t’s the second generation of “Paper Clips.”
A decade after the project conducted by middle school students in rural Tennessee to collect six million paper clips — in memory of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust — caught the public’s attention and became the subject of a 2004 documentary, several Jewish institutions are conducting their own collection drives.
This time, it’s crayons and buttons.
This time, it’s for the 1.5 million Jewish children who perished in the Shoah.
The collections, organizers say, make it possible to imagine numbers in the millions.
The Fair Lawn Jewish Center (www.fljc.com), a New Jersey congregation, is collecting 1.5 million unused crayons; most will be donated to area schools and hospitals; the rest will be used in a Holocaust memorial
Crayons are “a universal tool for all children,” says Flora Frank, a retired teacher who initiated the Fair Lawn project, which has the support of the state’s public school system. “Each crayon is different. Each crayon represents a child who was murdered.”
So far, the synagogue has collected more than 100,000 crayons. “And it’s still going strong,” Frank says. “There’s no deadline.”
A similar crayon campaign is under way at Congregation Temple Israel in Creve Coeur, Mo.
At least three Jewish schools — including two in New Zealand, and one in Efrat, Israel — are collecting 1.5 million buttons instead of crayons.
Such collection drives in memory of Shoah victims “make sense — the general public loved the movie,” says Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum. “It gives people a mode of visualizing the magnitude of what happened.”
The latest drives focus on the youngest victims, he says, because “children can grasp [what happened to] other children. It’s children doing it for children.” And, Berenbaum adds, collecting 1.5 million of anything is easier than collecting six million.
A recent Holocaust Memorial Button Project under the auspices of the Jewish Federation of Peoria, Ill., reached its more ambitious goal – 11 million buttons, memorializing the Jewish victims of the Third Reich and the estimated five million “enemies of the state murdered during the Holocaust.”
Fair Lawn’s Crayon Project teaches religious school students “hands-on” tzedakah, Frank says. Even students in the lower grades “know they’re collecting for other children, who need crayons.”
Last month her project donated some crayons to five public schools in three New Jersey counties. “They really need the crayons,” she says. “Parents don’t have the money to buy supplies for their children. The children are delighted to get the crayons.”
The Fair Lawn Jewish Center’s address is 10-10 Norma Ave., Fair Lawn, NJ 07410.