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Essay Contest

Updated September, 2003

Please note: The contest is now closed. Click here to see a list of the winners.




Winning essays will be announced on September 12, 2003.



The Network is conducting an essay contest on the theme of "We're Interfaith Families ... Connecting with Jewish Life." The contest, made possible by the support of the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, will publicize the growing reality of interfaith families making Jewish choices.

Many people in the Jewish world equate intermarriage with assimilation -- the loss of Jewish identity and involvement. Even when intermarried parents raise their children as Jews, many people don't understand or appreciate the quality of their Jewish life and identity. In addition, many people in interfaith relationships are thinking about Jewish life, but are unsure about whether and how to become involved.

This essay contest gives people in interfaith relationships the opportunity to respond, to tell both the Jewish world, and others in interfaith relationships, the personal stories of their involvement in Jewish life: how they and their families participate in Jewish life, how they feel about their involvement and what their Jewish identities and communities mean to them, what helped them get involved (and what obstacles they overcame), and how they have related to their non-Jewish family members and their traditions.

By entering this contest, you have the chance not only to win a substantial cash prize and to have your essay published on, but also to clarify your own thoughts and feelings on interfaith family issues, to help other people who may feel alone in dealing with the same issues, and to help shape the Jewish community's response to intermarriage.

Essays can address such topics as holidays, life-cycle celebrations, interpersonal relationships, formal religious education, spirituality, synagogue life, and finding community. If people participate in celebrations of Christmas or other non-Jewish holidays, for example, they can describe what they do, how they feel about the celebrations and what the holidays mean in terms of their and their children's Jewish identities. For suggestions as to specific topics and questions that might be addressed, read Suggested Topics.


The contest has four categories:

  • "We're an Interfaith Family ... Raising Jewish Children" (for parents writing about child raising)
  • "We're an Interfaith Family ... Loving Jewish Grandchildren" (for grandparents of children of intermarried parents)
  • "I'm a Child of an Interfaith Family ... Claiming My Jewish Roots" (for teens and young adults who are children of intermarried parents)
  • "We're an Interfaith Family ... Engaging in Jewish Life" (for people in interfaith relationships who are not writing about child raising)

Individuals who have converted to Judaism, or their partners or family members, are welcome to enter the contest. However, for purposes of this contest, relationships are not defined as "interfaith" once a person has converted to Judaism, except for relationships with non-Jewish relatives. For example, in the category of interfaith parents writing about child raising, an essay about a couple's child-raising efforts prior to one partner's conversion would be appropriate, but an essay about child-raising efforts by a couple where one partner had converted before the children were born would not.

For suggestions as to specific topics and questions that might be addressed, read Suggested Topics.


One essay will win a contest grand prize of $1000. In addition, in each of the four categories there will be a first prize of $360, a second prize of $180, a third prize of $90, and seven honorable mention prizes consisting of a copy of The Guide to Jewish Interfaith Family Life: An Handbook (Jewish Lights Publishing) (retail value $18.95).

The winning essays -- as well as other entries, at the discretion of, Inc. -- will be published on the Internet magazine, and may also be published in other formats.


For each entry (limit: three entries and one prize per person), submit an essay in one of the contest categories, along with the required entry information, by email to with "Contest Entry" in the subject line. Entries must be submitted by email only and must be received by Friday, June 20, 2003at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Essays should be 500 to 800 words. Essays can be included in the body of the email, or attached to the email (in Microsoft Word or a plain text format). At the top of the essay, put the category in which the entry is submitted, the title of the essay, and your name.

The required entry information consists of the following information, which must be included in the body of the email or in an attachment to the email:

  • Your name
  • Contest category in which the essay is submitted
  • Title of the essay
  • Your mail address (city, state or province, and zip or postal code)
  • Your telephone number
  • Your email address
  • Your age at June 20, 2003 if less than 18 years old
  • How and from whom you heard about the contest
  • The following statement: "This essay is my original writing. In consideration of my essay being judged for a prize in the "We're Interfaith Families ... Connecting with Jewish Life" essay contest, I assign all rights to the essay (including copyrights) to, Inc. and understand that, Inc. may edit, modify, and publish the essay or cause it to be published on, in books, and in any other formats, without other consideration to me."

Optional entry information: Although not required, we would appreciate it if you would submit a photograph of yourself as an attachment (in .jpg or .gif format) to your email. If you submit such a photograph, you authorize to publish it on, in books or in any other format, in connection with this contest and/or your essay.

Questions: For additional guidance about the contest, please consult the answers to Questions below.


Winning entries will be chosen based on skill or quality and not by chance. Winning essays will be well written, insightful, demonstrate understanding of the issues interfaith families deal with, and speak from personal experience with concrete examples in ways that can be instructive and helpful to others.

Winning entries will be selected by a Judges' Committee whose decisions are final. The Judges' Committee, selected by, Inc. and subject to change at its discretion, consists of:

Rabbi Rachel Cowan, Director of Jewish Life/Jewish Values for The Nathan Cummings Foundation and co-author of Mixed Blessings: Overcoming the Stumbling Blocks in an Interfaith Marriage (Penguin);
Anita Diamant, best-selling author of fiction (The Red Tent (St. Martin's), Good Harbor (Scribner)) and numerous books on Jewish life including Choosing a Jewish Life (Schocken) and Living a Jewish Life (HarperCollins);
Dru Greenwood, Director of the William and Lottie Daniel Department of Outreach and Synagogue Community of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (the Reform Movement);
Andrea Hoffman, Director of the Department of Jewish Student Life of Hillel: the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life;
Stuart Matlins, president of Jewish Lights Publishing and co-editor of How to Be a Perfect Stranger: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People's Religious Ceremonies (Jewish Lights);
Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, Executive Director, the Jewish Outreach Institute, and author of numerous books on Jewish life, including Making a Successful Jewish Interfaith Marriage (Jewish Lights);
Dana Sheanin, Program Associate of the Walter & Elise Haas Fund; and
Rabbi Charles Simon, Executive Director of the Conservative Movement's Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs and a prinicipal contributor to Building the Faith: A Book of Inclusion for Dual-Faith Families (FJMC).

Winners will be announced on the website on September 12, 2003. Winners will also be notified by email. For a printed list of the names of the winners, available after September 12, 2003, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Network, PO Box 9129, Newton, MA 02464.


The Network will, at its sole discretion, respond publicly here, at, to questions about the contest. To submit a question, send an email to and put "Contest Question" in the subject line.


  1. May entries be jointly authored, provided all authors are eligible entrants and with the understanding that prizes are awarded per entry?
    Answer: Yes.
  2. Must entrants assign the copyright to their essays to
    Answer: Yes. plans to publish many of the entries on its Internet magazine, and may also seek to have a book published of a collection of the entries. We always do and would always credit the author and include a brief "bio" of the author as well. We would not publish any substantial portion of an entry without giving credit to the author, or modify any entry in a way that would change it in substance. If an author asked for permission to have an entry reprinted in another publication, we expect that we would willingly grant such permission.
  3. (From a reader in Australia) Is there any way that the rules of the essay contest can be changed so that the rest of the world can participate?
    Answer: The reason that contest eligibility is limited to residents of the fifty United States and the provinces of Canada except Quebec is that we know that essay contests are legal in those jurisdictions. We are not able to research the legality of contests like this one in other jurisdictions. However, we will accept entries (in English) from residents of other jurisdictions -- subject to the proviso stated in the rules that the contest and the offer of prizes is "void where prohibited by law." Thus, residents of other jurisdictions may enter the contest, but understand that if it turns out that if they submit a winning entry and we find that offering the contest and prizes was not lawful in their jurisdiction, then we will not be able to award the prize.
  4. Does an entry need to be original material, or could it be an excerpt from work that's going to be published in an upcoming anthology?
    Answer: If the entrant is able to assign all rights to the entry, including the copyright, to, then the entry can be made.
  5. What's a young adult? I'm a child of an interfaith marriage, about to turn 30 ... am I young enough for that category?
    Answer: Yes. We are not setting an age cutoff for the "teens and young adult" category. The category is for children of intermarried parents, and we are thinking that they would not be parents themselves yet. But there is no specific age cutoff.
  6. How hard and fast is the 500-800 word limit?
    Answer: Not hard and fast. One of the sample entries we have published to give people an idea of what we are looking for is 1200 words. We don't want people to feel that they have to write long essays. We also believe that generally, being more concise is better. But we won't reject entries or not favorably consider them because they are more than 800 words.
  7. My experience inspired me to write a piece that bridges two categories. Must an entry fit squarely in one category to avoid being disqualified? Or may I select one category but also mention another
    Answer: An entry need not fit squarely within one category. Entrants need to specify one category that they are submitting the essay in, but you are free to mention that you think it also fits in another category. The judges will have the final say on the category in which an essay can win a prize.
  8. Do you prefer a color photo or black and white?
    Answer: Color is preferred but either is acceptable.
  9. Can I enter if I don't have access to the Internet or email?
    Answer: Yes. We very very strongly prefer to receive entries by email, but will accept an entry by mail if an entrant does not have access to email.
  10. When I married a Jew, I was not Jewish; when we had our children, I still was not Jewish. As our older child approached school age, I decided to learn more about Judaism. Prior to our son's becoming bar mitzvah, I began studying in earnest with our rabbi, which led to my formal adoption of Judaism. We are not an "interfaith" family anymore, but am I eligible to enter the essay contest, in any of the categories? If so, which one(s)?
    Answer: You certainly are eligible and could write either about child-raising or in the "other" category. It would be interesting if you described your child raising efforts before your conversion and perhaps compared them to what you've done since you converted. In the "other" category, you could write, for example, about how your experiences as an interfaith family led you to conversion.

    1. SPONSOR. The Sponsor of this Contest ("Sponsor") is, Inc.

    2. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY; SUBSCRIBERS AND NETWORK MEMBERS. No purchase is necessary to enter or win a prize. When you enter the contest, you will be placed on's list of Subscribers who receive e-letters every two weeks announcing new issues of our Internet magazine, and occasional other announcements; you are free to unsubscribe from that list at any time. Entrants and winners need not be members of the Network; however, we encourage you to become a Supporting Member of the Network or an Associate Member of the Network.

    3. OWNERSHIP OF ENTRIES. Entries become the sole property of the Sponsor and none will be returned. Sponsor is not responsible for lost, late, misdirected, or illegible or unreadable entries, or entries not received on time.

    4. ELIGIBILITY. Open to residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia and Canada (except Quebec). Void in Quebec and where prohibited by law. People who have an immediate family member employed by or a member of the Board of Directors of Sponsor are not eligible to win.


    6. MISCELLANEOUS. Winners may forfeit prizes if Sponsor is unable to contact them within seven days of first-attempted notification, or if after reasonable attempts are made, notification is unsuccessful. In such event, prizes may be awarded to alternate winners. Prizes are not transferable. No substitution of prizes by winners. By submitting their entries, entrants agree to be bound by the terms of these contest rules and by the decisions of the Sponsor and the judges, which are final and binding on all matters pertaining to this Contest. Parent or legal guardian of potential winners under age 18 will be required to sign an Affidavit of Eligibility and Liability/Publicity Release within ten days following the date of the first attempted notification. Winners will by submitting their entries have assigned all rights (including copyrights) in the winning entries to the Sponsor. Failure to comply may result in forfeiture of prize and award to alternate winners. Winners assume all liability for any injury or damage caused or claimed to be caused by participation in this Contest or use or redemption of prizes. Sponsor is not responsible for any typographical or other error in any publication concerning the Contest, the administration of the Contest, or in the announcement of the prizes.

Hebrew for "son of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish boys come of age at 13. When a boy comes of age, he is officially a bar mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bar mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The female equivalent is "bat mitzvah." Derived from the Greek word for "assembly," a Jewish house of prayer. Synagogue refers to both the room where prayer services are held and the building where it occurs. In Yiddish, "shul." Reform synagogues are often called "temple." A language of West Semitic origins, culturally considered to be the language of the Jewish people. Ancient or Classical Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer or study. Modern Hebrew was developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as a revival language; today it is spoken by most Israelis.
Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation.
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