Essay Contest’s Origins

Your story in the Feb. 24 Jewish Times about the B’nai B’rith essay contest regarding the George Washington letter (“AJA Eighth-Grader Wins B’nai B’rith Contest”) was especially interesting to me because I chaired the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Museum in Washington when the contest began.

The first awards were presented in 1994 by Georgia Gov. Zell Miller, who was introduced by Georgia Congressman John Lewis. Attorney General Janet Reno presented the awards the next year, as did others of equal note in the years following.

I am delighted to see the contest revived here in Atlanta by Art Link, Karen Kahn Weinberg and the Achim/Gate City Lodge and send a hearty mazel tov to winner Gabe Weiss for his insightful essay, as well as to his Atlanta Jewish Academy teacher Anna Lefkoff. I hope their initiative will take root and flourish.

The original concept belonged to the museum’s director, Ori Z. Soltes, and came about because the actual letter from George Washington was on exhibit at the museum, on permanent loan from its owner, the Morgenstern Foundation.

Open to Grades 6 through 8 in all public and private schools in the Washington area, it was part of the museum’s ongoing educational program implementing the schools’ efforts to combat prejudice. Prizes were offered for visual as well as textual interpretation of what the letter meant to the student in her/his personal life.

A most gratifying aspect was that almost all the winners throughout the years of the museum’s existence were themselves immigrants, Christian and Muslim as well as Jewish (from the former Soviet Union). The first winner was a young girl from Mexico.

The award presentation nights were great occasions, not only for the families involved, but also for many others whose presence testified to their determination that our government would “give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

That message resonates today more than ever.

Thank you for publicizing it.

— Janice Rothschild Blumberg, Atlanta

AJT Deserves Honor

As a reader from Jerusalem, I was very pleased to hear that the Atlanta Jewish Times is being honored as Conexx’s Partner of the Year (“Conexx to Honor AJT,” Feb. 24). I believe that Michael Jacobs, the editor, and the paper are most deserving.

My family read The Southern Israelite from its inception in the 1920s. I read it in the 1950s when I was still in Atlanta. The paper had a variety of stories, international and national, but there were initially five synagogues, then six and then a seventh on University Drive that did not last too long. There were a certain number of organizations, but even they were limited.

The AJT now has almost 40 synagogues to cover and over 100 Jewish organizations.

What some people don’t realize is that a weekly newspaper is more difficult than a daily. A daily has a tight routine and publishing makeup. With a weekly paper, as soon as you finish one, you have to start again.

The editor of the AJT demonstrates weekly how the Atlanta Jewish community and Israel can be covered. There are also many think pieces. I cannot say that I agree with all that appears, but I am proud to say that this is the weekly Jewish paper of the Gate City of the South, where I was born.

Michael, me chayil le chayil — from strength to strength

— Rabbi David Geffen, Jerusalem