Across Jewish texts we find that chickens and their eggs are symbols of life.
My paternal grandfather (Leon Lumerman z"l) and grandmother (Molly Herbstman Lumerman z"l) met while hiding in the forest during World War II in Poland thanks to a chicken.
On the outskirts of a small town, my grandfather stole a chicken from a farm. I don't know if he planned to keep the chicken for eggs or to cook it for its meat but whatever he had planned didn't last long because my grandmother stole it from him.
Fortunately, before she could run off, he stopped her and they realized that they were from the same town, Tarnogród. From this point on, they worked together to survive -- stealing food, hiding out in barns, fending off suspicious townspeople, and keeping warm throughout the winter months.
Eventually, they got married and made it to a DP camp in Kassel, Germany where they had two sons, first my uncle and then my father, before coming to America in 1952.
In 2011 the Six-Word Memoirs initiative put out a call for Jewish stories. The prompt: What’s the essence of your own or others’ Jewish life in six words?
I was excited to come up with something clever to contribute — maybe about food or Jewish guilt. At the time, I was working at Sixth & I and my Jewish life was focused on designing the perfect Shabbat menu, inventing creative high holiday services and reading (remember that magazine?!). Being Jewish felt fun and positive -- the opposite of what I experienced as a child.
Growing up, my Jewish life centered around the Holocaust. My only living grandparents were survivors, their friends were survivors and our shul was full of survivors. Many of these survivors were wonderfully vibrant but many of them looked worn and hollow, especially my grandmother who we affectionally called Bobby. I felt burdened by their history. It wasn't until I started considering what a personal Six-Word Memoir would say that I discovered the strength and hope in my family's story.
At a time when I imagine it felt like "there was nothing new under the sun", an ordinary egg-laying chicken brought them new life.
Chicken is central to the story.