2019 Chanukah Essay Contest

Maimonides Jewish Day School in Southwest Portland presents Oregon’s 3rd annual Chanukah Essay Contest. Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford’s question encourages young Oregonians in third through eighth grades to reflect upon the power of their own words.

How can I use words to be a helpful person, or a good citizen, or a friend to the earth?

A panel of four judges unaffiliated with Maimonides will read each piece and select the two strongest, one from each grade category.

“G-d created the world with his words,” Principal Rabbi Shneur Wilhelm says, reflecting on this year’s theme and how important it is.

“G-d continues to create with his words, today and beyond,” Wilhelm continues. “That notion is powerful, and words are powerful. People can use words for the good, and we want to empower our children to recognize they have words at their disposal and can use them for good and to effect positive change.”

The two student essay-contest winners will each receive $200: $150 is a cash prize, and the additional $50 is for the student to gift the school of his or her choice. Also, each student gets to enjoy lunch hosted at Maimonides with award-winning children’s book author and contest judge Eric Kimmel. The students can invite a teacher of his or her choice to join in the festive meal.

Kimmel says, “Our Chanukah Essay Contest this year is about words. We often don’t pay attention to how important and powerful words are. Words can wound. Words can heal. Words can tear people down or raise them up. Words can hide the truth or uncover it and force us to take notice.”

The award-winning, Jewish-American author adds, “I’m looking forward to having lunch with the winning students and a teacher of their choice. Our contest is about words, so we’ll certainly have a lot to talk about.”

“The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland is excited to partner once again in this year’s essay contest,” says Marc Blattner, JFGP executive director. “We look forward to the creative and inspiring essays from our students that will help show the importance of words and how they matter.”

Contest rules and details: 

  • Eligible students: All Oregon students in third-fifth grade and sixth-eighth grade
  • Essay length: 150 words or less
  • Submission information: Email to Office@PortlandJewishSchool.com with “Chanukah Essay Contest 2019” in the subject header. Please include the student’s name, age, grade, and the school’s name and phone number.
  • Deadline: By 5 pm, Thurs., Dec. 12
  • One winner in each category announced: Mon., Dec. 16
  • A public reading of winning essays: At the annual Menorah Lighting in Director Park, Sun., Dec. 22.



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