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A Million Pennies for Your Thoughts

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Monday, March 7, 2022 @ 10:05 AM A Million Pennies for Your Thoughts ATTENTION: Major social media outlets are finding ways to block the conservative/evangelical viewpoint. Click here for daily electronic delivery of The Stand's Daily Digest - the day's top blogs from AFA.

Lauren Bragg Stand Writer MORE

(Editor's Note: This article was first published in the January/February 2022 print edition of The Stand.)

“[As] I said in the first place, pennies are worthless,” Tori stated matter-of-factly. “You can’t buy anything with a penny.”

“Perhaps you are right, Tori,” said Ms. Wainwright softly with a hint of sadness. “But if that’s the case, if pennies are simply worthless, then what does that say about the value of each child murdered in the Holocaust? Were they worthless as well?”

— From Rose and Odette

In Book 1 of the Priceless Pennies series, Joy Lucius’ novel Rose and Odette –Unknown Children of the Holocaust depicts seventh-grade teacher Ms. Wainwright introducing her chatty Cathy class to the Pennies Project as an interactive way to educate them on the somber and horrific happenings of the Holocaust.

The class project immediately interests several of Wainwright’s students, but Tori Austin remains skeptical and aloof. However, she soon discovers that her family’s current problems shrink in comparison to those of Rose Aboulafia – the assigned subject of her Pennies Project.

The mission

In 2009, the original Pennies Project began as a real-life discussion among real-life students and their teachers, Susan Powell and Melissa Swartz Wheeler in Mississippi. Soon, the discussion was moved to action. A penny collected for each of the 1.5 million children who lost their lives during the Holocaust – that was the mission.

Fast-forward three and a half years and over 8,000 pounds of pennies later, the students reached their goal and inspired the beginning of the Unknown Child Foundation (UCF). Then came the question What now?

The answer: UCF defined its focus “for the purpose of creating a children’s Holocaust memorial.” And that’s exactly what the nine-member board set out to do.

The memorial

Located in Hernando, Mississippi, the exhibit showcases 36,000 pennies (only 2% of the 1.5 million collected) as a dramatic backdrop for the sobering sculpture commissioned by the board. Created by Rick Wienecke, the sculpture portrays the frail body of a small Jewish child leaned against an exact scale replica of a crematorium oven door at Auschwitz.

The child, in his last moments, is shown reaching through the closed door in an attempt to grasp hold of any bit of comfort and security his feeble hand could find. On the other side, his fingers meet a small mound of dirt and gravel, which is said to represent Israel. The stark contrast between the two scenes invokes a sense of overwhelming and humbling reverence.

It was this same reverence, along with clear confirmation from the Lord, that drew Lucius in close to the heart of the story and made way for the birth of Rose and Odette.

“I began to research the children who were murdered in the Holocaust,” Lucius remembered in an interview with AFR’s John Riley, “I read for hours, and I looked at dozens of photographs, but I kept coming back to this one particular image of a pair of beautiful dark-haired, dark eyed sisters from Paris, France.

“Something about them stuck in my heart,” Lucius went on. “So, I printed off their picture and stuck it in my purse.” Little did Lucius know the adventure she was about to begin with these girls.

Because of the author’s obedience to the voice of God to tell the story of Rose and Odette Aboulafia, the door has further opened for young people to get involved with Holocaust remembrance.

The student

Audrey Snyder is a sixth-grader in Texas. Her attention turned to the Aboulafia sisters when her mother introduced her to an article from The Stand (afajournal.org, 1-2/21).

“Last year, my mom brought in an article about how [Mrs. Joy] was going to write the book,” Snyder recalled, “and I just decided that I was going to have to read it when it came out.”

Snyder already held a sparked interest in the Holocaust and surrounding events. So she quickly became completely invested in the story of the two sets of sisters – the Aboulafia sisters and the fictional Austin sisters – “connected across time,” as she put it so well in her presentation.

The ambitious young student worked diligently for weeks, not only reading Rose and Odette, but also researching other unknown children of the Holocaust. For her report, she constructed Star of David patches to commemorate those worn by Jewish men, women, and children at the time of Nazi rule.

“I decided on a slideshow,” said Snyder, “and I made handouts. Each one was a Star of David with the name of a child that died, the year they were born, and where they were from. I also played somber music in the background as well as read an email I received from Mrs. Lucius.”

According to Snyder’s mother, Lisa, who doubles as her English language arts teacher, “a hush fell over the room,” as the students read from a Star of David the name and age of each child who died.

“I think it really hit home for a lot of the students as they realized these children were their age,” Lisa commented. “They began to ask questions about the children and how they died, which was a great way to open up the floor for discussion.”

Snyder went on to dedicate her project to God and to “thank [Him] for all that He has done and all that He is doing for me.”

The blessings

All because Joy Lucius was faithful to the calling she felt tugging on her heart from heaven, readers from across the country and beyond are able to catch a glimpse into the lives of the once forgotten, once silenced children of the Holocaust.

“From start to finish,” Lucius admitted, “this writing project has been a miraculous journey. Along the way, everyone, including me, who has been introduced to these two precious girls has fallen in love with them.

“They captured my heart and changed me for the better. Because of one faded, internet photograph and a divine connection at the Unknown Child Memorial, I will forever be connected to Rose and Odette Aboulafia.”

“The divine connection must be the thing that we take with us from this lesson,” Ms. Wainwright urged her students. “We must always remember and never forget that the children we researched were real, and they were priceless, very precious. Their lives mattered. And they were not unknown. No! They were known and loved by God, by their families, and now by us.

“And that, my priceless students, is the lesson we must be brave enough to learn, remember, and to share.”

— From Rose and Odette

In the words of Ms. Wainwright, everyone should be challenged to find that same divine connection with unknown children of the Holocaust.

Remember. Share. Be a voice for the voiceless. 

 

Find more insights

“The nation is like a mighty lion; When it is sleeping, no one dares wake it. Whoever blesses Israel will be blessed, And whoever curses Israel will be cursed.”
Numbers 24:9 (GNT)

 Rose and Odette – Unknown Children of the Holocaust is available at resources.afa.net.

 Learn more about the Unknown Child Foundation at unknownchild.org.

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