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WE Essay Winner

11th Annual Betty Siegel Essay Contest

Betty Siegel was a wonderful advocate and supporter of our synagogue and Sisterhood. She created a Fund for Jewish education and scholarship that now supports our Essay Contest for our Graduating High School Seniors.

The theme of this year's essay was I'm a Jew.  Now What? Many students entered this contest that was judged by our committee. Congratulations to the winners and their families. 

The 1st Place winner of the $360 Scholarship is Sydney Kaiser. She is the daughter of Randal and Alyson Kaiser. Sydney graduated from Nicolet High School and will be attending University of Minnesota Twin Cities. 

The 2nd place winner of the $180 scholarship is Danielle Anne Csaszar. She is the daughter of Beth and Michael CsaszarDanielle graduated from Northern Ozaukee High School and will beattending University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee.

Sydney's essay:

I am a Jew. Not only as a Jew, but as a human being, it shakes me to the core to observe the rise of antisemitic acts in America today. Now more than ever, it is important to be proud of our religion as well as speak out against antisemitism. What is equally, if not more important, however, is to stick together. I have witnessed many Jews discriminate against other Jews just based on the way they choose to connect with Judaism. I have seen Jews make fun of Jews for walking on Saturdays to Shul, and other Jews looking down upon those who don’t. Before we can defend ourselves and put an end to antisemitism, we must first accept each other no matter the denomination. I have been involved in many different youth groups and events run by Reform, Conservative, Modern Orthodox, and Chabad organizations throughout my life. I can confidently say that each experience has given me a new perspective while teaching me more about Judaism and about myself. The most essential lesson I can take away from my experiences is that despite the fact that all of these groups interpret the laws of Judaism differently, we are all Jewish and live our lives with the same devotion to charity, learning and curiosity, kindness, and God. When I spent my past two summers in Israel, I saw every type of Jew from non-religious to Ultra-Orthodox. I then realized that us Jews are bound by more than just a religion. We are a people with our own history, community, and culture. As a people, we must stand united.

Now what? As we stand together, our differences should be celebrated. I would never propose that we eliminate all variations among denominational practices because every Jew expresses their Judaism uniquely. Instead, I would like to encourage Jews to simply respect other Jews more. At the beginning of my four week trip with an orthodox youth group, I did not understand why Orthodox Jews practiced what they did and I was used to hearing other Reform or Conservative Jews ridicule them for “going to extremes.” Although after the trip I did not keep Shabbat every week and wear a skirt to cover my knees every day, I learned the reasons behind those practices and gained a respect for not only those practices, but the Jews performing and believing in them as well.

Once we all have respect for each other and stand united as one people, no act of antisemitism can ever knock us down. From now on, I plan to value other Jews’ as well as every other person’s perspectives and I hope other people do the same. We are the Chosen People and with that title comes the responsibility of modeling to the world kindness, justice, and above all, respect.

Danielle's essay:

The answer to this question, is now everything. Being a Jewish young woman has guided and impacted me throughout my life. The foundation I have been raised with provides me guiding principles, and values which I implement into my everyday activities. Everything from how I conduct myself to how I treat others. My existence and all interactions are based off of the Ten Commandments and all that Judaism has taught me. The core values of kindness and respect have been instilled in me from my parents, family, and the Jewish education I have attained from religious school at Emanuel.

Growing up in a predominantly non-Jewish community has given me the opportunity to share my religious background with ones who are not familiar. This opportunity has lead to an enlightenment about what being Jewish truly means. My non Jewish friends embrace me regardless of my religious beliefs, and have shown a keen interest in the culture and values that Judaism teaches.

Although we are not a family that attends temple regularly, we've had strong ties there before I was even born. My parents and grandparents are long standing members, and I often hear stories about the temple when it was originally on Kenwood Boulevard. When I first walked into the new remodeled sanctuary when I was very young, I was completely awestruck. The open concept and large windows lend itself to an outdoors feeling. Not only am I comfortable in this setting, but I also feel safe. On my many occasions during services, I have glanced out of those very windows, and have seen wildlife. Since being out in nature is very important to me, I find Betty Siegel Essay Contest 2019 Entry #1 my spirituality often when I am at home outside. In the Synagogue, I also find a deep sense of spiritual connection to my Jewish beliefs and values.

Being a Jew means showing concern for everyone, especially in today's world. Throughout history, the Jewish people have faced relentless persecution, yet our resilience has lead us through the most horrific of times. As a community, Jewish people ban together and tend to become stronger despite incredible setbacks, discrimination, and attempts to annihilate. As Jews, we band together, locking arms with dignity across the world.

Regardless of religious belief, ethnicity, race, or gender preference, a universal Jewish theme that I embrace is acceptance of all. I am confident in saying that my religion is a place of solitude and security. Looking forward to the next phase of my life, I am excited to meet people of all backgrounds, and to continue my education of Judaism, Hebrew, and the culture it embodies. Being a Jew is a very important facet of my life, and always will be. Ultimately, being Jewish and living by its beliefs, principles, and values has guided me and will continue to do so as I move forward into the next chapter of my life.

Wed, August 21 2019 20 Av 5779