TIFTY collects crayons to remember children who perished in the Holocaust


Currently there are over 437,000 new crayons being stored at Temple Israel and that number is increasing regularly. Temple Israel Federation Temple Youth (TIFTY) members have been collecting new boxes of crayons for almost a year. Their goal: to collect 1.5 million crayons to commemorate the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust.

The idea came to TIFTY group advisors Jennifer Patchin and Debbie Schultz when they visited the Peoria Holocaust Memorial Button Project on display at The Shoppes at Grand Prairie in Peoria during a National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) regional conference. The community-wide project was supported by the Jewish Federation of Peoria to remember the 11 million people who died during the Holocaust and remind individuals the results of prejudice, hatred and intolerance.

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“We thought it would be neat to have a similar memorial for children who died during the Holocaust using crayons,” Schultz said.

The teens immediately latched on to the idea when Patchin and Schultz brought their thoughts to the youth group. TIFTY president Josh Scharff said the reaction of the members was very positive and everyone jumped on board right away.

“We had seen other projects teens had done to remember the victims of the Holocaust,” Scharff said. “We knew we had an original idea with collecting new crayons and being able to give back to the community.”

“It is our way of not just remembering the past, but doing something to change the future at the same time,” Patchin said.

Ten percent of the crayons will be used to create a permanent memorial which will also feature artwork of the children of the Holocaust. The remaining crayons will be donated to area schools with an original coloring book created by TIFTY members to teach about tolerance.

“I hope it will serve as a reminder of what happened but also as a reminder of what is going on now in places like Darfur,” crayon campaign chair Molly Finn said in the group’s press release. “Promoting diversity is important, and people need to know that it’s not okay to hate.”

The group kicked off their crayon campaign on Yom HaShoah 2007 with a goal to finish by the following Yom HaShoah. Unfortunately, their efforts to make it a community-wide project did not go as planned. They have had some sporadic support from different youth groups and schools. They also received some crayons from schools visiting the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center.

“Truthfully, we are not really on track,” Patchin said.

Scharff agreed it will be a stretch to complete the project before Yom HaShoah.

“You never understand how unfathomable the number 1.5 million is, until you try to collect something to reach that number,” Scharff said.

The project has proved more daunting then the members expected.

“This project physically helps us to display the enormity of the loss of lives and teaches the importance of tolerance,” TIFTY Religious and Cultural Vice-President Jodi Lapidus said. “The Holocaust is obviously a big part of our heritage and it is important to learn about it.”

Matt Silies is the immediate past president of TIFTY and said the crayon campaign is the largest special project the group has taken on in the four years since he has been a member.

“It is an all encompassing project,” Silies said. “It mixes religious and social action: teaching tolerance hits home, we are doing tikuun olam by making the world a better place with the coloring books and we are doing social/community action by encouraging the entire community — Jewish and non-Jewish — to participate.”

TIFTY member Lauren Kalina sits on the NFTY–Missouri Valley regional board as their special projects coordinator. The entire region supports Camp Rainbow as their special project on an annual basis.

“It really goes above and beyond for our chapter to take on this added special project,” Kalina said. “I am really proud of what we’ve done. It is a great cause and we are raising awareness by donating the crayons and coloring books to combat hatred, anti-Semitism and teach the importance of getting along.”

The students are still hoping to dedicate their memorial which will be housed at Temple Israel on May 3. They decided to try and raise $5,000 which is what is needed to purchase the rest of the crayons. Their two last fundraising events to achieve that goal are coming up in April. On April 29, the California Pizza Kitchen in Creve Coeur will donate a portion of their sales that evening to the project. Diners will need to bring in a flyer found on the crayon campaign website at www.crayons.tifty.org for the group to get credit. The really big event it is the upcoming trivia night on April 12.

The trivia night is being held at Temple Israel. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 that evening. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. with the trivia beginning at 7 p.m. TIFTY is providing soft drinks, tea and coffee. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own food and drink as well. Tim Gilbert of 103.3 KLOU will emcee for the evening which will also include raffle items and bonus games.

The teens have made it easier for families with younger children to join in the fun by hiring certified babysitters for the evening. The cost will be $10 per child for the evening and reservations for the sitters must be received by April 10.

TIFTY is still accepting donations of new boxes of crayons for the crayon campaign. For reservations and additional information call 314-432-8050 ext. 239 or visit www.crayons.tifty.org.