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Announcing The Forward’s 2020 Youth Writing Contest

“Sometime perhaps I shall transcend this Americanism in order that I may be free to enjoy the full freedom of those ideals which I now carry in my heart’s heart.”

Those words were written by a young man from Delaware named Benjamin Brodinsky who, during the depths of the Depression, was declared the winner of the Forward’s 1931 essay contest.

Back then, our writing contests were one of the ways the Forward brought together a nascent Jewish community. Our readers contributed essays about ideal relationships, about the most remarkable character in their lives, about what it meant to be a Jew and an American. Their words were judged by such luminaries as the Forward’s founding editor Ab Cahan and Sherwood Anderson, author of “Winesburg, Ohio.”

Today’s looks a little different from the daily newspaper our early essayists read. But, especially in this moment of anxiety and social isolation, the themes they wrote about still resonate — the need to find connection, to see the unique human qualities in each other, to navigate between our roles as Jews and Americans.

In this spirit, as we look forward to Passover, The Forward is proud to announce the launch of a brand-new essay contest for young writers. The theme is one that Benjamin Brodinsky would have had a lot to say about: “What It Means To Be Free.”

In partnership with The Jewish Education Project and BBYO we’re asking middle-school and high-school age students to submit an essay, a story, or maybe even a poem about the meaning of freedom in 2020 America. We’ll publish some of the best entries on our site and award a cash prize of $180 to the top essay in three age categories.

Although Sherwood Anderson and Ab Cahan are no longer here to judge our contest, we’ve assembled a top-notch panel including Dahlia Lithwick, a senior writer at; former U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Forward senior editor Adam Langer and representatives of The Jewish Education Project.

To enter our contest, please send your name, your age, the name of the school you attend, a photo of yourself, and your entry (no more than 1,000 words) by May 1 to [email protected]. For more information on our contest guidelines, click here.

We look forward to reading your work.

Oh, and if you’re interested in learning a bit more about our 1931 essay contest winner, here’s a remembrance his daughter Elisa Miller wrote for the Forward in 2014.


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