The Children in Europe Are Starving!

The Children in Europe Are Starving!

Shaindle Schmuckler

Shaindle Schmuckler spreads her energy and humor as a regular contributor to the Atlanta Jewish Times.

Are you wondering why, when I was just a wee little girl living in the Bronx, wearing plaid pleated skirts with suspenders and sweet hankies pinned to my blouse, my two sisters and I were always encouraged by our mom (z”l) to be sure to finish all the food on our plates?

Allow me the pleasure of helping you out.

Shaindle Schmuckler
Shaindle Schmuckler

The rationale was that the children in Europe were starving. Bet you never would have guessed on your own.

We did worry just where and what exactly was this Europe that would have its children starve unless we ate all the food provided to us. However, we were fundamentally an obedient threesome, and because we did not want children starving, we ate and ate.

Well, I did anyway.

My sisters seemed to possess the gene enabling control over their food consumption. Obviously, I waited in the wrong line when this gene was being distributed.

I can’t be sure, but I do believe Weight Watchers has often been referred to as Shaindle’s little helpers. For many years I wasn’t just eating for me; I was eating for the children who were starving in Europe.

Although I never could figure out the logic of this declaration, I was not taking any chances on being the one responsible for those poor, sweet children starving.

Let us all stop and think this through together.

When you were growing up, which one of you wonderful readers thought it wise to dare question your mom if she told you to eat everything on your plate because — well you know the rest?

I was a fairly well-behaved, happy little girl; I just was not an angelic child.

I must admit that I tried my best to push my parents’ buttons (of course, pushing buttons was not even an expression when I was growing up). How would I have been described? “She is such an ackshen” (stubborn) would have been fairly accurate.

The only reason I am still alive, with all my limbs where they were intended to be, is clearly because I was so darned adorable.

I actually never questioned this mysterious eating custom, not when I could hear those three beautiful words “Ess mein kiend” (Eat, my child) rather than be the cause of a famine.

I wanted so much to ask who these children were. How did they get fed if I was the one eating the food? Was I actually eating their food? Even creepier.

Never did I dare ask: So how exactly does this work, Mommy? I took it on faith. Wouldn’t you if you did not have to watch those calories (or points, as the case may be).

Let’s be clear about something: My mommy did not create this bubbeh meysah (fairy tale). Everyone I knew was furiously consuming food so that the children in Europe would not starve.

Given that my dad was a kosher butcher, we ate well. We did not have a garden and did not grow our own fruits and vegetables. I can’t imagine where in our neighborhood we could have created a working garden.

We did, however, have Breakstone’s wooden cream cheese boxes, which we filled with soil and placed on our windowsills. We would plant simple things, work the dirt in those boxes and cross our fingers. Fortunately, the grocery store was just across the street, and the fruit and vegetable market was just down the street.

Eventually, we no longer heard my mom make this declaration — well, at least I didn’t. I suspect my mom felt I was taking this eating for the starving children far too seriously.

My heart hurts because I know nothing has changed, except for the fact I am aware that no matter how much or how little I eat, it won’t feed the children who are starving.

Am I right, or am I right?

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