Everyone has a story

I received this from a New Jersey friend who reports it as an actual happening — not to her, but found on an Instagram site called “Humans of Judaism”:

“At the supermarket today, I saw a small, elderly woman standing in front of a high shelf holding Bonne Maman preserves. She was having trouble finding the flavor she wanted because the jars were set far back on the shelf. I offered to help.

“After I handed her the raspberry preserves, she thanked me, then paused and asked, ‘Do you know why I buy this brand?’ I laughed and replied, ‘Because it tastes good?’ She paused again. “I am a Holocaust survivor. During the war, the family that owns this company hid my family in Paris. So now, whenever I go to the store, my grandkids remind me, ‘Bubbe, don’t forget to buy the jelly!’ I told her that was the best reason I ever heard to buy any company’s product!”

Indeed, Biars sur Care, the town of about 800 villagers that the makers of Bonne Maman come from, hid and saved Jewish families in World War II. Another survivor has reported: “You have to understand what it was like then. There were posters on walls from the Nazis and their collaborators, saying that if you are found to help a Jew, or a Freemason — a Communist — a Socialist — a pervert — ‘You will be shot on sight.’ But despite the great danger into which helping them put the villagers, still they kept children safe.” The person who told this story ended it with: “A good reason to buy Bonne Maman products, and a poignant reminder that when we look out for each other, it can change lives, and that there are good and selfless people in the world.”

So of course, after reading this, I had to look up that Instagram site. What I found: Humans of Judaism currently has 4,724 posts from more than 400 regular followers, and that its motto is “Everyone Has a Story. What’s Yours?”

I resonate to that! I have been saying to people in many ways over many long years, “Tell your stories! Because if we don’t tell our stories, we will someday cease to exist!” And that is an addition to the literal “ceasing” that happens with actual death: People — all of us human beings — have limited lifespans, and very few of us can know in advance how long or short those lifespans will be. But I think it’s a safe bet to say that all of us still alive have at one time or another sat around a table with family members and friends, telling stories from our varied pasts…

And Passover is the ultimate time for telling the ultimate story of our Jewish past. Sitting around our Seder table (yes — even during this strange year, in which we may have found ourselves “Zooming” instead of actually talking to each other personally in real time and place), we were all retelling our seminal Jewish tale, once again leaving Egypt for new futures in new places.

Funny little story: A family that originated in Egypt still remembers this from its long-ago past life: As the children paraded around the Seder table, carrying symbolic bundles on their backs, one of them was heard to inquire: “Why are we leaving when we live here?” But isn’t that a question that Jews — probably the children — have been asking for many years, during one forced Exodus after another…?

May next Pesach find us all together once again around our families’ Seder tables, telling the story in actuality rather than virtual reality!

Harriet Gross can be reached at

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