Suggested Uses

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 1993 holiday season, and each element is highlighted in the Paper Candles drama project. Time and again this story has inspired young people to apply its lessons to their own lives.

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Paper Candles may be presented as a full scale production, or portions of the play may be used by individual classes, community groups, houses of worship, and forums and workshops to focus on the following issues:

  • Understanding the importance of the bystander (or "upstander") when confronting bullying, intolerance, and evil in any form.

    Bullying and bigotry (whether subtle or direct, verbal or physical) can erode self esteem, deaden the soul, and put targeted young people at serious risk of depression. The role of the upstander in stopping and preventing this kind of behavior is a major focus of the play.

    From the award winning PBS Documentary "Not in Our Town"

  • Realizing that history matters, and that acts of courage — whether shown by individuals or united communities — can powerfully reverberate in ways no one can predict.

    Paper Candles
    focuses on acts of resistance to bullying, intolerance and (in the case of Denmark, during World War Two), genuine evil. In today's uncertain, dangerous world, it's crucial that young people know that hatred and violence can be fought, and that courage and goodness can triumph.

    2nd grade class in Jewish day school in Denmark, circa 1943.Unlike other countries in Nazi-occupied Europe, every child and teacher survived.

  • Acknowledging that we all must become involved in creating the kinds of communities we want to be a part of; in our schools, our neighborhoods, and our country.

    Paper Candles
    recounts the process by which a community came together and decided to take a principled stand against a group of haters and bullies who targeted only a tiny percentage of the town's population. The overwhelmingly white, Christian residents of Billings, who were not targeted, acted on behalf of their Jewish, African-American, and mixed race neighbors to make their town a better place to live for everyone.

    Volunteers from the Painters Union paint over racist graffiti on
    Dawn Fast Horses' home in Billings, Montana
    From the award winning PBS Documentary "Not in Our Town"

  • Remembering the true meaning of the holiday season

    Paper Candles embodies the true meaning of the holiday season for people of all faiths. In stark contrast, to the slick materialism which often pervades holiday events, Paper Candles powerfully conveys the duel messages of loving one's neighbor as one's self, and the necessity of standing up for religious freedom.

    Scenery from performance at Whitwell Middle School, Whitwell, Tennessee

    This production has consistently entranced young people, inspired them, and helped them to understand what the holiday season is ultimately meant to celebrate.


Learning and discussion tools include:

  • Script
  • Optional songs
  • Discussion guide
  • Billings background information
  • Interviews with characters in the play
  • Interview with Tove Bamberger, who was a Jewish child in Denmark, during World War Two



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