May 7, 2012
The Orthodox Union Kosher Division today announced that four students have been named winners of the 2012 OU Kosher Essay Contest for grades 7-12.
The winners are:
• Michelle Natanova, Queens, NY — Yeshivat Ohr Haiim, Richmond Hill, NY, Grade 8
Read Michelle’s essay here
• Zev Kraut, Pittsburgh, PA — Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh, Grade 9
Read Zev’s essay here
• Shmuel Michaels, Greenwood Village, CO — Yeshivat Sha’arei DAT High School, Grade 9
Read Shmuel’s essay here
• Hannah Kark, Denver, CO — Yeshivat Sha’arei DAT High School, Grade 9
Read Hannah’s essay here
The essay contest is one aspect of OU Kosher’s educational outreach to schools, which includes visits by OU Kosher rabbis to yeshivot and day schools across the country (OU Kosher Coming), as well as the growing collection of over 185 Kosher Tidbits posted on OU Radio, http://www.ouradio.org. OU Kosher’s series of six educational DVDs have been integrated into the study of Jewish law and practice in many yeshivas and schools throughout the world.
The winning essays were chosen from the many submissions that were received from California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Washington State. There were many quality submissions, according to Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran, Vice President of Marketing and Communications of OU Kosher, who coordinated the contest.
Suggested topics included: “Why I Enjoy Keeping Kosher?” “I Personally Identify With Kosher because…” “How Does Eating Kosher Enhance Your Jewish Identity?” “What Does the Kosher Symbol on the Label Mean to Me?”
All winners will receive $50 gift certificates from Eichlers.com, a leading Judaica website. The winning essays will be posted on http://www.oukosher.org.
“The essay contest was devised to give students an opportunity to think deeply about how keeping kosher affects their lives and serves as a core of Jewish living. Many of the essays were inspirational for those of us who read and evaluated them. It was gratifying to have OU Kosher motivate hundreds of students to think in sophisticated terms about what and how they eat,” declared Rabbi Safran.
In an email sent to all the contestants on April 23, Rabbi Safran wrote, “We were proud to receive your essay, and even prouder that you took the time and made the effort to participate. We very much hope that the experience of researching and writing the essay about kashrut, one of the foundations of Judaism, was meaningful for you. If you have time, you may want to visit http://www.oukosher.org where you will be enlightened about very many facets of kashrut.”
Judges included OU Kosher rabbinic coordinators Rabbis David Bistricer, Eliyahu W. Ferrell, Chaim Goldberg and Chaim Loike, as well as Rabbi Safran.
“It is particularly gratifying to see many young Jewish students year after year, who are so thoughtful and articulate,” declared Rabbi Ferrell. Rabbi Bistricer, another of the judges, concurred. “It’s inspiring to review essays from all across the country and see the depth and appreciation each of these students have for kosher.” Rabbi Goldberg related reading the students’ essays to his own work at OU Kosher, the world’s most respected kosher certification agency. “Seeing the sincerity of these students’ dedication to kosher, and how the laws of kashrut touch their lives so intimately, is a source of inspiration to those of us in the OU office assisting them to make it happen. That is why we do what we do,” Rabbi Goldberg declared.
In a note to Rabbi Leib Zalesch, rebbi of Yeshivat Sha’arei DAT High School’s freshman class, who described his year-long curriculum “examining all facets of kashrut, encountering both the theory and background of these critical halachot, as well as their logical application to practical, real life situations,” Rabbi Safran wrote, “You are to be commended for the thorough, relevant, challenging and inspirational kashrut curriculum you have established in your school, as evidenced by all of your students’ meaningful and thoughtful essays. We are doubly proud that your students are winners for the second year in a row.”
Hannah Kark, of Denver, summed it up this way: “This kosher symbol means so much more than just some random health approval; it is more than just a letter. This symbol means family, home and passion. This one word or letter or picture connects me to a child in China who lights candles on Friday night, or to my homeland in Israel, or to my rich heritage and my leaders who have inspired me to be who I am today…”