January 21, 2019

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