Pennies from heaven? Pennies for heaven!
That’s the premise of remembrance utilized by Jenna Steinbrink, the Ambler/Maple Glen teenager in the process of collecting six million pennies to commemorate the Six Million Jewish Martyrs of the Holocaust. It is a way, the Mitzvah Hero says, to count her blessings. And it has been a long count. “I started Millions to Remember about a year and a half before my Bat Mitzvah,” recalls the 17-year-old daughter of Susan and David Steinbrink and older sister to Annie.
“Being a naive 12-year-old, I anticipated I would reach my goal around the time of my Bat Mitzvah” at Congregation Beth Or in Maple Glen. “Boy, was I wrong!”
“Some people look at my accomplishments as ‘only’ one million,” she says of how much she has raised since the start. “However, I look at it differently. Not only have I raised a whopping one million pennies, I have also educated my community about the Holocaust and the importance of tolerance.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center — which operates the Museum of Tolerance in New York — saluted the teen at her Bat Mitzvah with its Scroll of Honor.
If her penny cache is a copper twist on the paper clip collection accumulated by those famous students in Whitwell, Tenn. — whose efforts to collect six million paper clips to commemorate the Holocaust victims was the focus of a movie — it is no surprise that Jenna counts Sandra Roberts, the teacher who got that project going, as one of her role models in life. She is proud to note that “I have met her multiple times.”
She is also proud to have met Holocaust author/Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and Ellen Stern, the Wiesel biographer and a hidden child of the Holocaust, whom Jenna interviewed for a school project and ultimately inspired her to start accumulating pennies for humanity.
Then there were others who thought the project was more insipid than inspired. “At the start, there were people who told me my goal was unattainable and some friends thought it was ‘uncool,’ ” relates Jenna, a student at Upper Dublin High School. But she has felt the love from family. “My immediate family puts all their change in the penny cans, which I have strategically placed all over the house,” she says.
The project has produced a surfeit of surprises, like “receiving 30 years worth of pennies saved by a Catholic man.”
“At times she has gotten discouraged,” her dad says of the times “when many of her letters to philanthropists and local business leaders have gone unanswered, but she has continued to persevere.“We could not be more proud of her.”