2020 Chanukah Essay Contest

Maimonides Jewish Day School in Southwest Portland announces Oregon’s 4th annual Chanukah Essay Contest. Eric Kimmel, award-winning children’s author, penned this year’s question (immediately below), encouraging young Oregonians in third through eighth grades to put themselves in the shoes of the Maccabees – Jewish soldiers in antiquity who fought for their beliefs and ask how students today can lend strength to those in need.

The Festival of Lights celebrates how the Maccabees found the strength to overcome difficult obstacles their community faced. How can you help support your community of friends and family in today’s challenging times?

“These are challenging, scary times,” Kimmel says. “But difficult times also give us a chance to become better and stronger than we ever thought we could be. We do this by helping and supporting those around us. We become our better selves when we are helping others. That’s how our essay contest can help: Think about what you can do and share it with us.”

A panel of three judges unaffiliated with Maimonides will read each piece and select the two strongest, one from each grade category. Every year the number of participants goes up, and this year, communities in Washington state, Louisiana, and Georgia, have contacted Maimonides to replicate a Chanukah essay contest in their states.

“Challenges are opportunities,” Principal Rabbi Shneur Wilhelm said, reflecting on this year’s theme.

“Like an olive which when crushed reveals its deepest treasure,” Wilhelm continued, “the Jewish people have always taken challenges as an opportunity to reveal within each one our deepest treasures. I look forward to seeing the thought, depth and unique perspective of each child!”

The two student essay-contest winners each receive $200: $150 is a cash prize and the additional $50 is for the student to gift to the school of his or her choice. And each student gets to enjoy a lunch via Zoom with Kimmel and with Trudy Ludwig, an award-winning anti-bullying children’s author.

Ludwig said, “This contest is a wonderful opportunity for students to share how we all can make a difference in our communities by turning challenges into opportunities for positive change.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland is a stalwart contest supporter. Marc Blattner, JFGP executive director, said, “The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland is delighted to help sponsor the essay contest. We look forward to the wise words of our children as they help show us the path forward.”

Contest rules and details: 

  • Eligible students: All Oregon students in 3rd – 5th grade and 6th – 8th grade
  • Essay length: 150 words or less
  • Submission information: PortlandJewishSchool.com/Submit
  • Deadline: By 5 p.m., Tues., Dec. 1
  • One winner in each category announced: Sun., Dec. 7
  • Prizes: $200 cash prize; one signed book from both Trudy Ludwig and Eric Kimmel; and Zoom lunch with both authors on Sun., Dec. 13, from noon to 12:30 p.m.

Public reading of winning essays: Occurs the first night of Chanukah, Thurs., Dec. 10, at the annual Menorah lighting. Details forthcoming, closer to the event.

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