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Contest Winners

September 2003

The Winners of the Network Essay Contest, "We're Interfaith Families ... Connecting with Jewish Life"

The Network is very pleased to announce the winners of the Network Essay Contest, "We're Interfaith Families ... Connecting with Jewish Life." We thank the Walter & Elise Haas Fund for making the Essay Contest possible. The Haas Fund provided both the initial funding for creation of the Internet magazine in 1998, and the funding for creation of the Network in 2002. The Essay Contest originated in Program Officer Robyn Lieberman's suggestion that the Network conduct a public awareness campaign.

The contest had four categories:

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

After the entries were reviewed, we decided to award two Special Prizes for essays written by children under the age of 15. To read the contest guidelines, click here.

Over 130 qualifying essays were received. Entries were screened by the staff of, Inc., and the winning entries were selected by a Judges' Committee consisting 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).

In each of the original four categories there is a First Prize of $360, a Second Prize of $180, and a Third Prize of $90.The Special Prizes (for children under 15) are $90. In Issue 117 of, the Grand Prize essay, the First, Second and Third Prize essays in each category, and the two Special Prize essays are being published.We plan to publish additional entries in future issues, and to make all of the essays available in a book.

The Contest Grand Prize of $1000 goes to:

Andi Rosenthal, for her essay Hadassah .

In the Raising Jewish Children category, the First, Second and Third Prizes go to:

First Prize: Gary Goldhammer, for his essay The Letter;
Second Prize: Wendy Harris, for her essay The ABC's of Interfaith Parenting; and
Third Prize: Rosemary DiDio Brehm, for her essay How Can You Raise Your Daughters Jewish?.

In the Loving Jewish Grandchildren category, the First, Second and Third Prizes go to:

First Prize: Amy Elkes, for her essay Beatles Wisdom;
Second Prize: Zelma Schulman , for her essay A Mother's Feelings on Intermarriage; and
Third Prize: David Weintraub, for his essay The Unbroken Chain.

In the Claiming My Jewish Roots category, the First, Second and Third Prizes go to:

First Prize: Anna Mills, for her essay I am Not a Crisis ;
Second Prize: Nick Zaller, for his essay The Battle for My Soul; and
Third Prize: Johanna Karasik, for her essay My Glass House.

In the Engaging in Jewish Life category, the First, Second and Third Prizes go to:

First Prize: Annie Modesitt, for her essay Out on the Porch;
Second Prize: Eric Pliner, for his essay In Between; and
Third Prize: Ellen S. Glazer, for her essay On the Doorposts of Our House.

Two Special Prizes for Children under 15 go to:

Wilson E. Baer, for his essay Keeping the Interfaith, for My Dad; and
Jackson Davidow, for his essay Chrewish.

In each of the original categories, seven (or eight, where there was a tie) Honorable Mention prizes, consisting of a copy of The Guide to Jewish Interfaith Family Life: An Handbook (Jewish Lights Publishing), are being awarded. In the Raising Jewish Children category, Honorable Mentions go to:

Joanne Catz Hartman, for Jewish and a Little Bit Christmas;
Suzanne Koven, for Half Jewish, Half Italian and Half American;
Jemi Kostiner Mansfield,for Turning the Dilemma into a Tradition;
Keren McGinity, for Intermarriage Strengthened My Jewish Identity;
Rena Mello, for A Mother's Ongoing Struggle with the Issue of Acceptance;
Kathy Miller, for Our Journey to Judaism;
Christina Pertus-Hendelman, for When Children Raise Jewish Parents; and
Fiona Stevenson, for My Name is Not Ruth.

In the Loving Jewish Grandchildren category, Honorable Mentions go to:

Phyllis Fleiss, for Almost Perfect;
Amy Kratish, for How my Daughter's Interfaith Relationship is Bringing Me Closer to Judaism;
Sylvia Lehrich, for Reaching Out;
Arlene Lippman, for each of three entries, An In-laws Interfaith Journey; Where I am Coming From, Where I am Going to; and Definitely Not the World of our Fathers or Grandfathers;
Susan Richards, for American as Apple Pie; and
Pauline Tannenbaum, for Loving Jewish Grandchildren.

In the Claiming My Jewish Roots category, Honorable Mentions go to:

Samie Faciolo, for Unwrapped Gifts;
Tracy Feinstein, for My Religion, My Choice;
Charlotte Honigman-Smith, for Whose Daughter;
Noah Emmanuel Cochran Levinson, for Their Greatest Gift--A Relationship with God;
Brianne Nadeau, for Jewish Plus Christmas;
Maya Richman, for Thoughts from the Gap; and
Brenna Savano, for But You Don't Look Jewish.

In the Engaging in Jewish Life category, Honorable Mentions go to:

Rachel Barenblat, for Finding a Home;
Pam Chernoff, for In the Beginning;
Sue Eisenfeld, for Thank God my Husband is a Former Presbyterian/Quaker Agnostic;
Gina Hagler, for Catholic Girl to Jewish Woman;
Teresa McMahon, for Having a Little More Faith in Interfaith Marriages;
Cara Nissman, for A Jewish Home is Where the Heart Is;
Sara Prentice-Manela, for Choosing to Struggle; and
Dana Turney, for Bagels, Lox and Easter Ham.

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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