The Orthodox Union’s Kosher Division today announced the winners of the First Annual OU Kosher Essay Contest for grades 4-12. The winners are Chevie Pahmer and Hadassah Goldman of Clifton, New Jersey; Sarah Sanfield and Abby Sanfield of Torrance, California in Los Angeles County; Chaya Meth of Baltimore, Maryland; and Zachary Weiner of New York City. The winners will have their essays published online at www.oukosher.org and will receive a $50 gift certificate to Eichlers.com, a Judaica website.
According to Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran, Senior Rabbinic Coordinator and Vice President of Communications and Marketing at OU Kosher, the contest is another in an ever-expanding series of programs of OU Kosher to bring kashrut education to the broader Jewish community at all levels — from children to senior rabbis. “This is a very significant part of our mission,” he explained.
Programs include OU Kosher Coming to School, through which OU Kosher rabbis have visited more than 100 schools to date; OU Kosher Coming to a Synagogue Near You, a similar program for shuls; as well as an ever-expanding range of programs on OURadio.org, in which OU experts provide instruction on a wide variety of kosher topics to world-wide audiences via the ever-popular Kosher Tidbits sessions. Now comes the essay contest.
“The essay contest was devised to give school children an opportunity to think deeply about how keeping kosher affects their lives and in some cases to let their imaginations create situations in which for some reason there were obstacles in the way of kosher observance,” declared Rabbi Safran. “The results were extraordinary,” he said.
In a letter to all of the participants, Rabbi Safran wrote, “We are proud that you have invested time, effort and thought to commit to writing about kashrut and all that it means to your Jewish identity and Torah observance. We wish for your continued success in your Torah learning and kashrut observance.” Rabbi Safran was one of the judges of the contest along with OU Kosher Rabbinic Coordinators Rabbis Eliyahu Ferrell, David Bistricer and Chaim Goldberg.
Chevie Pahmer, a seventh grader at YBH of Passaic-Hillel, wrote an eloquent story about an imaginary RV trip across America gone amuck. “At home I just walked into our local kosher store and grabbed whatever I wanted from the shelves…I never realized how one simple thing, like the letters O and U saved me hours on shopping outings.”
Hadassah Goldman, an eighth grader, also at YBH of Passaic Hillel, wrote an essay entitled, “Kosher: More than Just a Way of Eating” on the spiritual benefits of eating a kosher diet. “It purifies our soul and it connects us to our creator and master, Hashem.”
“The Pot,” by Sarah Sanfield a fifth grader at Maimonides Torah Academy in Lomita, California is a moving story about a mother’s last wish, which was for her daughter to take a pot with her when she moves to an orphanage. “Why do you keep kosher?” her stepsister Rachel asks. “Because the Torah says so,” Anya replies.
Abby Sanfield, a seventh grader, also at Maimonides Torah Academy, wrote an engaging fictional story, “Kamp Kosher,” about a young girl who goes to a Jewish summer camp, changes her name from Becca to Rivka, learns the laws of kosher, and convinces her father to make his restaurant kosher. After initially refusing to do so, her father replies, “I thought about what you said and I am going to switch over to kosher…I’m doing it for the community.”
Chaya Meth, a seventh grader at Bais Yaakov of Baltimore, wrote “The Turning Point for Janet,” an intricate story about a Torah observant girl who convinces her friend Janet to return to her religious roots. “Keeping kosher is the sign of the Jews…It keeps our souls pure—because eating treif food is like damaging the soul.”
Zachary Weiner, a seventh grader at Manhattan Day School wrote, “To Eat or Not to Eat—That is the Question,” an imaginative story about a young boy’s experience with his decision to eat only kosher when other delicious alternatives are available. “I didn’t even think about the larger non-kosher candy bar. It wasn’t for me.”
All of the essay contestants received a copy of an OU Kosher DVD to better understand what it takes to produce OU Kosher products. The OU plans to repeat the contest next year because of the quantity and quality of the responses received.