The Town That Fought Hatred

A true story about an American town has become a play that teaches children about goodness and courage.

"On December 2, 1993, someone twisted by hate threw a brick through the window of the home of one of our neighbors: a Jewish family who chose to celebrate the holiday season by displaying a symbol of faith-a menorah-for all to see. Today, members of religious faiths throughout Billings are joining together to ask residents to display the menorah as a symbol of something else: our determination to live together in harmony, and our dedication to the principle of religious liberty embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. We urge all citizens to share in this message by displaying this menorah on a door or a window from now until Christmas. Let all the world know that the national hatred of a few cannot destroy what all of us in Billings, and in America, have worked together so long to build."

--Editorial, Billings Gazette, Dec. 1993

In a world filled with fear, how can young people learn courage? In a world filled with violence, how can young people learn peaceful solutions? In a world filled with religious and racial division, how can young people learn unity and cooperation?


Children learn in many ways: sometimes by example, sometimes by the power of a compelling story, and sometimes by the realization that human beings can be capable of extraordinary acts of courage and goodness.

All three elements came together in Billings, Montana, during the holiday season of 1993.

No one knew why it started, but 12 years ago the town of Billings began to be infiltrated by skinheads and members of racist groups. The tiny minority of Jews, African Americans, and mixed-race families who lived there were immediately targeted for acts of hate. Though the vast majority of residents were white and Christian, they chose to take a principled stand based upon their conviction that an act of hate toward one citizen was an act of hate toward all. Many individuals and groups rose up to respond. For example, the Billings Painters Union offered to repaint for free any houses or businesses that had been spray painted with racial or religious epithets. And members of churches with predominantly white congregations came to the African Methodist Episcopal Church to pray with black neighbors when menacing skinheads began to show up at church services.

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Janice I. Cohn
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