|Students at the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Cong. B’nai Israel religious school presented 10,000 new crayons to two Paterson public schools at a ceremony on Nov. 25. Participating in the ceremony were, front, from left, sixth-graders Rachel Toran, 11; Carly Krantz, 11; Samuel Flanzman, 12, and Brian Graziano, 11. In the back row, from left, are Rabbi Ronald Roth; Arlyne Berzak, guidance counselor at P.S. 24; Esther Mullin, crayon committee member; Flora Frank, founder of the project; Sharyn Krantz, religious school principal; Stacey Rosen, crayon committee member; and Frank Puglise, principal of P.S. 21. KEN HILFMAN|
Last year, Fair Lawn resident Flora Frank launched an effort to collect 1.5 million new and unused crayons in memory of the 1.5 million children killed during the Holocaust.
“Every child uses crayons. It’s a universal tool,” the retired teacher told The Jewish Standard at the project’s inception. “When you think of crayons, you think of kids, and I wanted to focus on kids. We’re urging people to remember the children, one crayon at a time.”
The project, under the auspices of the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Cong. B’nai Israel, has several goals, said Frank, calling it a “two-fold mitzvah” for the children of the shul’s religious school, who so far have been the main crayon contributors.
“Not only will it keep alive the memory of the children who died in the Shoah, but we will donate crayons to schools, day-care centers, and hospitals,” she said.
Last week, the crayon project reached an important milestone. With more than 70,000 crayons collected, the shul’s crayon committee – together with students in the religious school – began to distribute the crayons to public schools in Paterson, presenting 5,000 crayons each to P.S. 24 and P.S. 21.
“We’ve been creating a recipient list based on need and plan to give crayons to six other public schools as well,” said Frank. She pointed out that the project has already donated smaller amounts of crayons to fill backpacks as part of UJA Federation of North Jersey’s Supplies for Success project.
“This is a multifaceted project,” Frank continued, explaining that the venture was inspired by a viewing of “Paper Clips,” which documented the efforts of schoolchildren in Tennessee to collect millions of paper clips in memory of those killed in the Shoah.
“Besides honoring the children lost in the Holocaust, [the crayon project] adds an element of giving to other children in need,” she said.
Frank said that the synagogue is also creating a permanent memorial to the murdered children. Some of the crayons will be used in that as well, she said.
She pointed out that the project has now gone “statewide,” with schools all over New Jersey donating crayons as part of their Holocaust education curricula.
“We received numerous calls from educators after the  article in the Standard,” she said. Donations are also coming in from congregants who “love the idea.”
“It’s a monumental thing to do,” she added. “It’s hard to imagine what one and a half million will look like.”
The Nov. 25 crayon presentation was clearly a group effort. While Frank Puglise, principal of P.S. 21, and Arlyne Berzak, guidance counselor at P.S. 24, accepted crayons on behalf of their schools, Frank’s contingent included the synagogue’s Rabbi Ronald Roth and religious school principal Sharon Krantz, as well as members of the shul’s crayon project committee and children from the religious school.
According to Frank, everyone involved in the project is well aware that they have many more crayons to collect, underscoring “the enormity of the loss.”
Toward that end, Frank continues to speak to community groups about the project, seeking to stimulate additional interest.
“Those who can’t get out to shop can still donate money and we will buy new crayons,” she said.
For more information about the project, e-mail email@example.com. Crayons can be dropped off at the synagogue, 10-10 Norma Ave. If donations are large, pick-up can be arranged.