Chanukah Essay winners announced

Maimonides Jewish Day School in Southwest Portland announced the two winners of Oregon’s 3rd annual Chanukah Essay Contest. Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford provided the guiding question that inspired nearly 50 students from nine schools – more than twice as many as last year – to vie for meaningful words and prizes.

The students – in grades 3rd through 5th, and 6th through 8th – put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to consider in 150 words or less: 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 read each piece and selected the two strongest, one from each grade category.

The winners are Akiva Rose, 9, a 4th-grade Portland Jewish Academy student, and Yehudis Rivkin, 11, a 6th grader at Maimonides Jewish Day School. Akiva and Yehudis’ eye-catching essays appear below.

Bonni Goldberg, a contest judge, said, “It gives me a renewed sense of hope to see the passion for environmental and social justice woven into the essays, hearts, and minds of our youth.”

Rabbi Shneur Wilhelm, principal of Maimonides Jewish Day School that launched the annual contest three year ago, said that each individual essay is meaningful, and, “My hope is that this thinking and writing exercise empowers students to realize their innate abilities and gifts, both to share with and illuminate the world.”

To cap off the contest and formally congratulate the two winners, the selected students will read from their essays in Director Park, Sun., Dec. 22, at the annual Menorah Lighting event on the first night of the eight-day celebration of Chanukah.

In addition, Akiva and Yehudis each will receive $200, $150 of which is a cash prize, and the additional $50 is for the students to gift to the school of their choice. Akiva and Yehudis also get 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.

“The hard part of being a judge,” Kimmel said, “is having to choose between so many excellent entries. I think all who participated are winners.”

Marc Blattner, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland that helped support the annual contest, said, “What a delight to read so many wonderful essays about how to make our world a better place. The innocent thoughts of our children are shining examples of how we can better ourselves, others, and our planet.”

This year’s students came from the following schools: Jacob Wismer Elementary School, Le Monde French Immersion Public School, Maayan Torah Day School, Maimonides Jewish Day School, Mary Rieke Elementary School, Montclair Elementary School, Portland Jewish Academy, St. Ignatius School, and Yujin Gakuen Japanese Immersion School.

Akiva Rose, 9, 4th grade, Portland Jewish Academy

How can I use words to be a good citizen?

I can be a good citizen by protesting against not letting immigrants into the border, and I can teach young kids math and geometry and also more serious subjects like racism. I can also be a good citizen by writing letters to politicians to help them make the right decisions. A few examples of just how powerful words can be, are the Torah, the Declaration of Independence and all the influential books that have ever existed are all made up of words. Some other ways I can be a helpful citizen are: encouraging what is right, protesting what is wrong, and reminding people that words are some of our most powerful aspects. Words might as well be the most amazing and useful things all of us possess.

Yehudis Rivkin, 11, 6th grade, Maimonides Jewish Day School

They were all looking on me; my 3 neighbors on the block, whom I called to share an idea.

“What does the color green bring to your mind?” I asked. “Dollars,” said my businessman neighbor. “Chalkboard,” said my teacher neighbor. “Cold Sprite.” said my teenager neighbor.

Then it was my turn… “Green are trees, green is nature, green is a constant reminder that we have to keep earth safe to insure healthy life on our planet.”

“So,” I told them, “let’s make sure we use all the green in a green way.”

Use your dollars to buy products that are earth-friendly. Use your chalkboard to educate students about the importance of trees to the air quality, and put your empty Sprite bottles in the recycle bin…

Green. One word one world.

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