National High School Essay Contest

“What ties us together is a story, the story kept in our heads and hearts. . . . We are our story.”—Simon Schama in The Story of the Jews

The Story of the Jews explores the 3,000 year history of the Jewish people and their impact on civilization. In the introduction to the series, host Simon Schama shares his belief that the key to the endurance of the Jewish people over three millennia has been the telling of a story, the story of the Jews.

As part of The Story of the Jews National Education and Outreach Initiative, WNET Education is launching an essay contest to encourage high school aged students across America to examine how stories shape our identities.

What stories have impacted your life? How do these stories influence how you see yourself and the world? How do they tie you to your community?

To enter the contest, watch the following video clip from The Story of the Jews and answer the question below in 500 words or less.

Essay Prompt

Aviva Rahamim uses art to express both her personal experience and the history of her people. Her original imagery communicates information about her community and also reflects “her own Exodus story” — her journey from Ethiopia to Israel. What story has had the biggest influence on your personal and/or cultural identity? How has this story impacted your life? How do you and/or your community share this story? Your essay should address each of these three question components. You may choose any story – such as, a story from your own personal past, from history, from literature or from a religious or cultural tradition.

Contest Details

To submit your essay, first, read the complete rules here, and then complete the entry form. Entrants must be in grades 9 through 11 and between 13 and 18 years of age at the time of entry.

All entries must be submitted by Friday, June 13, 2014.

Submitted essays will be reviewed by WNET Education staff and The Story of the Jews National Education and Outreach Advisory Board. WNET Education will select five “grand prize” winning essays. Grand prize winners will receive The Story of the Jews companion book, personally inscribed by Simon Schama, and will be flown to New York City with a parent or guardian and given a tour of The Jewish Museum by Simon Schama. Grand prize winners will also receive hotel accommodation while in NYC and participate in a luncheon reception.

WNET Education will also select twenty “first prize” winning essays. First prize winners will be awarded a signed copy of The Story of the Jews companion book.

Winners will be notified no later than Friday, August 15, 2014.

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THE STORY OF THE JEWS IS A SERIES WRITTEN & PRESENTED BY SIMON SCHAMA BBC, THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC.