Gabriella Newman of East Windsor and three of her classmates have earned a literary distinction for Ilan High School for Girls. The four students at the Ocean school were selected as finalists in “Linking the Generations,” a nationwide writing contest held by the English-language edition of Hamodia: The Daily Newspaper of Torah Jewry.
The essays submitted by Gabriella, the daughter of Debra and Marc Newman and a congregant at Congregation Toras Emes in East Windsor, and Esther Sitt, Molly Abitbol, and Estelle Botton, all of Brooklyn, were among the 21 of 84 entries selected for publication in a special Pesach supplement, “Tune in to Teens.”
Students from across the country were asked to “write about someone you know and love (or someone you’ve heard about or met) who has provided you with a link to previous generations and inspiration for your future.”
Gabriella wrote about her relationship with her late great-grandmother in her essay, “My Precious Link.”
“She had such a big heart and a strong belief in Hashem,” Gabriella told NJJN. “She was always giving tzedeka and praying for others, whether they were Jewish or not. I really feel a strong connection to her values, and I wanted to share her story with everyone.”
Esther wrote “V’higadeta L’vincha” — “And You Shall Tell Your Child,” the Jewish tradition of sharing stories to connect the generations. Her piece was about her great-grandfather, who studied Torah for years in order to marry a woman who came from a more religious family.
“His story inspired me,” Esther told NJJN. “He worked really hard and became more religious. His determination inspired me to learn more and work hard to reach my goals.”
In her essay, “The Miraculous Machine,” Molly wrote about her great-grandfather’s survival of the Holocaust and eventual arrival in America. “He managed to survive in the camps by sewing clothes for soldiers. When he came to the U.S., he bought a similar sewing machine and became a clothing designer,” she said.
“I am inspired by his struggle and the way Hashem watched over him and kept him safe.”
In her entry, “Tears of Strength,” Estelle wrote about a photo that made an impact on her the first time she saw it in elementary school. “It was a dark and depressing photo of a concentration camp. In one corner there were Jews reading from their prayer books,” she said. “It gave me the chills that even through their hardship they were praying to Hashem. It’s a reminder to me of how important faith is.”
Participating in the essay contest was meaningful for the students, said Ilan High School English teacher Ahuva Reichman. “They did a very nice job. By making them think about their connection to their previous generations, they really got a lot out of it.”