Little Pennies with a Big Message

The teenagers from Beth El at North Shore Suburban Synagogue United Synagogue Youth, also know as BEANS USY, of Highland Park will participate in a ceremony this weekend that marks the end of a six year journey.

Since 2005 they have been collecting pennies with the goal of reaching 1.5 million, to represent the number of children who lost their lives during the Holocaust. On January 29th, they will be presenting these pennies to the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.

Most people first learn about the Holocaust in school, and it can be a difficult subject to connect with. In an effort to make the massive loss of life seem more tangible, and to commemorate it in a special way, BEANS USY came up with the idea to collect one penny for each child. They placed collection bins in the synagogue, schools and local businesses and encouraged people to pick up empty jars to fill. Finally, following a tea-party-by-mail fundraising effort that brought in 400,000 pennies, the project’s goal was realized.

Rick Hirschhaut, the Executive Director of the Illinois Holocaust Museum, commended the group, “the dedication of these inventive teenagers is truly inspiring. This was an ambitious project; for these young people to bring it to fruition is a testament to their unwavering commitment and unique power to make a difference.” The donation, which equals $15,000, will benefit the Museum’s educational programs, including the acclaimed Miller Family Youth Exhibition.

In addition to the presentation, the Museum will have docents to lead the 7th grade students, parents, and Beth El congregants on group tours of the various exhibits.

To learn more about the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, visit