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Essay contest winner, Aviva Cramer

Cramer Wins B'nai Brith Essay Contest

June 23, 2010

Continuing its exemplary commitment to community service, B’nai Brith Manitoba Region this spring  invited Gray Academy of Jewish Education grade 12 students to reflect upon the value and significance of their personal community service experiences in an essay writing contest. The theme of the essay was:  How my community service hours evolved and advanced into a sense of duty and a meaningful commitment in my life.
“Eight essays were submitted by students for consideration,” said Earl J. Barish, Chairman of the Executive Board of B’nai Brith Canada. “The essays were graded by a panel of three Judges, Marsha Cowan, CEO, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, David Matas, Senior Legal Counsel, B’nai Brith Canada and Rhonda Spivak, Winnipeg Jewish Review, editor.”

“All of the essays submitted were very powerful, well written and exemplified the writers’ personal involvement, commitment and inspiration through their service to our local community,” he added. “Every one of the students who entered the contest has the potential to be a future leader of our community”.

The winning essay was submitted by Aviva Cramer, who will receive a $500 award from Barish on Wednesday, June 23 at the Gray Academy. 

“We congratulate Aviva for her insight into the process of community service and for articulating how that service has, and will continue to have, a compelling impact on her personally,” Barish said.

Aviva's essay is reprinted below.

By Aviva Cramer

My most essential experience as a leader involved helping my community and the greater community of Winnipeg. This significant event took place in Grade 11; after I participated in the Nesiya Summer Experience, a summer program in Israel. I received a scholarship for the program, and, in return, I was required to develop, from scratch, a project for my community. After much thought, I decided I wanted to present others with a glimpse of the Israel I continuously love and cherish. I wanted to counteract the media’s constant criticism of Israel and their association of Israel with death, destruction and war.  In order to achieve this goal I set out, independently from my school, to provide five classes from Seven Oaks Middle School with an enlightening Israeli experience.
I knew the upcoming task would be emotionally and logistically overwhelming; with that in my mind, I was relieved that one of the requirements of my follow-up is to have a project advisor. I chose a project adviser who is a Hebrew resource teacher for elementary students, and she has a deep connection with Israel.  My advisor perfectly complemented my project because she taught me innovative approaches on presenting to younger students, and she helped brainstorm ideas for potential topics.

I reached the planning process, an intricate and tenuous stage. I began this process by creating a one page project outline conveying my goals, methodology and a brief abstract. I decided to organize my presentation into stations, each with a separate topic including: virtual geographic tour, art, music, technology/inventions and world relief. I chose five of my peers to run these stations in a unique and engaging method for the Grade 8 participants. For instance, one station required the students to make Agam style pictures; while another station taught the students about Israel’s humanitarian organization, Save a Child’s Heart.  Most importantly, the introduction to the presentation consisted of personal accounts from me and the four other students. This delicate beginning captured the students’ attention with out strong connection to the homeland.  

Along with formulating a solid plan of attack, I created concise goals for my project. My main goal was to communicate Israel’s accomplishments and world contributions to a group of non-Jewish teens. I wanted my presentation to create a ripple effect in which these students would tell their families and peers about this enriching outlook on Israel. To check if I accomplished my goal, I had the students fill out a questionnaire after the workshop. Upon reviewing the answers, I came across a consistent pattern. The space designated for their previous notions on Israel was empty, making the participants vulnerable to the media’s criticism on Israel. However, the space devoted for their post-workshop outlook was filled with annotations of admiration and respect for Israel. I truly believe that the students left the workshop with their mind and heart immersed in Israel’s passion for improving the world through a variety of ways.

Finally, I completed Grade 11with a new appreciation and responsibility to teach others about a country so dear to my heart. Also, I will remember this achievement as a defining moment in my development as a student, leader and human being.

In Grade 12, I continued my responsibility for the community through a different avenue. This year, I decided to volunteer my time to tutor Gray Academy Elementary students on a weekly basis. I teach language arts to two students in kindergarten and Judaic studies enrichment for an advanced student in Grade 4. Currently, I’m helping this Grade 4 student complete a project on three main religions in Israel: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. I chose this type of community service because I am interested in psychology, specifically child development. I took my passion for the field and community service to the next level with my acceptance into the psychology program at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. Thus, I am dedicated to further my education and experience in this field in order to ensure a future that benefits my community. 

Lastly, I gained from these two experiences a sense of professional and Zionistic duty for the future.  In the upcoming years, I plan on becoming an active leader with a constant mission to assist and represent the Jewish community, Winnipeg and Israel.

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