Play encourages students to promote remembrance

Published 12:50 am Saturday, October 24, 2009

While Jody White’s drama II class is busy preparing for its Nov. 5-7 production of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” the story behind the play has caught on with her students.

The study of the Holocaust during World War II, coupled with Demopolis’s own Jewish heritage, has led her students to begin a collection of pennies. The collected money will go towards the maintenance of the B’nai Jeshrun Cemetery, but each penny means so much more.

“When we started this play, we started collecting pennies of remembrance,” White said. “Children seem to think that pennies are disposable. I hear them talk about it all the time. One girl even told me she throws hers away.

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“We felt like that was a good symbol to represent the way that the Nazis felt about the Jews. So now, when the children bring me these pennies, they say, ‘I have four or five children for you!’ They see these pennies as people.

“It’s brought some awareness,” she said of the penny project. “We want to continue this project even after the play is over. Our goal is to get 60,000 pennies, one penny for every prisoner who was in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Lohheide, Germany.”

White said that she hoped that the publicity this project has will encourage other schools to participate.

“Schools can put up collection jars at their own schools,” she said. “Even businesses, if they want to take up pennies, they can get fliers from me at the high school and collect pennies and bring them here.”

There are collection jugs in White’s room and in the school library.

“We started thinking about what we could do with the pennies,” she said. “We talked to Mr. (John) Northcutt at Robertson Bank about what we could do with the pennies; they handle the account or the B’nai Jeshrun Cemetery. We’re going to give these pennies to the maintenance of the cemetery.”

White’s students got an inspirational talk from Bert Rosenbush, the last living member of Demopolis’s formerly expansive Jewish community.

“He came and spoke to our students and gave us all kinds of information about the Holocaust,” White said. “He also talked about the Jewish community that was, at one point in time, thriving in Demopolis, and that was wonderful! He was so gracious, and the kids really enjoyed speaking to him.”

White said that she plans to have the penny jars available at Demopolis High School football games so others can contribute in remembrance of the Holocaust.

If you have any pennies to spare, whether they are a few in your pocket or rolled-up pennies in a jar at home, make sure you donate to this worthwhile and educational cause.

Pennies do not have to be disposable. Use them to honor the memory of those who suffered in World War II as well as the heritage of our town.