In 1993, Billings, Montana was impacted by antisemitism and racism when white supremacists moved to the town. On the evening of December 2, 1993, someone threw a brick through the window of a 5-year-old Jewish boy, Isaac Schnitzer, who was displaying a menorah. After the Schitzer home was vandalized, and inspired by the story of the Danish Rescue, the Billings Gazette printed a picture of a menorah that many in the town placed in their own windows to show solidarity with the Jewish community. This act fighting against hate received enormous attention and has become an example of how to stand up against prejudice.
Margaret MacDonald, American activist and Montana State Senator from 2017 to 2021; Chuck Tooley, former Mayor of Billings; and Darrell Ehrlick, Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Montanan will be in conversation about the events of 1993 with Dr. Janice Cohn, psychotherapist and author of The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate.
Margaret MacDonald is an American activist who served as a member of the Montana Senate for the 26th district from 2017 to 2021. She previously served four terms in the Montana House of Representatives, representing the 54th and 51st district. She also served as Democratic minority whip in both chambers of the legislature. For 14 years, she was director of the Montana Association of Churches, among other actions organizing the “Not in Our Town” campaign against racism and white supremacy. She is currently the interim executive director of Big Sky 55+, which aims to inform Montanans about how their elected officials address policies of vital interest and importance.
Chuck Tooley was a city leader during the events of 1993 and introduced the city’s anti-hate resolution, which remains the only resolution in the city archives signed by all city council members. As mayor, Chuck appointed a Human Relations Commission for the purpose of promoting mutual understanding and respect for all. He retired undefeated as the longest-serving Mayor of Billings and was later appointed a Human Rights Commissioner for the State of Montana. Chuck is a U.S. Army veteran of the Cold War in Europe and the ground war in Vietnam. He has been President of Tooley Communications since he founded the company in 1984, and has served as a director on the boards of local, national, and international non-profit organizations. He speaks frequently on citizenship and leadership.
Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming. As the head of the Billings Gazette, Darrell chose to republish the menorahs in the paper on the anniversary of the Not in Our Town movement. He is also the author of the nonfiction book, It Happened in Minnesota.
Dr. Janice Cohn is a psychotherapist who specializes in helping adults and children cope with grief, loss, and life transitions, and the author of several highly acclaimed books. Dr. Cohn’s books have been cited for excellence by various educational organizations and have received critical praise from publications such as The New York Times Book Review, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly, among others. A former newspaper columnist and special consultant to the New Jersey family court system, Dr. Cohn learned of the 1993 events in Billings by reading about it in the New York Times. She then traveled to Montana to interview members of the community and research what happened, which led to her creation of the beloved book, The Christmas Menorahs, which was recently reissued in a 30th anniversary edition with expanded content. You can find out more at www.thechristmasmenorahs.com.
Live closed captions will be available.