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A New Platform for Young Writers


This time it became personal.

It didn't start out that way. I was sitting at an editorial board meeting of ESRA Magazine and simply threw out an idea:

"Why don't we sponsor a Young Writers Competition? ESRA is so involved in English tutoring through the schools and in its other programs; why not tie-in the magazine with a writing contest?"

Simple. Sensible. All hands said yes.

But soon it was not so simple. Who knew that stories written by 9th and 10th graders could be so good? Who could have anticipated the depth of feeling in so many of the entries? Who would have expected such powerful English writing by students whose native languages were Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and Spanish?

Clearly the judges didn't, because all twelve of us were astounded. We expected the competition would be a routine exercise - after all, we previously and easily ran adult short story contests. But this was different. It was a journey through the trials and tribulations of extremely sensitive and literate teenagers. We felt a personal responsibility to treat each entry with care.

The Process

The contest began as a pilot program, late in the school year. The Education Ministry put the word out to English teachers and ESRA publicized it through its tutoring and other English language programs. We were pleased to see a rush of entries from enthusiastic students before schools closed in May.

We were also fortunate to receive support from the Goodvach family, who sponsored the prizes in memory of Nellie Goodvach – wife, mother and grandmother – who was an active ESRA tutor before her death in 2020. Nellie's story, "Still Inspiring Young Writers", was published in ESRA Magazine's July issue, 2022.

Students were asked to address one of three topics: How I'd Like to Change the World; How Will Climate Change Affect our Lives? What I Learned from the Kindest Person I Know.

The entries went through three rounds of evaluation by our editorial board judges.

We judged based on the power and creativity of the stories and not on grammar and usage. Six of the twenty stories selected were written by native English or English/Hebrew speakers. Judges did not know the identities of the writers, their native languages or where they lived.

The Prizes

The contest includes five prize levels, and fifteen stories were selected for these awards as noted nearby.

Five additional stories also stood out, however, and they all happened to be on the topic, "What I Learned from the Kindest Person I Know".

Because each story paid tribute to an exceptionally kind person, we felt it appropriate to create an Honorary Tribute Award. In the spirit of these stories, we are making a donation to ESRA's "Leadership Through Nature" program, which helps children who need emotional support through an animal therapy program at Kibbutz Magal. The winners of the Tribute Award are also listed.

The two 1st Prize stories, The Photo Album and Good Boy, will appear in the next issue of ESRA Magazine. They, and the other stories, will appear in a special publication that will be produced in print and online. There will also be an awards ceremony for the prizewinners.

The Future

We at ESRA, both at the magazine and in the English tutoring programs, have learned an important lesson from the students who participated in this pilot program. We recognize that there are many intelligent, sensitive and motivated young writers who deserve a platform to express themselves. And given the importance of English education, we are pleased to offer this platform in English.

Thus, there will be another competition in the coming school year. We'll promote it as widely as possible in both schools and through ESRA's other programs. And we'll develop print and online platforms for our emerging young writers.

They have shown us through their work that they deserve it. 

1st Prize

  • Story Published in ESRA Magazine
  • Creative Writing Course with Dr Janette Segal
  • JBL Ear Pods

The Photo Album by Rei Sutelman, Herzliya
Native Language: Hebrew

Good Boy by Michal Kinneret Herman, Jerusalem
Native Language: English

2nd Prize

  • Creative Writing Course with Dr Janette Segal
  • JBL Ear Pods

Blindly by Yael Abramovitz, Raananna
Native Language: Hebrew

Departure by Steven Finberg, Rishon LeZion
Native Language: Hebrew

3rd Prize

  • Two VIP Movie Tickets

The Sky is Falling Down, Literally by Michal Bean, Raanana

Native Language: English

A Whole New World by Joey Eden Welfeld, Raanana

Native Language: English/Hebrew

True Kindness by Shani Avigail Tick, Raanana

Native Language: English/Hebrew

4th Prize

  • Steimatzky Voucher

The Beauty of the World Without Wars by Nareman Saber Alasam, Tel-Shave, Negev

Native Language: Arabic

A Pandemic You Wouldn't Believe by Uma Li Goldman, Even Yehuda

Native Language: Spanish

The Butterfly Effect by Muhammad Abu Fariha, Tel Sheva, Negev

Native Language: Arabic

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility by Adi Adler, Herzliya

Native Language: Hebrew

5th Prize

  • One-year subscription to Street Magazine, The Jerusalem Post

Unheard and Hurt by Victoria Grinfeld, Haifa

Native Language: Russian

Untitled (The Sky Was Black) by Shaden Hammam, Tamra, Lower Galilee

Native Language: Arabic

The Story of My Life by Ori Ovadya, Rishon LeZion

Native Language: Hebrew

How I'd Like to Change the World! By Anna Salamy, Yarka, Western Galilee

Native Language: Arabic

Honorary Tributes

  • In the spirit of these stories, a donation is being made to ESRA's "Leadership Through Nature" animal therapy program for children in need of emotional support.

What I Learned from My Uncle Dan by Yeda'ya Finkelman, Beit Shemesh

Native Language: Bilingual English/Hebrew

The Kindest Person I Know by Yaron Ben Lavi , Herzliya

Native Language: English

What I Learned from the Kindest Person I Know by Guy Bartal, Herzliya

Native Language: Hebrew

What I Learned from the Kindest Person I Know, Bryan Perel, Ashdod

Native Language: Bilingual Hebrew/Russian

What I Learned from the Kindest Person I Know by Sapir Lev, Herzliya

Native Language: Hebrew

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