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8th Grade Student Wins First Place in Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU Writing Contest

Kol HaKavod to 8th Grade Student, Kayla Herssein, for winning first place in The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU annual Student Writing Contest. The Jewish Museum of Florida offers this contest encouraging excellence in writing; promote self-discovery and empathy for critical challenges common to all.

This year's theme was: Traditions Worth Keeping. Students had to write about a struggle to maintain cultural or religious traditions. Please enjoy Kayla's poem:

Shabbat Struggles

Flinging down your briefcase
You rush to hang your coat on the creaky rack
Barely making it to light the small flame
That contains Hashem’s presence, signifying that
Shabbat is in your midst.

As the sweet fragrance of challah fills the air
And the warm broth of chicken soup soothes your taste buds,
Your gut churns frantically as you recall the paper due tomorrow, not yet finished,
Your cheeks grow red and hot with frustration recognizing that
Shabbat is in your midst.

Through the cold embrace of darkness
You reach for the switch that will satisfy your longing for light,
But as you squint your eyes and exhale your irritation sharply
A memory tugs at your fingers, the realization that
Shabbat is in your midst.

With the scorching heat of summer rising off the asphalt,
Sweat glues your clothing to your exhausted body
You feel the small gust of wind as a car rushes by
And you crave the coolness of the chilled brown leather seats on the back of your neck,
But you bring yourself to admit that this isn’t possible
Shabbat is in your midst.  

Sitting in the sanctuary,
Meaningless mumbles of prayers filling your ears but not your heart,
You lean over to your friend, ready to whisper the latest gossip,
But you catch yourself, ashamed,
Moved by the sight of her bowed head, closed eyes, and slightly moving lips,
A reminder that
Shabbat is in your midst.

As the presence of rest itself departs through light pink clouds
The screen on your phone lights up
You click on the number pad, expecting to unlock peace of mind
But you are let down as a somber thought resonates instead,
Shabbat is no longer in your midst
And the world is left to chaos once again.


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