage, but he was legitimately upset. I guess they hadn’t told him about that part of history yet. He overheard adults talking in another room and somehow got “Jews” confused with ” juice” and that was enough to make him upset. I wasn’t going to be the one to tell him all the real stuff ( I think I said something like “I’m not so sure that’s what they meant. Maybe you should talk to your rabbi about it”) because I wasn’t sure if that’s what his dad wanted for him at the time, and it wasn’t my place to decide how the truth was going to be explained to him. They had just lost their mom not too long before that, so it wasn’t my place to explain the details of the holocaust to him. I told his dad the story about ” Jews” as “juice” when he came to get them though and he got a little chuckle out of it.
It’s just a story that I thought I’d share. I’m glad our people have Caleb amongst our ranks. That kid is gonna grow up and make our people proud. I feel better knowing he and his wolf army will be watching over us.
Since then I’ve moved into an area with even fewer Jews, and lately I’ve had some pretty rough incidents related to this fact.
No joke, sometimes when I read the news or see antisemitic stuff posted on my local Nextdoor or whatever, I have to remind myself that there is this kid out there- who cried at the idea of an injustice such as people not being allowed to have juice, who was determined to raise a wolf army of some kind, and he is gonna be a force to be reckoned with one day. We’re gonna be okay everyone.