HELENA — The Montana Jewish Project is preparing education materials to send out to participating schools throughout Montana, a curriculum focused on putting a stop to hate and bullying of all kinds.
“The discussion leads kids to think about, you know, how would you feel if you were bullied, not just because of your religion, but possibly the color of your skin, your tribal affiliation, the economic status of your family. And I think more importantly, it asks what happens if, as a community, as a classroom, if that's happening, and we stand by and we're silent,” says Co-Founder and President of the Board of the Montana Jewish Project, Rebecca Stanfel.
Thirty years ago, the city of Billings was facing a series of hate activities that targeted Native Americans, African Americans, and Jewish folks. It came to a head when a brick was thrown through a Jewish family’s window. The Billings Gazette sent out paper Menorahs for Jewish and non-Jewish folks alike to put in their windows to show solidarity and fight against hate.
Out of this series of events came the book The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate, which follows the story of Isaac, a Jewish child who experiences the hate and antisemitism in Billings. It goes on to chronicle the resolve of the community to fight back against hate.
In response to this book, the crimes of 30 years ago, and continued bullying, hate, and rising antisemitism, Stanfel began an education project last year.
This project works with 50 classrooms of primarily 4th graders throughout the state. Teachers volunteer to receive materials and curricula that educate students on the Jewish holiday of Hannukah and the Jewish people themselves. The curriculum uses The Christmas Menorahs as a jumping-off point to teach them about such subjects as Hannukah and a dreidel game.
A volunteer who creates curriculum for the state volunteers to create this educational material.
Most importantly, Stanfel says, these materials and this project aim to put a stop to bullying and hate of all kinds, no matter a person’s background, creed, or home.
“The discussion in the lesson plan is intended to facilitate discussion around having kids think about how they would feel if someone bullied them or made fun of them or threatened them based on their religion, whether that's Judaism or a type of Christianity or Islam, whether it's because of the color of their skin, tribal affiliation, economic status, any issue at all. It's really focused on targeting and pushing back against hate, but hopefully in a way that's inclusive and is a fun learning experience and can teach them kindness,” says Stanfel.