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Friday, December 8, 2023

The 30th Anniversary of the Christmas Menorahs in Billings, Montana

With the tensions following the Israel-Hamas War and the growing antisemitism that had begun even before it, my mind went back to an award winning book, The Christmas Menorahs, that came out in 1995.  I went looking to find more about this true story from Billings, Montana telling how that town in 1993 fought back when a rock was thrown through the bedroom window of a boy who had a menorah there.  

To my surprise, I find there is now an expanded 30th Anniversary Edition of the book.  I may mention sites here worth visiting, but try not to become a "commercial."  In this case I'm going to recommend it.

Both the Amazon ad (which only sells the paperback edition) and the Barnes and Noble ad (selling both hardback and paperback) tell about the expansion:

This expanded 30th anniversary edition includes additional material on the events in Billings, including interviews and a discussion guide, and invites us all to be upstanders in the face of injustice. At a time of division and incivility in our country, with the alarming rise of antisemitism and other forms of bigotry, true stories like The Christmas Menorahs are needed more than ever to show children and adults alike what our "better angels" can achieve.

Librarian that I still am, I had to look at reviews included.  Barnes and Noble includes  a 12 year old review from a teacher of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders and how the original book influenced those students.  Amazon reprints the original book's publisher reviews, but drop down to the customer reviews.  Right now at the start of all of them is one from 2016 titled "This one's close to home" by a reader who has a close tie saying "The boy in this book, Isaac, is the son of my pediatrician. Our families knew each other and only became closer after this incident. My grandparents sat on the human rights committee which convinced the Billings Gazette to print the page in question..."  The reviewer gives the book to someone every year and also said "This season, I think it's more important than ever."  Today's news only expands that 2016 opinion!  The reviewer goes on to tell how the incident was "instrumental in my choosing a career as a social worker."

In trying to find the publisher, Lechambon Press, I learned the name relates to "Le Chambon, the French Village That Saved Thousands of Jews" during Nazi occupation.

My own history goes back to growing up in suburban Saint Louis, Missouri's University City.  I well remember Rosie, who had a cafe next to my father's store.  Her tattooed arm was my first, but not my last encounter with the Holocaust.  How can anyone doubt it?  A more pleasant memory was Christmas caroling which meant checking windows first to see if there was a menorah

Yes, there are entirely too many innocent people on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides of the current war.  For those of us outside Israel, we watch increasing incidents of hatred create a spiral of hatred.  While the stated military response is to remove the terrorists, it is surely creating new people turning to terrorism.  I find it frightening looking back to a time not that long before I was born, as well as long before that the "holy war" era.  Such frightening hatred now appears to be growing again.

May the stories you tell help to bring peace -- around you and hopefully beyond!

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