A Visit to the Center for Jewish History

Last Sunday my parents and I headed downtown to the Center for Jewish History on West 16th Street. We had two goals: to visit the exhibit on “Alfred Dreyfus: The Fight for Justice,” and to see the one on “Jewish Chaplains at War: Unsung Heroes of the ‘Greatest Generation,’ 1941-45.”

For those new to it, the CJH is, according to its Web site, “a unique partnership of five major institutions of Jewish scholarship, history, and art: the American Jewish Historical Society, the American Sephardi Federation, the Leo Baeck Institute, the Yeshiva University Museum, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.” The Dreyfus exhibit belongs to the Yeshiva University Museum segment; “Jewish Chaplains at War” is linked with the AJHS.

Since the exhibit on the chaplains was on the main floor, we started there. The story of Jewish chaplains in World War II is not entirely new to me. Still, I was incredibly moved by the photographs and objects on display. One photograph of a Jewish chaplain leading services for Buchenwald survivors was overwhelming. (Although much of the exhibit appears to be online, that piece of it does not seem to be.)

Then we continued on to the Dreyfus exhibition. According to the brochure I picked up there, the exhibition was organized by the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme in Paris. Which might explain the fact that I was able to read/understand much more of what was on view than were my (non-French-speaking) parents.

I’ve known a lot about this historical episode for a long time. And yet, it still affects me profoundly. Maybe it affected me even more this time, seeing some of the actual fabric ripped from Alfred Dreyfus’s uniform during his dégradation in January 1895.

It’s an extensive exhibition, one that will take you much more time to absorb than you’ll need for “Jewish Chaplains at War.” You can catch it until February 17. And while it will help you to have some facility with French, that’s really not required. Je vous le promets.

Notes from Around the Web

This week PBS debuts a new series on “The Jewish Americans.” Look for more information on the series Web site.
I’m grateful to Gershom Gorenberg and Hadassah magazine for introducing me to Israeli poet Haim Gouri, in a profile published in the January 2008 issue.
Last month AJC Executive Director spoke in Berlin about “The U.S.-Israel Relationship: Fact and Fiction.” We can now read the text of his speech online.

Wishes for Tom Lantos

Sad news broke today:

“U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the only Holocaust survivor elected to the U.S. Congress, is retiring because he has cancer.”

Read the entire story here.

I remember well Congressman Lantos’s visit to our Temple in New Jersey back when I was in religious school. He was inspirational. I wish him all the best, and will recite a Mi Shebeirach for him.

Opportunities for Younger Scribes

In my last post I referenced the new issue of Moment magazine. I forgot to mention something else I noticed in my copy: an announcement for a contest the magazine is running for young writers.

If you know my other blog and/or my Web site, you know that pointing writers to contests and similar opportunities is something I spend a lot of time doing. Once upon a time, I thought I’d put together a resource guide on such opportunities specifically geared to recognize writing on Jewish themes or subjects. I actually proposed such a guide–in print form–to a few Jewish publishers. None bit.

But there’s no reason not to share some of my knowledge. With the Moment prompt, I’ll begin with a listing of contests for younger scribes. I’ll provide links to programs I understand NOT to charge entry/reading/processing fees. Please do not consider these listings endorsements, and, as they say, “use them at your own risk.”

Let me offer a few helpful hints (adapted from my Guide to No-Cost Literary Contests and Competitions) that are applicable to most writing contests:

1. Always learn about the sponsoring organization and, if an award program includes publication, familiarize yourself with that publication before submitting any contest entry. Just as you must research potential publishers for your short stories, essays, or books in other situations, you’ll want to understand—and perhaps even better “match” your submissions—to a given opportunity. At the same time, especially with programs and publications that may be new or unfamiliar to you, it’s important to assure yourself that these are, indeed, places where you’ll be happy to see your work find a home and recognition.

2. Check with the sponsoring organization’s Web site (or by mail or phone if necessary) to learn about any changes in a program’s guidelines or policies. Deadlines in particular may shift from year to year, even just to accommodate a weekend or holiday.

3. If you request additional information or guidelines by mail, be sure to enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) with proper postage.

4. Plot the deadlines in your calendar. Plan ahead. Some writers use contest deadlines to spur them on to finish a project—or start a new one. Some set goals (one competition per month, one competition per quarter, etc.). But if there’s an opportunity that’s just perfect for you, don’t miss it because you “forgot” to note it when it first caught your eye.

5. Double-check every opportunity you’re interested in pursuing for required entrance forms and specific instructions on manuscript preparation and mailing.

6. Speaking of manuscript preparation and mailing—always follow the individual guidelines. Don’t assume that all contest policies are created equal! And don’t antagonize or irritate a contest administrator (or judge) before s/he has even read your work. Do not e-mail submissions to competitions that do not accept e-mail submissions. Do not send a manuscript with your name on every page if the guidelines explicitly state that your name should appear nowhere on the manuscript. Do not staple manuscripts that should be paper-clipped or bound. And so on.

7. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Then proofread again. Read your work aloud to catch the errors spellcheck or other computer programs may not have noticed.

8. Keep a record—and a copy—of all your submissions.

9. If and when you find yourself in the happy position of having your work win a competition, it is the kind (and polite) thing to do to notify any other publication or publisher who may be considering that work that it is no longer available (most organizations will indicate in their guidelines whether such a simultaneous submission was acceptable in the first place). Take care of any such notifications immediately.

10. Celebrate! (Whether you’ve “won” or not!) You’ve accomplished something pretty important just by taking the risk of putting your work out there and taking this chance. Give yourself some credit. And then get back to work….


Israel Arbeiter Essay Contest
(for students in grades 6-8 and 9-12; not clear if this competition is limited to students in the Boston area)
Areyvut’s Bnai Mitzvah Essay Contest (for students in grades 5-9)
Dov and Arlein Chetner Chai Essay Contest (for “all Canadian students who have graduated from a Canadian High School and who are now currently enrolled in a recognized postsecondary institution”)
Alice Eckardt Holocaust Writing Contest (for middle and high school students “in the Lehigh Valley and surrounding areas”)
Jacob Friedman Writing and Art Contest (for students in grades 5-12 in Washington State)
Dr. A.L. and Rose Greenberg Holocaust Essay Contest (for students in grades 7-12/ages 13-18; not clear if this competition is limited to students in Minnesota)
Israel 60 Essay Contest (for students in grades 3-12; three divisions; apparently for Broward County, Florida, only)
Israel@60 Essay Contest (for all university and college students in Toronto)
Kaplun Essay Contest (for students in grades 7-9 and 10-12)
Leon County Holocaust Student Essay Contest(for students in elementary, middle, and high school; not clear if limited to students in Leon County, Florida)
Moment Magazine “Publish-a-Kid” Contest (for young people ages 9-13)
Moment Magazine “You Can Change the World” Essay Contest (for students in grades 9-12)
OU Kosher Essay Contest (for students in grades 4-12)
Roth Memorial Fund Essay Contest(for undergraduates and graduate students)
Tribute to the Rescuers High School Essay Contest (for students in grades 9-12)
White Rose Memorial Essay Contest (for middle and high school students in the Tulsa region)
Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest (for registered undergraduate juniors/seniors at accredited four-year colleges and universities in the United States)
Yom Hashoah Annual Essay Contest (for students in grades 8-12; “anyone affiliated with a Jewish Congregation/Synagogue in Central Massachusetts)

Have any programs to add? Please tell us (and supply a relevant link), in comments.

Why Can’t We All Get Along?

I’ve long subscribed to the belief that the world is all too eager to make life difficult for the Jews. Which makes it all the more ridiculous and counter-productive for us to make life difficult for each other.

As a Reform Jew and as a Zionist, for instance, I’ve had a lot of trouble accepting the idea that it wouldn’t be easy, or even possible, to be married in a religious ceremony led by a Reform rabbi in Israel (of all places). So when the new issue of Moment magazine arrived in my mailbox the other day, I was quite naturally drawn to the article on “A Marriage Made in Cyprus: The Israeli Mecca for Civil Ceremonies.” If you’re looking for some insight into the history and practical implications of marriage laws in Israel, this piece will be worth a read.

Which is not to say you won’t be left still questioning the system.