Not In Our Town: The Billings Story | Not in Our Town

Not In Our Town: The Billings Story

Grade Level: 
Middle School (6-8)
High School (9-12)



By Janice I. Cohn

Fighting Bullies        

The residents of Billings stood up to bullies despite the risks.

  1. Why did they do that?
  2. Do you think that would have happened without the help of people like Chief Inman and Margaret MacDonald?
  3. Do you think that would have happened if Tammie Schnitzer had not “gone public” with what happened to her family?

What were the risks these people took by taking a stand?

What can each of us do in our own lives if we must confront − or someone we know must confront − bullying?

  1. Would you attempt to help another person who is being bullied or treated badly? Why?
  2. What factors would affect your decisions?
  3. What would you want to do, and how would you want to do it?
  4. What would be helpful to you in these situations

Fighting Hatred And Intolerance

•    Do you think the events that happened in Billings could happen in any town? Why?

  1. Why do you think the haters chose groups like the Jews and African Americans to harass?
  2. If this kind of situation happened today, do you think they would target other groups? Why?
  3. What can each of us do to try to fight against intolerance?

Being A Good Friend

  1. What is your definition of being a good friend?
  2. Are there ever situations where it’s not possible to be a good friend?
  3. Why do you think Teresa wanted to support Isaac, even though there was risk to her and her family?
  4. Was there anything else that Teresa might have done?
  5. Were you ever in a situation where being a good friend posed a risk, or might have been too dangerous?

Learning From History: How Acts of Goodness and Courage Reverberate

  1. The Danes and the Germans made very different choices when their Jewish neighbors were threatened by the Nazis. Why do you think that was so?
  2. The Danes’ courageous efforts to save their Jewish neighbors took place over 70 years ago, in Europe. Why do you think the Danes’ actions were so inspiring to the citizens of Billings almost exactly 50 years later?
  3. Are there acts of courage, from the past, which have inspired you? What are they? How were you inspired?
  4. The Danes and the citizens of Billings had to make difficult choices in dangerous situations. What do you think influenced those choices?
  5. How do you make hard choices?

The Importance of Community

  1. What’s your definition of a community?
  2. How is a school a community? A class a community? A house of worship a community?
  3. Why is community so important?
  4. Margaret MacDonald once said that the harassment of the Jews, the African Americans, and other groups in Billings was not their problem, it was the town’s problem. What do you think she meant?
  5. Reverend Torney once said that there was nothing special about Billings; that people had simply been given an opportunity to show the basic decency and courage that almost all of us possess. Do you agree? .

The Creative Arts

•     How might you tell the story of Billings differently if you were writing your own book or article or play, or if you were creating a new dance or song(s).

Winston Churchill once said that courage is the virtue that makes all other virtues possible. The 20th anniversary of the events in Billings, this coming holiday season, will hopefully prompt people to reflect not only on the importance of courage, but on the true meaning of the holidays: celebrating religious freedom and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

To learn more about Janice Cohn’s play, Paper Candles, and the events in Billings and Denmark, log on to



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