BILLINGS – It’s been 28 years since a series of hate crimes ripped across Billings, sparking the Not In Our Town movement.
A specific incident drew a lot of attention when a rock was thrown through a 5-year-old Jewish boy’s bedroom window where he was displaying a Hanukkah menorah.
What happened next was inspiring, with thousands of homes across the city displaying an image of a menorah in their windows.
Author Lee Wind of California was drawn to the community’s response, and he wanted a find a way to tell the story and the lessons that came with it to younger children.
He wrote the book “Red and Green and Blue and White”, and it was published this past October.
“My daughter was in 5th grade and they taught it in her school and I had a conversation with the librarian who was saying, it was such a shame that she couldn’t talk about it with the younger kids, like the kindergarten kids, because it was about a hate crime and they just didn’t know how to do that. And that got me thinking, how could you tell this story to little kids? How could you talk to them about standing up for yourself, standing up for someone you care about?”
Wind began researching and came across the editorial posted in the Billings Gazette with the image of the menorah and learned about the community’s response.
“When everyone stood up for the true meaning of community, that we want to celebrate differences, the haters back down and love won in your town,” Wind said during an interview via Skype on Thursday morning.
The book was illustrated by Paul Zelinsky, who won a Caldecott Medal in 1998, an award given out once a year to the artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States.
“He did a lot of visual research,” Wind said.
Throughout the book, you can find hints of Billings, like the Yellowstone River, the Billings Rimrocks and the refinery.
“You see this incredible vista of Billings with all these menorahs in all these homes that are also decorated for Christmas,” Wind said.
The common color schemes among the holiday decorations are what inspired the title for Wind’s book.
“The Christmas colors are red and green and the Hanukkah colors are blue and white, and really, red and green and blue and white, they’re stronger together.”
Although the incident happened years ago, there are lessons within Wind’s book that can be applied to this day.
“I wrote it for little kids because I want them to know, they don’t have to wait to be a grown-up to make our world a better place. Isaac, the little boy in the story, writes poems, and Teresa the little girl makes art. And Isaac stands up for himself through the poems, and Teresa stands up for her friend through the art. And we can all do that. The amazing thing is, the light that came from what you all did 28 years ago, continues to shine, continues to inspire, and now, every kid that reads this book, hopefully, will be empowered and inspired too, and I think that’s how we change the world, one heart at a time,” Wind said.