Bar Refaeli wants to judge you (and your love of Israel)

In the wake of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on March 3, which added to a growing rift in U.S.-Israel relations, the Israeli embassy in the United States has started a contest to reignite the next generation’s enthusiasm for Israel. The hook: it involves Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli.

The contest is calling for American college students to film short, creative videos that display their love of Israel. One winner will earn a free trip to Israel, and three finalists will win a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer.

Refaeli will be the contest’s official judge, but the grand prize winner won’t earn a meeting with the famed model. (Perhaps her fiance Adi Ezra is too jealous?) First place includes a meeting with the slightly less attractive Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

Israeli musician Yoni Block and multimedia artist Yael Efrati will join Refaeli as contest judges. There is no word on whether they will judge contestants as harshly as the poster above implies Refaeli will.

Those interested have until March 27 to submit their videos here.

Submit your Oscars Ballot – Win prizes!

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This ballot will be open until Feb. 22 at 12 p.m. PST.

For official rules and prize description click here.

And the nominees are…


American Sniper
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything


Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game


Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything


Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianna Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild


Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash


Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods


Big Hero 6, Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli
The Boxtrolls, Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight
How to Train Your Dragon 2, Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold
Song of the Sea, Tomm Moore and Paul Young
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura


American Sniper, Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach
Boyhood, Sandra Adair
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Barney Pilling
The Imitation Game, William Goldenberg
Whiplash, Tom Cross


Birdman, Emmanuel Lubezki
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Robert Yeoman
Ida, Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
Mr. Turner, Dick Pope
Unbroken, Roger Deakins


American Sniper, Written by Jason Hall
The Imitation Game, Written by Graham Moore
Inherent Vice, Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson
The Theory of Everything, Screenplay by Anthony McCarten
Whiplash, Written by Damien Chazelle


Birdman, Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo
Boyhood, Written by Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher, Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
Nightcrawler, Written by Dan Gilroy


“Everything Is Awesome,” The LEGO Movie
“Glory,” Selma
“Grateful,” Beyond the Lights
“I'm Not Gonna Miss You,” Glen Campbell … I'll Be Me
“Lost Stars,” Begin Again


The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Mr. Turner
The Theory of Everything


The Grand Budapest Hotel
Inherent Vice
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

Ida, Belgium
Leviathan, Russia
Tangerines, Estonia
Timbuktu, Mauritania
Wild Tales, Argentina


Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth


Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Our Curse
The Reaper (La Parka)
White Earth


Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak)
The Phone Call


The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life


The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner


The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy


Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
X-Men: Days of Future Past

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First Prize: A $50 gift card for Spaghettini & the Fave Koz Lounge


Second Prize: A pair of tickets to see Dunsiane on March 27 at 8 PM at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts


Third Prize: A $50 gift card for Fresh Brothers


Fourth Prize: A pair of tickets to see Marth Graham Dance Company on April 18 at 8 PM at The Valley Performing Arts Center


Fifth Prize: A signed copy of “The Kindness of the Hangman” by Henry Oster & Dexter Ford



*Limitations may apply*

TERMS AND CONDITIONS: Official Contest Rules and Prize Description


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SpaceIL: Israel’s race to the moon

One day in 2015, a small Israeli spacecraft will land on and reconnoiter the moon, joining the United States and former Soviet Union in the world’s most exclusive extraterrestrial club.

That vision is not fantasy or chauvinistic braggadocio, but the sober prediction of Israel’s most experienced engineers and space scientists.

According to the leaders of the SpaceIL (for Israel) project, the unmanned micro-spaceship will pack more instrumentation into a smaller and lighter capsule than ever achieved before.

During a visit to Los Angeles in mid-February, Yariv Bash, founder and CEO of SpaceIL, and Ronna Rubinstein, the chief of staff, outlined the genesis, scope and anticipated impact of the moon mission.

In late 2010, Bash heard about the Google Lunar X competition, which offered awards up to $30 million for the first team to land a robotic craft on the moon that would perform several complex missions. For one, the craft had to move 500 meters (1,640 feet) from its landing site to explore the moon’s surface – or send out a search vehicle to do so – and beam high-definition videos back to earth.

Bash, an electronics and computer engineer, said that SpaceIL will traverse the distance in one spectacular jump. SpaceIL, by the way, is only an interim name and when the time comes will be replaced with an official designation.

Initial names suggested by the project staff include Golda, for the former Israeli prime minister, Ramon, for Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who perished in the Columbia shuttle disaster, and Hatikvah, Hebrew for “hope” and the title of the Israeli national anthem.

As soon as Bash absorbed the details of the Google competition, he posted one sentence on Facebook, asking, “Who is coming with me to the moon?” Among the first respondents was Rubinstein, a lawyer who now oversees the project’s organization, marketing and fundraising.

The total estimated cost for the project will be $30 million, of which $20 million has been raised so far, primarily from industry and private contributors. The Israeli government has allotted funds for 10 percent of the total cost, the maximum a government can put up under the contest rules.


Israeli President Shimon Peres visits SpaceIL. Photo courtesy SpaceIL

According to Israeli statistics, the government money will be well spent, since for every $1 invested in Israel’s 10 satellites and other high-tech research, $7 are returned in civilian and commercial applications.

The prize for the winning entry is $20 million, with another $10 million available in bonus prizes for accomplishing different aspects of the mission.

But it’s not the prize money that is driving the 11 full-time staff members and some 300 professionals who are volunteering their services evenings and weekends, after finishing their regular day jobs. In any case, any money won will go to schools to enhance math and technology programs.

“What counts for us is the impact the moon landing will have on Israelis and Jews around the world, to show what Israel is and what it can do,” Bash said.

Most important is to instill both pride and scientific curiosity in Israeli youngsters, Bash added. Together with the Weizmann Institute of Science, the project has launched a nationwide program of high school visits, which so far has involved 27,000 students.

Plans also call for lectures and exhibits in Diaspora communities, and Bash and Rubinstein will address a plenary session at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC during the first week of March.

Other key partners in the project are Israel Aerospace Industries, Tel Aviv University, Technion, Israeli Space Agency, Ramon Foundation and private companies like Rafael and Bezeq.

The Israeli spacecraft, whatever its final name, will compete against 24 other entries, of which 11 will be launched by various U.S. teams. Other competitors will come mainly from Europe and some from South American countries, but none from China, or, for that matter, Iran.

Early favorites are entries from the United States, Israel and Spain, Bash said.

Israel’s main strength, he noted, “lies in its nano-miniaturized technology, and SpaceIL will be the smallest craft ever sent into space.”

At liftoff, it will weigh 120 kilograms (264 pounds), but on landing, after burning off its fuel, it will weigh less than 40 kilograms (88 pounds). To get into orbit, SpaceIL will piggyback onto a commercial rocket, either American or Russian, at a cost of between $3 million to $5 million.

To Israelis watching the moon landing from 239,000 miles away, “it will be the most exciting reality show of all,” Bash hopes.

The impact on Israelis, especially young people, would be similar to that created in 1969 by astronaut Neil Armstrong as he descended from the Apollo spacecraft to the moon’s surface, proclaiming, “That’s one step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Israeli supporters of SpaceIL already have their own inspirational motto, taken from Theodor Herzl’s words as he prophesized the future creation of a Jewish state.

“Im Tirzu Ein Zo Agada” – “If you will it, it is no dream.”

For additional information, visit

California primary sees fiercest contests in a decade [UPDATED]

California voters turned out in low numbers on Tuesday for a primary that could pave the way for a shakeup of the state’s congressional delegation following election rule changes and an overhaul of the state’s political district boundaries.

While new maps and new rules may have changed the way the game of California politics is played, making some districts more competitive across party lines, early official estimates of statewide turnout hovered at just over 15 percent.

Under California’s new open primary rules, the two top vote getters in each district will proceed to the general election in November regardless of party, so two Democrats or two Republicans could be competing for the same seat come Nov. 6.

Redistricting has also tossed some longtime incumbents into the ring against each other after a decade of remarkable stability in the state’s majority Democratic delegation in the House of Representatives.

In one of the most closely watched races, where two Democratic incumbents appeared poised to face off against one another in the general election, just a trickle of voters cast ballots on a sunny day in California’s 30th district in Los Angeles County, according to early results.

Among those casting ballots there were 82-year-old Ester Berrenson and her husband of 64 years, 86-year-old Manny, who walked to their polling station during the breezy afternoon. Both voted for Democratic incumbent Brad Sherman against fellow Democratic incumbent Howard Berman.

“He comes out and talks to us,” Manny Berrenson said, explaining why he and his wife had voted for Sherman. “He goes to the high school at least half a dozen times a year. He goes there and talks about what he’s doing.”

Due to the “top two” rule, both are likely to advance to a final competition in November, according to early returns. Sherman had 40.3 percent to Berman’s 32.6 percent just after midnight with 18 percent of precincts reporting.

In their newly redrawn district, about 50 percent of voters there come from Sherman’s old stomping ground, while just 25 percent come from Berman’s prior district.

“Tonight is far from over, but we’re confident about our momentum moving into the general election,” a senior adviser to Berman’s campaign, Brandon Hall, said in a statement.


The changes in California are generally seen to favor Democrats in a state that gave President Barack Obama a 24-point margin of victory over his Republican rival John McCain in 2008, analysts said.

Two incumbent Democratic congresswomen, Janice Hahn and Laura Richardson, also appeared set to face off against each other in November in the 44th district in Los Angeles County in a race in which no Republicans were running.

Shortly after midnight, Hahn was leading with 62.1 percent with 6.5 percent of precincts reporting.

For years, political stability in the nation’s most populous state was a result of the deliberate creation of electoral districts to favor incumbents, a process known as gerrymandering. In 263 elections from 2002 to 2010, only one congressional seat changed political party.

But ahead of this election, a non-partisan citizen’s commission was put in charge of redrawing congressional districts. The number of districts did not change, but the boundaries were adjusted to reflect population shifts since the last national census in 2000.

“With non-partisan redistricting and this new ‘top two’ primary system, California suddenly becomes very interesting and one of the more competitive states in the entire country,” said Kyle Kondik, political analyst at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

In their quest to win back a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats would have to gain at least four or five seats in California, which Kondik said would be difficult but not impossible.

Democrats made progress in one key U.S. House race where analysts had said they risked being frozen out of the general election should a Republican and a right-leaning independent candidate advance to the November polls.

But, as early returns trickled in, Democratic state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley appeared poised to face a Republican challenger, state Senator Tony Strickland, in November in California’s coastal 26th district.

Republicans control the House with a 242-190 majority, with three seats vacant. Outside California and Illinois, Democrats are mainly playing defense, trying to hold existing seats.


Primaries were also held on Tuesday in New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota and Iowa.

In Montana, the U.S. Senate battle is one of the nation’s hottest with the state’s only House member, Republican Denny Rehberg, challenging first-term Democratic Senator Jon Tester.

Both candidates are known across the state and are expected to easily win their respective party primaries on Tuesday.

In Iowa, State Representative Pat Grassley – the grandson of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley – won his primary, defeating another Republican in the Iowa House in a contest forced upon him and State Representative Annette Sweeney by redistricting.

Republicans are targeting the New Mexico U.S. Senate seat of retiring Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman in their quest for a U.S. Senate majority in 2012. Democrats hold a 51-47 majority, with two independents who usually vote with Democrats.

Republican Heather Wilson and Democrat Martin Heinrich are projected to win their respective party races and run against each other for the coveted Bingaman seat, according to Brian Sanderoff, president of Research and Polling Inc in Albuquerque.

In New Jersey, polls are closed in the vote to fill the seat of U.S. Representative Donald Payne, the state’s first black congressman, who died in March. His son is among the candidates.

Reporting by Mary Slosson; Additional reporting by Dan Boyce in Montana, Zelie Pollon in New Mexico, Edith Honan in New York, Kay Henderson in Iowa, and R.T. Watson and Steve Gorman in California; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Jackie Frank, Lisa Shumaker and Alessandra Rizzo

10 big Jewish ideas in final round

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles this week announced the 10 finalists for the Next Big Jewish Idea contest, which offers a $100,000 prize to the winner. The finalists include a Jewish superheroes game, Jewish care packages for those in the military, social service resources and a plan to make day school free.

Nearly 112,000 votes were cast for more than 300 submissions during the first round of voting, Jan. 11 to March 31. The finalists include the top five vote-getters along with the five chosen by a panel of judges. The final round of voting opened on May 2 and will end on June 3. 

In June, the judges will reconvene, armed with new information from the finalists along with the public’s votes for the finalists and all online comments for each idea. The winner will receive up to $100,000 in funding and services as well as access to Federation’s expertise and wide-reaching community connections. 

Although the judges will choose the winner, Scott Minkow, Federation’s vice president of partnerships and innovation, said the community is “encouraged to make their voice heard” by voting online. Minkow hopes the public dialogue might help the non-winning ideas bring in other means of funding and support. 

Some of the ideas that didn’t make the final cut nevertheless showed a flair for the creative. “Spiritual fitness” called for a Jewish gym with treadmills posting psalms on their screens for every mile walked. “Life Advice From Old People” is a blog sharing stories and videos of any elderly person that the author has come across. “Dance Wherever You Are” would implement a national celebration on Rosh Hashanah using art exhibitions, music and dance. “Love Thy Neighbor” proposed a program of adopting one non-Jewish urban family per synagogue to build interfaith community connections. 

The 10 finalists:

Art Space Match would use bartering to connect Jewish artists with institutions such as synagogues, Jewish day schools, JCCs or Jewish retreat centers. In exchange for an organization’s donating space, the artists would offer workshops, create new projects and host open studios for the community. 

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Florida school sues over Kohl’s Cares contest

A school in Florida that finished just out of the money in a national online contest sponsored by Kohl’s has sued two Florida Jewish day schools that did win one of 20 prizes.

Abi’s Place in Coral Springs filed a lawsuit against the Hebrew Academy Community School and Bais Chaya Inc. in Broward County, where all the schools are located, saying they reneged on their promise to help Abi’s win votes, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.

Abi’s Place, a school with 10 special-needs children, finished in 21st place in the Kohl’s Cares Facebook contest that ended Sept. 3. The school alleges in its lawsuit that it paid $3,750 in expenses to the two Jewish schools in a joint vote-getting effort but did not receive assistance.

The Hebrew Academy Community School and Bais Chaya were among 12 U.S. Jewish day schools that finished in the top 20 of the contest, each receiving a $500,000 prize. Eleven of the top 20 were Chabad-affiliated, according to the website. Three schools eventually were disqualified for voting irregularities.

One of the disqualified schools, Yeshiva Achei Tmimim Academy in Worcester, Mass., announced this week that it would file complaints against Kohl’s with attorneys general offices in all 49 states where Kohl’s operates, according to the newspaper.

Oscar Ballot 2009

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No matter how you say it

Below are several ways to say “Happy New Year.” Match the expression to the language it comes from and dazzle your family with your knowledge. Here’s a hint: No. 9 is I

1) Afrikaans                a) Boldog Ooy Ayvet
2) Chinese                  b) Bonne Annee
3) French                   c) Felice anno nuovo
4) Hawaiian                 d) Feliz Ano Nuevo
5) Hebrew                   e) Gelukkige nuwe jaar
6) Hungarian                f) Godt Nyttar
7) Italian                  g) Hauoli Makahiki Hou
8) Norwegian                h) L'Shanah Tovah
9) Russian                  i) S Novim Godom
10) Spanish                 j) Xin Nian Kuai Le

The correct answers are at the bottom oh the page — scroll down!

Off The Page

There is an expression in the theater: “The show must go on.” Now that the Broadway stagehands are no longer on strike, the show is going on — thank goodness. But what is it a stagehand does? The new book, “How Does the Show Go On?” by Thomas Schumacher with Jeff Kurtti (Disney Enterprises, Inc., $19.95), gives kids an inside look at what happens behind the curtain of some of the biggest musicals on Broadway.

Schumacher, the producer of the Tony-winning “The Lion King,” organizes the chapters as a “How-To” guide to the theater. The Overture talks about the different kinds of shows and theaters; Act One gives insight into on-stage and off-stage happenings and includes a Playbill from “The Lion King”; Act Two features an interview with Henry Hodges, who played young Michael Banks in “Mary Poppins,” and talks about what it is like to be a performer; the last section, Encore, includes a rehearsal script from “Tarzan,” in case you want to try your hand at putting on your own show.

The pictures alone make this a great read for anyone who loves the theater — either from the stage or from the house (read the book and you’ll learn what that term means).

The Jewish Journal is giving away one copy of “How Does the Show Go On?” Just send an e-mail to with your name, age, school and either 1) What it is you love most about the theater, or 2) What your favorite musical or play is and why. We’ll select one person, and the winning essay will run on our Jan. 25 yeLAdim page (so please use spell-check). Deadline is Jan. 15. Good luck and happy writing!

Holidays NOT on the Calendar

In addition to the Jan. 22 celebration of Tu B’Shevat (the new year for trees; more of that in next week’s Jewish Journal), there are a few television events taking place in January that, although observed by many in the United States, aren’t quite big enough to make it on the calendar.

  • Tournament of Roses Parade — On Jan. 1, millions will gather around their TVs, and thousands will gather on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, to watch this New Year’s Day ritual that’s been going on annually since 1890. The parade was originally created to rub the beautiful Southern California weather (and flowers) in the face of East Coasters and Midwesterners who have to deal with winter snow. FYI: It has only rained once during the parade — a downpour in 2006.
  • “American Idol” Returns — On Tuesday, Jan. 15 and Wednesday, Jan. 16, Ryan, Simon, Paula and Randy are back for a seventh season of one of the most-watched shows on TV. While the best singers are few and far between, for two nights America gets to enjoy some of the worst (which probably makes for more entertaining television). Who will be the next Carrie or Kelly, and who will be the next William Hung? Stay tuned!

Answers: 1e, 2j, 3b, 4g, 5e, 6a, 7c, 8f, 9i, 10d

People of the Book Essay Contest

As part of the American Jewish University’s Celebration of Jewish Books Festival, students in first through 12th grade submitted essays answering the question: “Jews are the people of the book. What does that mean to you today?” The editorial staff of The Jewish Journal selected four winners — one from each age group — to receive a $250 Borders gift card, as well as a $1,000 donation to their school. We received hundreds of submissions in the form of stories, poems and artwork. It was a difficult decision, and the four winning essays below represent just a small sampling of the great work submitted.

Grades 1-2

Jews Are The People of the Book

by Flora Handler, Second Grade, Temple Israel of Hollywood

I think “Jews Are the People of the Book” means that we are not violent or mean. We are peaceful and loving. God had a book many years ago called the Torah. God was visiting all sorts of religions, asking them if they wanted the book. Every time God asked if they wanted the Torah, the religion asked what was in it and God said, “not to kill.” The religion said, “We kill all the time.” So God asked the next religion. They asked him, “What’s in the Torah?” “No Wars” said God. “Oh, we have wars all the time.” God went to the Jews next and asked them if they wanted it. They did not ask what was in it, but they answered “yes!” We are now under God and will always have a piece of God in our hearts!

Grades 3-5

People of the Book

by Ryan Croutch, Third Grade, Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary School

When I go to the synagogue, and they take out the Torah, it makes me feel like I was alive thousands of years ago. It feels like I’m in the desert wandering for 40 years, singing the “Mi Ca Mocha” with Moses. I am grateful for Moses. I think he was the best leader the Jewish people ever had. He freed the slaves from Egypt, and gave the Jewish people the Ten Commandments, The Book. I am one of the “People of the Book,” because it came from my ancestors, and I know our stories, I do mitzvot, and I follow the Torah’s laws.

The Torah has the Five Books of Moses. The words of Torah are powerful. I would give up anything, for example, a baseball game, to chant the words of the Torah. I would be grateful if I had the chance to go up on the bimah, and read from the Torah. When I read the Book, I feel special. If it wasn’t for Moses, and for my ancestors we wouldn’t have the Torah, the Book of the Jewish people, today. Moses, like the many Jewish Leaders who followed, was a risk-taker. I hope to be one too, one day. I would love to be God’s messenger. I am related to all of the Jewish leaders and all of the people of the Torah. I am proud to be a Jew and a person of the Book.

Grades 6-8

Jews Are Known as “The People of the Book”

by Maya Ben-Shushan, Sixth Grade, Hillel Academy

Jews have always been known as the People of the Book. This is right in many ways — the Torah was given to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, and that Torah has been passed down from generation to generation. The commandment to study the Torah has always been a foundation of the Jewish people, and has been upheld for thousands of years. Continued study has taught us that we can never learn it all, and the fact that we are still trying to understand the Torah can explain the love of the written word, which every Jew feels.

The Book is not only the Torah, however, but every source of wisdom you can imagine. Over the generations, Jews have been prevented from working at many different trades and professions, and were forced to develop certain skills in order to survive in a world, which did not like them. These skills had to be skills of the brain and the mind, because the Jews could not be farmers or blacksmiths and so on. As the Jews had always been studying the Torah and the Scriptures in depth, they were well-equipped to develop professions, which required mental strength. They became doctors, scientist, musicians, authors and philosophers. It is a fact that many of the major prizewinners over the years — and even until this very day — are people who regularly study Gemarah and Torah, and these studies help to sharpen their brain all the time.

It is interesting to be in Israel and to see the amount of bookstores that are always full of people. They even have book fairs and most people buy many books regularly during the year. In America, most Jewish schools have their own book fair, and this also helps to keep the love of books awake and living in all Jewish kids.

“People of the Book” — not only is it about The Book, but it is about the love of learning, the search for knowledge, and the quest for creating a better world for future generations. In other words, tikkun olam. This will only come about through using wisdom, our soul, our spirit, and our brain, and these are certainly helped by permanent study.

Grades 9-12

L’dor va Dor: From Generation to Generation
by Tess Neumann,
12th Grade, New Community Jewish High School

Riga, Lithuania

The kreme de la kreme of kosher kooking mix it up

When Michaela Rosenthal threw some leftover gefilte fish into her potato knish recipe, she never imagined it might be worth $20,000.

“I didn’t want to waste the one piece I had left,” said the Woodland Hills housewife and mother of two grown children.

It turned out to be a good move for Rosenthal, whose whitefish and potato knishes in lemon horseradish sauce took one of two first-place spots at the Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off Western semifinal at the Hilton Orange County in Costa Mesa earlier this month.

The veteran of cooking challenges competed against nine other California amateur chefs at the last of three regional contests sponsored by the nation’s largest processed kosher food manufacturer.

She and co-winner Andrea Bloom of Long Beach, who earned accolades from the judges for her savory pea and fennel soup, will fly to New York in February to compete in the finals for a $20,000 grand prize package, including a GE Profile kitchen and cash.

The first-ever national kosher cook-off is intended to demonstrate to consumers the flexibility, speed and convenience of kosher cooking, while showcasing the Manischewitz label.

“When people think of kosher, they think of a slow process, like briskets,” said David Rossi, Manischewitz vice president of marketing. “We wanted to break that mold and give our core Jewish consumers new ideas about how to use our products.”

Thirty recipes were selected from more than 1,000 entries to compete in semifinals in New Jersey, Florida and Costa Mesa this fall. To qualify, recipes had to be original, kosher, limited to eight ingredients, including at least one Manischewitz product, and preparable in one hour or less. A panel of food experts, including Cooking Light magazine’s executive chef, Billy Strynkowski, selected the semifinalists.

Maintaining Manischewitz’s strict standards of kashrut for the multivenue event was no small task for the Secaucus, N.J.-based company.

“A lot goes on behind the scenes in a kosher cook-off,” Rossi said. “We essentially set up 10 kosher kitchens in the ballroom.”

“All stages of preparation for the event and the actual event itself were in accordance with traditional Jewish law,” said Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, who supervises kashrut for Manischewitz.

Cook-off co-sponsor GE provided 10 stove-top ovens that were kashered and transported cross-country for the semifinals. New utensils and cookware were cleansed in a mikvah and labeled dairy, meat or pareve, and all ingredients were purchased and supervised by local mashgichim. Judges tasted the dairy offerings first and then the pareve and meat ones.

Inventiveness was on the menu, with offerings ranging from modern twists on traditional favorites, like almond milk-infused simcha sweet potato soup served up by Redondo Beach’s Terry Gladstone, to Mexican-influenced dishes, such as Los Angeles resident Ellen Burr’s “zesty Mexi chicken and matzah ball soup.” Organizers and judges got a literal and figurative kick out of the local zest.

“I love the spirit of the contestants and the creativity we’re seeing,” said Jeremy J. Fingerman, CEO of the R.A.B. Food Group, which owns Manischewitz. “We’re seeing different flavors out here than we saw in other parts of the country, more heat, more jalape?os. ‘Zesty Mexi chicken soup,’ you don’t see that in New York.”

Another south-of-the border-inspiration was Lowell Bernstein’s “matzah-males,” a creative take on traditional tamales. The education consultant and only male competitor developed the recipe after mastering Mexican cooking, because he was looking for something “bready” to eat at Passover.

“I substitute matzah meal for corn meal and wrap it in a banana peel, instead of a corn husk. It’s glatt kosher and kosher for Passover. It’s where a matzah ball and a taco meet.”

Bernstein’s creativity was not lost on the judges.

“Tamales made of matzah is close to brilliant,” said OCR Magazines publisher Chris Schulz.

Joining Schulz on the panel was an eclectic group of foodies and nonfoodies, both Jewish and non-Jewish, including cookbook author and Jewish Journal contributor Judy Bart Kancigor. Some, like Cooking Light magazine’s Kyle Crowner, had limited experience with kosher cuisine but were impressed.

“This food is much lighter for the most part,” Crowner said, noting the consumer trend toward flavor without added calories. The contest was further proof that kosher cooking has become mainstream, she added.

While contestants said they had been making their recipes long before they knew of the cook-off, some admitted having tweaked their ingredients to feature more Manischewitz products.

“After I saw the ad for the contest, I added the lemon horseradish sauce,” Rosenthal said. “It went ‘click’ and all fit together. I’ll be serving it with the sauce from now on.”

Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off Western Semifinal Winning Recipes:

Michaela Rosenthal’s Whitefish and Potato Knish

2/3 cup instant mashed potatoes
2/3 cup boiling water
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 can (2.8 ounces) french-fried onions
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 jar (24 ounces) Manischewitz whitefish, drained and patted dry
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 box (17.03 ounces) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
2 teaspoons Manischewitz fish seasoning
8 teaspoons Manischewitz creamy horseradish sauce with lemon

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a large, rimless cookie sheet with parchment paper or grease with butter. Place instant potatoes in a medium bowl. Add boiling water and stir to combine.

Measure two teaspoons of the melted butter and set aside. Add remaining butter to potatoes and mix well. Stir in fried onions and parsley.

Mash fish and add to potato mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
Remove both pieces of puff pastry onto a floured board. Unfold and cut along natural folds to form six equal rectangles. Remove two rectangles for another use. With a floured rolling pin, roll remaining four rectangles slightly to flatten.

Spoon one-quarter of potato-fish mixture onto each of the four rectangles and level to within half inch of the edges. Fold edges of dough and roll each piece into a log (like a jellyroll). Pinch seam lightly to seal. Trim unfilled dough ends.

Uri Geller bends self into Israel ‘reality TV’ stardom

Israel is no stranger to reality TV. Knockoffs — or shall we say adaptations — of popular American TV talent shows, like “American Idol” and “The Apprentice,” have become hits. But recently, Israel has developed its own inimitable, highly successful talent contest in which Uri Geller, the famous, controversial, Israeli paranormalist, is seeking an heir.

It’s only natural, Geller said in a telephone interview, that Israel pioneer a contest for mentalists (read “mind readers”).

“I think this field — call it mentalism, parapsychology, real magic, kabbalah, Jewish mysticism — all started here 5,000 years ago, when the Jews left Egypt,” he said. “It’s all riddled in the kabbalah — the mystical letters, the powers, the energy of the universe. People are believers here…. Our race is steeped in mystery attached by a spiritual thread to universe.”

Geller cited Houdini, David Copperfield, David Blaine and even Einstein as examples of Jews who have learned to understand and manipulate natural phenomena.

“The Successor” debuted Nov. 18 to record-breaking ratings. Almost one-third of Israel tuned in to watch Geller judge the nine contestants as they dazzled audiences with their mind-reading, mind-bending powers. The show has attracted international attention and, according to Geller, has sparked interest from producers abroad who are considering adopting its format.

Geller is most famous for bending spoons “with his mind,” a feat that commonly figures into legends, jokes and parodies about him, although the contestants perform more sophisticated stunts on the show. The acts use three local celebrities (always including a pretty actress or model) to perform their sleights of “mind”: drawing images, determining numbers and phrases and even playing songs the celebrities secretly choose in their mind.

The show also marks Geller’s romanticized and widely publicized comeback to Israel. He left in 1972 to pursue a worldwide, profitable — and at times notorious — career as a paranormalist, entertainer and author. Geller immediately signed on to “The Successor” when Keshet Productions approached him with the idea. At the time, he was visiting Israel on a mission for the International Friends of Magen David Adom, which he chairs.

For the next few weeks, he’ll shuttle between Israel and his mansion outside of London for the weekly live tapings, although he recently bought an apartment in Jaffa so he can spend more time in Israel, even when the show is over.

“Spiritually, mentally, psychically, I’m attached to Israel,” Geller said. “I was born here. I’m a sabra. I also have a dream to make the performers become as famous as I am.”

The winner will headline at a tourist hotspot in Macao, China, and receive a secret prize, plus the chance to boast of being Geller’s heir.

“I think they are fantastic, professional entertainers,” Geller said of his potential heirs. “They are riveting, mesmerizing. Each of them has a personality”

Aside from talent, Geller is also looking for charisma, charm, personality and stage presence. Each week a contestant is voted off by viewers at home, but the final choice will be up to Geller.

At the start of each show, Geller demonstrates that he hasn’t lost his own touch. He successfully “mind-read” the image an El Al pilot drew in his cockpit prior to landing (it was a fish) and located a expensive diamond necklace hidden in one of five Chanukah candle boxes.

However, Geller, whose patriotism has been triggered anew by his return, won’t be satisfied with passing just one torch (or shall we say a telekinetically altered spoon): “I would love to take them to Las Vegas as a team and create some kind of a Uri Geller show. I feel like it’s about time that more Israelis become well known and famous around the world, because how many do you know?”

The Year Ahead

We have had a sad ending to 5765 — devastating hurricanes and a continuing war in Iraq. Here is a blessing for the New Year, 5766: May we all experience an end to war and a new beginning for the people of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and all those who have suffered. And let us keep finding ways to help those in need with our tzedakah and our love.

Young Hearts

For the next few weeks, I will highlight the wonderful projects created by our very own Jewish day schools to help the Hurricane Katrina victims. This week’s page belongs to Temple Israel of Hollywood.

The students at Temple Israel have raised funds from bagel sales as part of their Katrina relief effort. In addition to this, they are collecting coins in cooler-size water bottles. When the bottles are full, they will send them off to the hurricane survivors. If you would like to donate sheets and towels to survivors, please contact Temple Israel of Hollywood at (323) 876 8330.

Don’t Blow It!

Rosh Hashanah Riddle:

I wear a crown

If you cut me I’ll bleed,

But the rubies inside me

Are sweet treasures you’ll need!

Who am I?


Aaron Rifkind, 11, answered Abby’s Amazing Summer question. Josh Field won the Amazing Summer Essay Contest.

He wins a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble.

Kids Page

A Sad Time

This year, the 17th of Tammuz falls on Sunday, July 24. This is a fast day — no eating, no drinking. Why? Because on this day, thousands of years ago, the Romans breached the wall of Jerusalem. Three weeks later, the Temple was destroyed.

History Lesson

The 17th of Tammuz is a bad day all around for the Jewish people as many tragedies have befallen them on this day throughout the ages. Help tell the story by filling in the correct words:

ten, miscalculated, one, Torah, killed, Jewish, ghetto, Jerusalem, golden, broke.

The Israelites _____________ the return of Moses from the top of Mount Sinai by _____ day. When he returned, they had already built the ____________ calf.

Moses got so mad he threw the ______ commandments down and they _______ into 1,000 pieces.

In 3184 (586 BCE), after months of siege by the wicked Nebuchadnezzar’s army, the walls of ______________ were finally breached.

In the time of the Roman occupation, the captain of the Roman forces, publicly burned a ________ on that day.

In 1391, more than 4,000 Spanish Jews were ______________ in Toledo.

In 1559 the _________ Quarter of Prague was burned and looted.

In 1944, the entire population of the Kovno _______ was sent to the death camps.

Amazing Summer Contest!

Don’t forget to take pictures and write a great story about an amazing thing you did this summer and send it in. You have a few more weeks until the deadline.

The winners will be published in the paper and will receive a prize.


Kids Page

Share the Fun

Have you been having fun this summer?

Our rabbis say that we should give up to 10 percent of what we own to tzedakah (charity) every year.

What percentage of your fun can you give to another person?

Dr. Doolittle I Presume?

In this week’s Torah portion Balak, the sorcerer Bilam discovers that his donkey can talk. Here are some more places you can find talking animals:

Unscramble the names of the books below and match them to the picture of which talking animal can be found in its pages:


__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

__ __ __ __ __ __


__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

T A U S R T T T I L E L __ __ __ __ __ __

__ __ __ __ __ __


__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

__ __ __

My Amazing Summer Contest

Send me your stories and pictures of an amazing thing you did this summer. First-, second- and third-place stories will be published on this page, and winners will also receive prizes. Deadline is Aug. 26, 2005.

E-mail your story to

My son, Amit, spent a week of his summer on the Tole Mour, above, sailing around the Channel Islands and learning about marine biology.


Nachas From Noggins

El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills has once again given Los Angeles something to kvell about. The school claimed top honors at this year’s national Academic Decathlon, the annual contest of intellectual prowess.

Three of the nine team members generated special pride for the Jewish community: Lindsey Cohen and Linsday Gibbs are both affiliated with Shomrei Torah, while Kevin Rosenberg attends Temple Aliyah.

“I got enormous support from my parents, from my temple [Shomrei Torah] and from my friends,” Gibbs said. “After we won state, the rabbi sent me a letter and the cantor called me…. They didn’t know what I got on each test or how I did medal-wise, and yet, they were all so supportive and welcoming and congratulatory when I got back.”

Team members began preparing for the April contest last summer, gradually increasing hours until December, when they started staying at school until 10 p.m. The competition challenges students in 10 different categories, including art, economics and science, and each nine-member team must include an equal number of A, B and C students.

“The questions were incredibly detailed,” said team member Kevin Rosenberg, who answered correctly when asked to name the 15 nations captured by Hammurabi. (He was the king of Babylon in the 18th century B.C.E. — but you knew that, didn’t you?) Rosenberg said a fellow teammate put the group’s study material on a scale and it came to 61 pounds.

Besides the studying, all three students cited the camaraderie and cohesiveness of the group as part of their success.

“The team chemistry put us over the top,” Cohen said.

Tryouts for next year’s team are already under way, and more than 80 students have indicated interest. Zol zein mit mazel (Lots of luck to you all)




This week, we start a new year – and a new book. Shemot (Exodus) is the second book of the Torah. The Israelites are in the deepest winter of their lives – a dark slavery. In this book, we will read about their move toward freedom, rebirth and spring.


So many of you wrote in with answers to our puzzles this last week. Congrats to all those who answered correctly and you will receive a gift certificate.

Winners receive a gift certificate to either Baskin-Robbins or Munchies.

Reading Rainbow

For four months, religious school students in the Noah’s Ark Reading Contest at Temple Isaiah read “From Rain to Rainbows.” Students read any type of Jewish book at their grade level, and then report on it to librarian Ellen Cole. Each book gives students a point toward prizes; biblical stories count double. The more competitors read, the more they win. Last year’s big winner read 99 books.

If you want to create a program like this at your school, call Temple Isaiah at (310) 277-2772 and ask for Ellen



Goodbye, Jacob, Goodbye

Parshat Vayetze opens with Jacob leaving Be’er Sheva. Everyone feels his absence.

Is there someone who used to live in your neighborhood or went to your school but moved away? How did you feel when they left? Was that person someone who did nice things?

What if you move away? What kind of impression will you leave behind?

Let’s Go Lego

Congratulations to the winners of the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles’ (JCLLA) Lego Bible contest. You can come and see these Lego creations until Dec. 15, at the Slavin Family Children’s Library, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 120, Los Angeles, (323) 761-8648.

Better than Bought Butter!

Here’s a way to be helpful and have your parents be really thankful to you on Thanksgiving.

Homemade Butter

You will need:

1 pint heavy cream


Fill airtight containers half full of cream. Cover securely and shake and shake and shake, until cream turns into butter.

Pour out the buttermilk on top and place butter in serving dish.

It is delicious on dinner rolls.

Chapman Announces Shoah Contest Winners

“Capturing the horror of those years with ink is almost impossible,” wrote Stephen Hill, one of 140 finalists in the fifth-annual Holocaust Art and Writing Contest sponsored by Chapman University’s Holocaust education center and The “1939” Club.

Nevertheless, more than 1,000 students from 56 schools, mostly in California, made the effort to enter this year’s contest, an experience in “becoming a witness to the future,” said Marilyn Harran, the center’s director.

About 500 students were present last month in Orange to learn the contests’ outcome and hear and see the winning entries. In addition, they had the privilege of meeting some of their heroes among the 75 Holocaust survivors present and to watch a film about some courageous inmates who overthrew their captors and made a rare escape from a death camp. Thomas “Toivi” Blatt, an escapee from Sobibor, pleaded with the audience to pass on his story.

Using the theme “Conscience and Courage: Heroes of the Holocaust,” students in seventh through 12th grade entered essays, poetry and, for the first time, art in demonstrating command of their subject. Among the 19 judges was Leon Leyson, a retired teacher and the youngest member of “Schindler’s List.”

The Winners:

First place, middle school: Paulina Phan, grade 8, Lakeside Middle School, Irvine, art; Christine McNab, grade 7, Lakeside Middle School, essay; and Zachary Yates, grade 8, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, San Clemente, poetry.

First place, high school: Sothea Ouch, grade 12, Robert A. Millikan School, Long Beach, art; Irina (Era) Dykhne, grade 9, University High School, Los Angeles, essay; and Matthew Adam White, grade 9, University High School, poetry.

Second place, middle school: Jonathan Juliani, grade 8, St. Columban School, Garden Grove, art; Camilla Wade-West, grade 8, St. Anne School, Laguna Niguel, essay; Chelsea Redmon, grade 8, Stacey Middle School, Westminster, poetry.

Second place, high school: Amy Segall, grade 10, Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School, Irvine, art; Rebecca Kuperberg, grade 10, Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School, essay; and Melissa Jones, grade 10, Acaciawood College Preparatory Academy, Anaheim, poetry.

The public is invited to Chapman’s Memorial Auditorium
for a Holocaust Remembrance Day program at 7 p.m. on April 15 called “A Nation
of Rescuers: Denmark and the Holocaust.” The film, “The Danish Solution,” will
be shown, introduced by Gustav Goldberger, son of the chief cantor of
Copenhagen’s Great Synagogue. There will also be a candle-lighting ceremony with
reflections by Rabbi Stuart Altshuler of Congreagtion Eilat in Mission Viejo and
a musical tribute from Cantor Chayim Frenkel of Kehillat Israel
Reconstructionist Congregation of Pacific Palisades, accompanied by David
Kamenir. For more information about the event, call (714) 628-7377 or visit

For the Kids

Marching On

We leaped into leap month and we marched into March, and now we are springing into spring! This Shabbat is called Shabbat Hachodesh — the "Shabbat of the Month," because we are entering the new month of Nisan. So why does this month deserve its own Shabbat? Because the Torah tells us to make this month the first month of the Jewish year.

Q: What happened to the Israelites in the month of Nisan?

(Hint: It has to do with Egypt.)

Congratulations to Deborah Krieger, 9, of Beverlywood, for winning the Favorite Teacher Essay Contest. Her class wins an ice-cream party.

My Favorite Teacher — Dov Gottesfeld

Last year, on the first day of third grade in Sunday school at Temple Isaiah, I thought I knew what to expect. I expected the same boring stories, a boring teacher that never made anything sound interesting, and no new topics to learn about. What I didn’t expect was Dov. I had walked into class thinking, "Oh, man, Deborah, prepare to be bored out of your mind." After the parents all had left, it was just Dov and us. We said our names, as usual, and then Dov amazed me. He told us about the history of handshaking, telling us in a fascinating way about how people switched from shoulder shaking to wrist shaking to finally handshaking. All the while, I was thinking, wow Deborah, you’ve got a really good teacher to spend the year with.

Since then, Dov has always been my favorite teacher. He always taught about things I never would have learned about otherwise. For example, he told us about the history of the letter A. He said that ancient people used an upside-down A to make the sign for an ox. Then the Greeks came and turned the A sideways and called it Alpha. After that, the Romans turned Alpha right side up and called it A.

Dov has been teaching all his life, starting when he was 8. (That’s when he stared tutoring.) He was also an actor/director before he taught full time. Dov wanted to become a teacher because he just loves teaching.

He thinks charity is important to every person because some people need clothes, books, toys and food. People who have these things can help the people in need. Dov inspired me to give to charity.

When he’s not teaching, he’s a father to his daughter, and writes screenplays, Jewish plays and musicals. His hobbies are carpentry and cooking. He could even build a house! (I asked him personally.) His favorite part of teaching is when he sees the kids understand what he’s teaching. He gets a lot of pleasure from that.

Mix it Once, Mix it Twice

Ask anyone who cooks chicken soup what makes it taste so delicious, and the answer will likely be: “A pinch of this, a dash of that.” But no more. Now, amateur cooks 18 and older from around the country will have to spell out their exact ingredients if they hope to have their creation chosen as Best Chicken Soup in America and win a trip for two to Israel.

Chicken Soup Challenge, sponsored by the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP), in conjunction with the eighth annual Shabbat Across America, will be judged by chef Jeff Nathan, owner of Abigael’s kosher restaurant in New York. The five finalists will be flown to New York Feb. 24 –Soup-er Tuesday — to prepare their entrees in the restaurant’s kosher kitchen.

“I have my crew make the ones that sound interesting,” said Nathan, who also hosts the TV program, “New Jewish Cuisine.” “We’re looking for ease and eye appeal. Flavor is a big part, and I want it to be semi-simplistic.”

Nathan said he would even consider holding a parent-child cooking contest in the future to promote the meaning of Shabbat.

“A big part is spending time with family,” Nathan noted. “It’s not just about davening, but about doing things together.”

Creators of the cook-off chose chicken soup, because, as they said, food links Jews of all backgrounds.

The cook-off complements the March 12 Shabbat Across America, where more than 700 synagogues open their doors to tens of thousands of unaffiliated and marginally affiliated Jews.

“Food is an integral part of Jewish life,” noted Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, who founded NJOP in 1987 and serves as its director. “Through [this contest] we hope to reinforce the notion that Jewish life can be fun — and delicious.”

And as any cook — including Nathan — will tell you, the most important ingredient is lots of TLC.

For rules and submission guidelines, visit

For the Kids

Hey Arnold !

There are a lot of new things in our lives. First, we started a New Year. Then, we got a new governor. And now, we start reading the Torah over again (this week’s portion: Bereshit). What do you think of the new governor? If you were governor of California, what would you do for this state?

Answer these questions for the win!

Essay Contest

If I Were Governor of California… Write an essay or poem that
begins with the above words. Make sure the essay has some Jewish content. Send
it in to,
including your name, age and address. Deadline: Nov. 23, 2003. Win a $10 gift

Kids Page

You know that harmless-looking body part inside your mouth? The tongue? It sure looks nice enough, but it gets a lot of Israelites into trouble in this week’s parsha. Do you remember getting a present and then complaining it wasn’t enough? Not the right video game; not the kind of scooter you wanted. Often, your parents end up giving you what you want, but they might get pretty mad in the process. Well this time, the Israelites complain about the manna. “We want meat! We want more!” they shout.

God gives them what they want, but gets pretty mad at them. Was it worth it? Miriam and Aaron get into trouble, too, when they use their tongues to spread gossip about Moses’ wife, Zipporah. So, think about that tongue of yours. It’s more powerful than you realize.

Special Friends

Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing essays and poems by children who won the San Fernando Valley fifth-grade writing contest. The theme of the contest was: My Special Friend. Awards were given out by the California Writers’ Club on May 25, at the Encino Community Center. Meirav Fishman Cafri, 12, of Northridge, wrote the first-place essay. She is finishing up at Napa Elementary School in Northridge. She is the youngest of four children and is one of a set of triplets.

My Special Friend

My special friend is God. The reason God is my special friend is because He is the ruler of the Earth and has created me. He has dealt kindly with me throughout my 12 years. He is always there for me when I am going through good and bad times. He is even there for me when I need him most. No matter where I go He will always be watching over me. God has helped me through school and is still helping me through school. He is always where I need him most. He is keeping me alive and strong. I love him with all my heart. He always helps me through my injuries no matter how bad they are. Even when I behave badly, he does not or never will give up on me and that’s a fact.

Holocaust Writing Contest Winners Announced

Themes for this year’s submissions to the fourth Holocaust writing contest by Chapman University’s Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education ranged from defiant public protesters in Berlin to the instigators of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising to hate mongers from Hitler to Osama bin Laden.

At a March event to announce the results, about 120 Holocaust survivors met student contenders from 61 local schools. More than 600 people attended a speech by Pierre Sauvage, who talked about Le Chambon, a French town that protected his parents and other Jews during Nazi occupation.

The 122 entries were evaluated by 17 judges, including William Elperin, president of the "1939" Club, a survivors group.

The winning high school essay entries were from Andrey Finegersh, a Mission Viejo High School senior; and Jennifer Wiegert, from Whittier Christian High School, La Habra. Top middle school essays were written by Brittany Horth, a seventh-grader from Irvine’s Lakeside Middle School; and Andrew Grimm, of Tuffree Middle School, Placentia.

The high school poetry winners were Elaine Inoue, of Anaheim’s Acaciawood College Preparatory Academy, who placed second in last year’s contest; and Vickey K. Mendez of Anaheim High School. Winning middle school poets were Jennifer Thompson, an eighth-grader from St. Columban School, Garden Grove; and Amanda Mener, a seventh-grader from Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School, Irvine.