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Oregon Chanukah Essay Contest 2017 


Click Below to watch Yossi Wilhelm  (3rd-4th grade winner) and Sivan Safra, (5th-6th grade winner) read there essays. 


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 Light is a central theme in kids’ essays about the meaning of Chanukah

Nearly 50 students participate in first-ever Chanukah essay contest in Oregon

 Chanukah — often called the Festival of Lights — kicks off tomorrow night and dozens of Portland students recently put pen to paper to reflect on the meaning of the eight-day holiday. Light was a key theme in many of the nearly 50 essays submitted by third- through sixth-graders in a first-ever essay contest that helps launch this year’s revelry.

Maimonides Jewish Day School (MJDS) in Southwest Portland sponsored the contest — to write a 150-word essay on “What Chanukah Means to Me” — and elementary-school students from Portland Jewish Academy (PJA), Raleigh Hills K-8, MJDS, and the International School of Portland took the challenge. Award-winning children’s author Eric Kimmel endorsed the competition, which resulted in one winner from each grade-level category, 3rd and 4th graders, and 5th and 6th graders.

 Winning students are Yossi Wilhelm, a 3rd grader at MJDS, and Sivan Safran, a 5th grader at PJA. Yossi and Sivan get to read their selections (attached below) at tomorrow night’s annual Chabad Public Menorah Lighting in Director Park in downtown Portland. The 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. event is free.

 “Children always are very involved in Chanukah, and this holiday offered the perfect opportunity for students to showcase and express how they integrate their study of Judaics and general academics,” said Rabbi Shneur Wilhelm, principal of MJDS. “It’s wonderful how many kids put in a lot of time to share the meaning behind Chanukah and what it means to them; we’ll be expanding this fun contest in the years to come.”

Three judges — and Kimmel — selected and approved the winning essays; none is affiliated with MJDS. The tops submissions follow below.


 Yossi Wilhelm, Maimonides Jewish Day School, 3rd grade

Boruch ata, in my house, we are lighting the menorah. As I light the menorah, I think about how many people have done this and how much light we add to this world. People from Sydney, Victoria, Moscow, Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), all light the menorah. Each candle adds more light, warmth, and happiness to this world. I also realized that every person can do the same. Every time someone helps or visits someone that’s sick they’re adding so much light, warmth, and happiness to the world.

I think about all the people in the world. Not all are the same. Some are old, and some are young. Some are tall, and some are short. Some may have special needs, and some may not have special needs, but they all add light to this world.

Sometimes, I am scared of the dark, but if there is even one candle, it lights up the dark. It is the same with people. Just one good deed adds so much to the coming of Moshiach (the Messiah). I hope when you light the menorah for the rest of this holiday, you feel how much light you are adding to the world. Happy Chanukah!


Sivan Safran, PJA, 5th grade 5

Most weekdays, someone in my family has something to do after school, and we don't often have the luxury of stopping to talk with one another at length. We don’t regularly eat dinner as a family and the only time we spend talking for a long time is when someone needs help with homework or when our parents are putting us to bed. We are so busy that sometimes it feels like life might pass us by without giving us the chance to enjoy each other's company. To me, Chanukah is especially meaningful because it is a time of year where we get to connect and communicate.

The hanukiah (often referred to as a menorah) reminds us to turn off our electric lights and gather around the candles. These candles bring light when the days are short. When we sit around enjoying the hanukiah, I try to sneak in some non-Chanukah related songs, too, so we can be together for longer, and we sing our hearts out like there’s no tomorrow. We stay together until the candles burn out. This helps me savor eight marvelous nights. I think when we get to be together as a family it’s like a third miracle of Chanukah.