These kids have the write stuff! Meet our story competition winners

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These kids have the write stuff! Meet our story competition winners

Jewish News teamed up with WIZO and PJ Library UK to offer young writers the chance to win an iPad for themselves and their schools!

Francine Wolfisz is the Features Editor for Jewish News.

Our amazing winners and runners up! (Gary Perlmutter Photography)
Our amazing winners and runners up! (Gary Perlmutter Photography)

A space adventure, a thrilling race, the tale of one migrant’s journey and a story that needed to be told were named as the winning entries in our storytelling competition.

Following the success of last year’s inaugural competition,  Jewish News teamed up with WIZO, the Women’s International Zionist Organisation and PJ Library, which distributes stories celebrating Jewish values and traditions to more than 7,500 children across the UK and asked young writers to pen their thoughts on the theme of never giving up.

A panel of judges, including Loraine Warren, WIZO UK Honorary President, Francine Wolfisz, Jewish News features editor, Lauren Hamburger, Director of PJ Library in the UK and Lydia Drukarz of Wavelength PR, selected a shortlist from more than 130 entries from across 23 schools.

Guest judge, author and poet Miriam Halahmy, then selected the final winners, who were revealed this week.

Cain Panas, 10, from Hertsmere Jewish Primary School, Radlett, won first place in the primary school category for his imaginative short story, My Huge Adventure, with Zara Teacher, 10, from Akiva Primary School, named as runner-up for poignant poem, Three Times A Migrant, inspired by real-life events experienced by her grandfather.

For the secondary school category, Ariella Goldstein, 14, from Hasmonean High School for Girls, Mill Hill, took first place for The Deciding Race.

Freyde Sayers, 17, from Forest School, Snaresbrook, was named as the runner-up for her short story, I Can Be An Author.

Lauren Hamburger with Miriam Halahmy
(Gary Perlmutter Photography)

At a special event held on Wednesday evening, the winners were presented with an iPad for themselves and their schools, thanks to sponsor Orit Lev of Mamilla Architecture & Design, while the runners-up received book vouchers. All the finalists also received goodie bags from P J Library.

Ronit Ribak-Madari, chairperson of WIZO UK, said: ‘WIZO is committed to encouraging young people to ‘persevere’ with their goals enabling them to enjoy success and be the best they can be. So perseverance was the perfect theme for us.’

Richard Ferrer, editor of Jewish News, said: “When we launched this initiative last year, we were impressed by the creativity of our younger readers, but this year’s entrants have surpassed our expectations. An initiative such as this, alongside WIZO UK and P J Library provides children with a wonderful opportunity to unleash their imagination and inspire others with their words.”

Orit Lev said: “Mamilla was thrilled to be a part of this wonderful competition. Story writing is not so far removed from our work in architecture and design – constructing a unique and compelling shell and ensuring the technique and flair that gives it heart. We congratulate all participants for their excellent and moving efforts.”

Francine Wolfisz, Jewish News features editor (Gary Perlmutter Photography)

Youngsters shortlisted by the judges for each category also received a certificate of commendation. They were: Joshua Trager-Lewis, 12, from JCOSS; Tamara Segel, 13, from Hasmonean High School for Girls; Samzi Tishler, 16, from Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School; Joel Brahams, 11, from JCOSS and Eddie Curtis, 13, from Immanuel College in the secondary school category; and Dena Stock, 10, from Sacks Morasha; Ethan Abrahams, 10, from HJPS; Jake Sosner, 7, from HJPS; Jonathan Gersch, 11, from Beit Schvidler and Joseph Gelb, 8, from Akiva in the primary school category.

WIZO is the largest independent social welfare organisation in Israel, supporting more than 800 projects across the country at every stage of life.

From left: PJ Library UK director Lauren Hamburger; Jewish News features editor Francine Wolfisz; author Miriam Halahmy; WIZO UK Honorary President Loraine Warren; Orit Lev of Mamilla Architecture & Design; WIZO philanthropy manager Osnat Maas; Ariella Goldstein; Cain Panas; Zara Teacher and Freyde Sayers (Gary Perlmutter Photography)

These include day care centres for children, emergency centres for babies and children at risk, youth villages for vulnerable teenagers and more than 100 after school programmes.

WIZO’s current fundraising focus is to achieve the remaining £200,000 of an ambitious £1.8 million drive for the vital renovation and refurbishment of the WIZO Vocational High School in Jerusalem, WIZO’s ‘School of Dreams’.

Winner, primary:

Cain Panas, 10, Year 6 at Hertsmere Jewish Primary School

Cain Panas with his family at the WIZO & Jewish News Story Telling Awards (Gary Perlmutter Photography)

My Huge Adventure

I started in my bedroom using my calculator to work out if it could be done. I spent hours outside in the freezing cold with a tape measure. I wrote pages and pages of equations. I waited for months until the time was right to do my mission.

It was a freezing Sunday afternoon when I opened my wardrobe and took out my warmest, luckiest and biggest jumper I had because I knew it would be as cold as the Arctic when I arrived there.

When I was outside, I extremely rushed onto the trampoline. I jumped and leapt as high as a tiger but each time I failed. I kept trying until I was so out of breath and exhausted, but I wasn’t ever going to give up on my dream.

I had to rethink all of the calculations carefully because I was desperate to complete my whole idea. In the garden I had to make a launch pad to put on the trampoline to make it even bouncier. Everyday as soon as I woke up, I went straight to work improving on my technique and my equipment.

An entire month had passed, as I waited again until it was the right time to launch but I still didn’t make it as high as I really wanted to.

Finally, on a bright but chilly Thursday morning I managed to jump so high I eventually landed on the moon. I picked up a huge moonrock to bring back to Earth as a souvenir to prove that I had actually been to the moon.

Now I just have to figure out how to make my way back home… I know if I persevere, I will always arrive at my destination wherever it is.

Miriam says: “Cain has written a tightly structured piece with a strong opening. The story engaged me right the way through; it is an orignal idea and a good example of persevering and overcoming the odds. Good ending.”

Runner-up, primary

Zara Teacher, 10, Year 6, Akiva Primary School

Zara Teacher with her family (Gary Perlmutter Photography)

Three times a migrant: A poem inspired by my grandfather’s early life

It was hard, hard to leave,

To leave my father buried there

But we had no choice,

As Jews we were not welcome to stay,

Yet that is where my ancestors lay.

Leaving home, the land of the Pharaohs,

To Italy, France, hopeful for a better life.

How I struggled to fit in.

And even though I spoke their tongue,

Of my accent, all they made was fun.

Three times a migrant.

Onwards to England,

Yet another language I strived to master,

Will this be my home for life?

Might I even find a wife?

I am not afraid

To say that I’m different.

I’m proud to be a Jew, a British Jew.

I am proud to be a successful migrant,

In this new home, where finally,

I am free.

Miriam says: Zara’s poem is a good example of walking in another’s shoes – in this case, those of her grandfather. The poem has a clear rhythm throughout and illustrates the theme of perseverance very well. This is a poignant poem with a striking opening stanza and a consistent rhyming scheme.


Winner, secondary

Ariella Goldstein, 14, Year 10, Hasmonean High School for Girls

Ariella Goldstein (left) (Gary Perlmutter Photography)

The deciding race

My foot brushed the starting block. I blocked out the sounds of people cheering and chatting, whispering and waiting. All I could hear was my heart forcing adrenaline throughout my muscles and my lungs gasping all available air. My whole body shook with fear.

I thought back to the hours I had spent training, all day every day. No days off. No excuses. I had been on diets and strict routines. I had missed parties and holidays. Every single day was physically and emotionally draining. There were days where I wished I could be “normal” and sit in a warm office with a hot cup of tea. Swimming was a commitment I had made and had devoted my life to. Was it the right path to take? In under a minute I would find out. The race was about to begin.

Icy water consumed me. My second home yet my second enemy. In this race I had one aim. I had to win. I was a fish escaping a shark and a polar bear its catching prey. Every stroke counted. Every breath counted. Every millisecond counted.

Passing the fifty meter mark I was still going strong. Two lengths done; two lengths to go. I was in the lead by half a second yet couldn’t get complacent. I had to keep up the pace and my breath was beginning to become shallow and every muscle ached. The fateful finishing line was so close; yet so far.

As determined as a lion, I came to the last length. The last push to victory. Adrenaline took over and I swam like never before. Technique didn’t matter. Speed mattered.

Gasping for breath, I strained to hear the results. My name was called. Extreme elation removed all exhaustion. My whole body shook with pride.

Miriam says: This is a tightly-written piece with a strong opening paragraph. Ariella’s style shows variety in sentence length, which strengthens the effect of her writing. The story has some strong images and a good ending, focusing on our competition theme very well.”


Runner-up, secondary

Freyde Sayers, 17, Year 13, Forest School

Freyde Sayers with her Mum (Gary Perlmutter Photography)

Can Be An Author

I started with nothing, an 8-year-old girl sitting at a tiny white desk in a tiny bedroom, the walls painted a candy floss pink. I’d read classic stories of mischievous girls at boarding school, worked my way through the Faraway Tree series and cried when I finished the last Mogg book. It was time now, I decided, to create something of my own, illustrations and all, a series of stories that were just as entertaining as any adult could make up. Biro and draft paper at the ready, I brought to life two girls my own age, one who was privileged and the other greatly disadvantaged, forced to live together, and who created a blossoming friendship from initial hatred. I named them Isabelle and Juliet, two cheerful girls with tight ringlets who went on eventful holidays, to exciting parties later started new lives at boarding school. They weren’t just imagined but drawn in scribbles and strokes with pastel crayons that started long and fresh and wore down to small bumps of blue, brown and purple that coloured my desk and rainbowed my fingers. The girls in my story grew and transformed into admirable women who were strong and focused. The ten short stories, bound in two volumes, now live at the top of my bookshelf in my new, more spacious bedroom, painted a sky blue. I look at their coloured spines with pride and remember my dream.

Miriam says: “This is a bright, engaging piece with a lovely opening sentence. Freyde is a very visual writer and her story is filled with colour and variety. The story is well structured and our theme is well illustrated.”


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