The Orthodox Union Kosher Division today announced that 10 students coast to coast have been named winners of the Second Annual OU Kosher Essay Contest for grades 4-12.
The winners are:
· Alaina Haviv, Woodmere, NY – Hebrew Academy of Nassau County, Grade 7;
· Daniel E. Danesh, Brooklyn, NY – Yeshiva Ateret Torah, Grade 12;
· Dovid Tzvi Penfil, Lakewood, NJ – Lakewood Cheder School, Grade 4;
· Elana Trombka, Rockville, MD – Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy, Grade 10;
· Jacqueline Bryk, New York, NY – Ramaz High School, Grade 11;
· Marissa Young, Woodmere, NY – Hebrew Academy of Nassau County, Grade 8;
· Rivka Zinnes, Baltimore, MD – Bnos Yisroel, Grade 5;
· Tamara Elliott, Sacramento, CA – Shalom School, Grade 5;
· Tamar Levy, St. Louis, MO – Block Yeshiva High School, Grade 9;
· Yaela Goldblatt, Providence, RI – Providence Hebrew Day School, Grade 6.
In addition, Yaakov Holi, 10, a student of The Jewish Center for Special Education – Chush, in Brooklyn, NY, was given a special honorable mention for his submission, “My Favorite OU Nosh.”
The essay contest is a key component in 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 Kosher Tidbits posted on OU Radio, http://www.ouradio.org. Recently OU Kosher also distributed to schools across the country over 1,200 copies of its recently produced Kosher Kidz DVD, revealing in a kid-friendly way the ins and outs of kosher certification.
The winning essays were chosen from the hundreds of submissions that were received from California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington State in addition to Israel. There were so many quality submissions, according to Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran, OU Senior Rabbinic Coordinator and Vice President of Marketing and Communications of OU Kosher, who coordinated the contest, that the number of prize winners was doubled to ten.
They will receive $50 gift certificates from Eichlers.com, a leading Judaica website. The winning essays will be published on http://www.oukosher.org.
“The essay contest was devised to give school children 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 a letter sent to all the contestants together with the OU Kosher Video, Rabbi Safran wrote, “We are thrilled that you spent the time and efforts to think and write about kashrut. You undoubtedly realize that keeping kosher is one of Judaism’s most important observances, and that the more we learn and understand about all it takes to truly keep kosher, the more committed we become. That is one of OU Kosher’s goals and aspirations – helping students in all schools and yeshivas learn and appreciate the world of kashrut.”
This is what some of students had to say about the importance of keeping kosher:
· It’s compassion for others, including animals, that strengthens my desire to keep kosher. Our Torah forbids cruelty to animals.” — Alaina Haviv;
· “Kosher is not just something to eat, but it is one of the Jewish people’s ways to connect to Hashem, our Lord, King of the Universe!” — Rivka Zinnes;
· You cannot give up on your soul. It’s eternal.” — Daniel E. Danesh;
· “We must realize that food is not just a means of nourishment for our corporeal pleasures, but also, a means of enriching our spiritual life. We not only eat to live, we live to eat Kosher.” — Jacqueline Bryk;
· “Jews have been keeping kosher since we all gathered at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah and kashrut has continued to link Jewish people together ever since.” — Elana Trombka.
Suggested topics included: Describing your favorite OU certified candy, snack, food or drink; how eating kosher makes you feel better about being Jewish; writing a letter to a non-observant friend about keeping kosher; describing the kosher experience of walking the supermarket aisle; and how someone stranded in Montana can eat while keeping kosher.
Judges included OU Kosher rabbinic coordinators Rabbis David Bistricer, Eliyahu Ferrell, Chaim Goldberg and Chaim Loike, as well as Rabbi Safran.
“I was impressed by the maturity of the essays, even with the younger grades,” declared Rabbi Bistricer. “Reading the essays gave me chizuk (strength) and reinforced my feelings of responsibility to the community. The children and their families are our constituents.”
Rabbi Goldberg was particularly impressed by the submissions from the girls at Nefesh Academy in Brooklyn, NY, a kiruv (outreach) yeshiva for Russian immigrant girls, who are learning to live Torah lives in the United States. “I was personally touched by some of the essays from Nefesh Academy, and particularly the struggles and sacrifices that kosher has brought them, as well as their connection to Orthodox Judaism through kosher food,” Rabbi Goldberg said.
“A gift we got from Hashem is this awesome thing called kosher,” wrote Adina Shalomova, and eighth grader from the school. “I feel closer to Hashem when I eat kosher,” wrote Sabina Sasunova, a seventh grader. “Now I feel closer to Hashem and I am proud of myself that I keep kosher.”