Jewish Bedtime Story Co-op

Once upon a time (amol iz geven), there was a town of called Billings, Montana, the largest city in the State of Montana. Montana was known as the Big Sky State, because its land was so flat that it seemed that the sky was very big and blue.

The town of Billings, founded in 1882, had about 100,000 people living in and around the city. It was a friendly town with several dozen Jewish families; and there was one synagogue, Congregation Beth Aaron.

Although the town was very friendly, with 100,000 people there was bound to be some bullies - bullies who were mean and filled with hate. In the past, these bullies had vandalized the synagogue by spray painting grafitti on its doors, and had even desecrated the Jewish cemetery by knocking over the gravestones. When the Jewish families saw what had happened, they quietly cleaned up the mess, and kept everything secret and hush-hush.

One of the Jewish family's in Billings Montana was Brian and Tammie Schnitzer and their children.

They were somewhat new to the town; and they did not know that the older members of the Jewish community were cautious and kept their Jewish activities quiet. One day, when Tammie Schnitzer put an advertisement in the newspaper announcing a Jewish lecture, a bully broke one of her car windows. Tammie learned why Billing's Jews kept their activities quiet.

A few years later, in December of 1993, Dr. Brian, Tammie, and their children lit a Hanukah menorah. They also stenciled a picture of a menorah into the glass window in their five year old son Isaac's bedroom. One night, someone threw a brick through the window. Isaac's window. The window with the menorah. The window was smashed, and Isaac's stenciled menorah broke, shattering into pieces.

Tammie and Brian called the police. The police filled out a report and said the only way to stop the bullies was to hide and not put menorahs in their windows.

The next day, one of Isaac's non-Jewish friends heard about what had happened. Isaac's friend drew a new menorah for Isaac, so that Isaac could put the drawing of the menorah in his newly fixed bedroom window.

This was a very beautiful gesture by Isaac's friend.

When a local Christian minister heard what happened, he asked all his Sunday School children to make paper-cutout menorahs in their art class and place them in their windows. Several other ministers and priests asked their members to do the same thing.

Five days later, the newspaper in Billings heard what had happened. The newspaper, The Billings Gazette, printed a story about the broken window and the paper-cut menorahs. To show its support and love for the Schnitzer's, the newspaper also printed a full page picture of a Hanukah menorah, for all the newspaper's readers to see.

And guess what happened?

Over 10,000 families that read the newspaper that day cut the picture of the menorah out, and taped it to their windows.

Now Isaac wasn't the only person with a picture of a menorah in his window. These families in Montana stood up to the bullies, saying "We don't want hate to exist in our town anymore. We will make our windows look just like the Schnitzer's windows. The bullies will get confused and move away."

A local high school, Central Catholic High, made a sign wishing the Jewish townspeople a "Happy Hanuka." A local United Methodist Church put a big menorah on its lawn. And a local sporting goods store put up a big sign supporting the Schnitzer family. Many other people came to the local synagogue that Shabbat to show their support for their Jewish friends and neighbors. On that evening the Big Sky state became the Big Heart state.

Although some bullies continued to break several other windows and sent people nasty letters, the residents of Billings learned that you have to stand up to bullies, and that if you all work together you can one day rid your town of people who are filled with hatred. -- Revised: July 1999
Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Acquired in August 1999.

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