OU Kosher Announces 2011 Nationwide Essay Contest Student Winners

05 May 2011


The Orthodox Union Kosher Division today announced that eight students coast-to-coast have been named winners of the 2011 OU Kosher Essay Contest for grades 7-12.

The winners are:

• Talia Weisberg, New York, NY — Manhattan High School for Girls, Grade 10; FIRST PLACE WINNER;

• Uriel Cohen, Mercer Island, WA — Mercer Island High School, Grade 11;

• Yoni Rabinovitch, Denver, CO — Yeshivat Sha’arei DAT High School, Grade 9;

• Samuel J. Maizlech, Pittsburgh, PA — Taylor Allderdice High School, Grade 10;

• Dalia Benscher, Brooklyn, NY — Manhattan High School for Girls, Grade 11;

• Golda Abramson Pritchard, Denver, CO — Yeshivat Sha’arei Torah DAT High School, Grade 9;

• Sabrina Cohen, Beverly Hills, CA — Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, Grade 8;

• Jack Winkler, Woodmere, NY — HAFTR Middle School, Grade 7.

In addition, Chani Mehlman, a student in Yeshiva of Greater Washington, Silver Spring, MD, Grade 12 , was recognized for her production of a DVD entitled “Meat Mysteries Revealed.”

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 170 Kosher Tidbits posted on OU Radio, 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 hundreds of submissions that were received from California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington State. There were so many quality submissions, according to Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran, Vice President of Marketing and Communications of OU Kosher, who coordinated the contest, that the number of prize winners was raised to eight.

All winners will receive $50 gift certificates from Eichlers.com, a leading Judaica website. The winning essays will be posted on 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 11, 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 www.oukosher.org where you will be enlightened about many facets of kashrut.”

Suggested topics included: “How Does Eating Kosher Enhance Your Jewish Identity?” “What Does the Kosher Symbol on the Label Mean to Me?” “Keeping Kosher: Why Can’t we Just Read the Ingredients?”and “How Someone Stranded in Montana Can Eat While Keeping Kosher.”

Judges included OU Kosher rabbinic coordinators Rabbis David Bistricer, Eliyahu W. Ferrell, Chaim Goldberg and Chaim Loike, as well as Rabbi Safran.

“As I was reading the essays I could not help but be impressed by the sincerity and eloquence of our youth,” declared Rabbi Ferrell. Rabbi Bistricer, another of the judges, concurred. “It was inspiring to read essays from middle and high school students, who all showed a deep connection to kosher and their Jewish identity.”

In a note to Rebbetzin Ruthy Assaf, principal of first place winner Talia Weisberg at Manhattan High School for Girls, Rabbi Safran wrote, “It was unanimously agreed by all the judges that Talia’s essay was undoubtedly the finest and most mature piece submitted from among the hundreds of beautiful essays received. “

Samuel Maizlech, of Pittsburgh, summed it up this way: “So eating kosher enhances my identity in ways I am not aware of but also in ways that clearly help make me a stronger and more faithful Jew.” Dalia Benscher concluded her winning essay writing: “So you see, kosher is not just a food style, but a life style.”

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