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For Immediate Release

2019 Chanukah Essay Contest encourages students to use their words to make a better world


Portland — Maimonides Jewish Day School in Southwest Portland announces Oregon’s 3rd annual Chanukah Essay Contest. Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford’s question encourages young Oregonians in 3rd through 8th grades to reflect upon the power of their own words. 


How can I use words to be a helpful person, or a good citizen, or a friend to the Earth?



A panel of four judges unaffiliated with Maimonides will read each piece and select the two strongest, one from each grade category.


“G‑d created the world with his words,” Principal Rabbi Shneur Wilhelm said, reflecting on this year’s theme and how important it is. 


“G‑d continues to create with his words, today and beyond,” Wilhelm continued. “That notion is powerful, and words are powerful. People can use words for the good, and we want to empower our children to recognize they have words at their disposal and can use them for the good and to effect positive change.”


The two student essay-contest winners each receive $200: $150 is a cash prize and the additional $50 is for the student to gift the school of his or her choice. In addition, each student gets to enjoy lunch hosted at Maimonides with award-winning children’s book author and contest judge Eric Kimmel. The students can invite a teacher of his or her choice to join in the festive meal. 


Kimmel said, “Our Chanukah Essay Contest this year is about words. We often don’t pay attention to how important and powerful words are. Words can wound. Words can heal. Words can tear people down or raise them up. Words can hide the truth or uncover it and force us to take notice.”


The award-winning, Jewish-American author added, “I’m looking forward to having lunch with the winning students and a teacher of their choice. Our contest is about words, so we’ll certainly have a lot to talk about.”


“The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland is excited to partner once again in this year’s essay contest,” said Marc Blattner, JFGP executive director. “We look forward to the creative and inspiring essays from our students that will help show the importance of words and how they matter.”


Contest rules and details: 

  • Eligible students: All Oregon students in 3rd - 5th grade and 6th - 8th grade.

  • Essay length: 150 words or less

  • Submission information: Email to with “Chanukah Essay Contest 2019” in the subject header. Please include the student’s name, age, grade, and the school’s name and phone number.

  • Deadline: By 5 p.m., Thurs., Dec. 12

  • One winner in each category announced: Mon., Dec. 16

  • Public reading of winning essays: At the annual Menorah Lighting in Director Park, Sun., Dec. 22.


About Maimonides Jewish Day School

Maimonides Jewish Day School is an accredited, kindergarten through 8th-grade school committed to teaching the whole child, inspiring lifelong learning, and providing personalized, meaningful, and empowering Judaic and General Studies education for a diverse community of Jewish children. Maimonides has achieved accreditation by three accrediting institutions. Our school is accredited by both the General Studies and Judaic curricula by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Elementary and Secondary Schools, the National Council for Private School Accreditation, as well as by the Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the only national Jewish accrediting agency. Maimonides is the only Pacific Northwest Jewish day school to earn accreditation from it.