The winners of this year’s 3rd annual MyLife: Chassidus Applied Essay Contest were announced live during Sunday night’s special Yud Alef Nissan Edition of the MyLife: Chassidus Applied Webcast.
The 1st place winner of $10,000 was Moishe Chakoff, a 27 year old student from Kendall, Florida. Shraga Crombi, of Edison, New Jersey won the 2nd place $3,600 prize. Hadassah Silberstein of Brooklyn won the 3rd place $1,000 prize, and a bonus $1,000 4th place went to Sara Blau of Brooklyn.
The much anticipated announcement came after weeks of deliberations by a special panel of expert judges, who used a rigorous grading system to select the winners out of the hundreds of essays that were submitted in this year’s contest.
Hailing from all around the world, the contestants spanned a wide variety of ages and backgrounds, attesting to the broad appeal of the MyLife: Chassidus Applied Essay Contest. Submissions arrived from men and women of the entire social spectrum, including rabbis, laymen, shluchim, educators, professors, yeshivah bochurim, seminary graduates and high school students.
Rabbi Simon Jacobson announced the winners during this Sunday night’s broadcast of the highly acclaimed MyLife: Chassidus Applied series, which spawned the Essay Contest three years ago. This week’s 157th episode of the popular series was a special Yud Alef Nissan edition honoring the Rebbe’s 115th birthday, which focused on discussing matters pertaining to the Rebbe.
The first place winner Moishe Chakoff is a college student who first encountered orthodox Judaism in High School. He later went on to study at Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, where he was a student for over 3 years. It was there that he was exposed to, and inspired by the teachings of Chassidus. He has been an avid viewer of the Rabbi Jacobson’s MyLife Weekly Broadcast since the first episode.
“When I heard the news, I was obviously very excited,” said Chakoff. “After those initial feelings of excitement, I thought back to what Rabbi Jacobson said about not having to be the biggest scholar or greatest writer to do well in this contest.”
“I wouldn’t categorize myself as a great scholar or amazing writer. But in this generation, B”H, we have so much access to Chassidus, whether it be in a sefer, a website, an audio shiur etc. and it is accessible in so many languages, not just the original Hebrew or Yiddish. I do not live in a Lubavitcher community, nor do I have all the Sifrei Chassidus at my disposal. But no matter where a person is, they can find a way to learn Chassidus. In my opinion, the key is to have a curiosity for what Chassidus says, dedicate enough time to contemplate its meaning, and see where that leads you,” Chakoff said.
Rabbi Jacobson explained that the auspicious days leading to Yud Alef Nissan is a “most fitting time for the culmination of this amazing contest, driven by our collective mission and quest to disseminate Chassidus. The MyLife: Chassidus Applied Essay Contest has proven to encourage hundreds of men and women to study and apply Chassidus to their, and our, personal lives. The contest has created an unprecedented surge and excitement in the core mission of the Rebbeim: hafotzas hamayonos chutzah. Surely the Rebbe is deriving much nachas from the study and the propagation of Chassidus that this contest has brought about.”
Mrs. Sara Blau of Brooklyn, NY who won fourth place had these words of encouragement for all who were involved in the contest: “You will now forever have a piece of Chassidus that you can hold onto for real, meaningful inspiration! You can ‘whip it out of your pocket’ when you feel you need it, and know that you have given real tools to others as well.”
FULL LIST OF WINNERS:
$10,000 First Place Winner
Moishe Chakoff, 27, Kendall, Florida – Topic: Trees & Maps: How to Stop Being a People Pleaser
$3,600 Second Place Winner
Shraga Crombie, 35, Edison, New Jersey – Topic: Chassidus as an Eclectic Psychological Approach
$1,000 Third Place Winner
Hadassah Silberstein, 24, Brooklyn, NY – Topic: How to Deal With Difficult People
Bonus $1,000 Fourth Place Winner
Sara Blau, 27, Brooklyn, NY – Topic: ADD – The Key to Productive Living
Top 25 Finalists:
Daniel Feld, Jerusalem, Israel
Avrumie Karp, Spring Valley, NY
Chony Milecki, Brooklyn, NY
Esther Rochel Elkaim, Bal Harbour, FL
Avi Lowell, Jerusalem, Israel
DovBer Oirechman, Lod, Israel
Avremi Weinberg, Los Angeles, CA
Tonni Shmuckler, Montreal, QC
Chaim Luria, Zhytomyr, Ukraine
Menachem Mendel Wolff, Netania, Israel
Mendy Levitin, Seattle, WA
Amchaye Even-Yisroel, Jerusalem, Israel
Yisroel Yitzchaki, Kfar Chabad, Israel
Malky Bitton, Vancouver, BC
Shneur Zalman Ives, Brooklyn, NY
Yossi Grossbaum, Folsom, CA
Bentzi Avtzon, Bala Cynwyd, PA
Rochel Cohen, Leeds, UK
Menachem Mendel Schusterman, Peabody, MA
Mushka Silberberg, Chicago, IL
Rivkah Shanowitz, Montreal, QC
Rafi Chemel, Toronto, ON
David Lichtenstadter, Brooklyn, NY
No’a Bat Miri, Milford, CT
Gale Levin, New Haven, CT
The MyLife: Chassidus Applied Essay Contest invited people ages 15 and up, from around the world to submit an original essay applying a concept or idea in Chassidus to solve a contemporary life issue or challenge. Although only a select number of essays could be chosen as winners, many of the essays submitted were very impressive and moving, demonstrating how Chassidus provides for people of all backgrounds powerful tools for personal transformation and how Chassidus addresses the most fundamental human needs, from the emotional to the psychological and the spiritual.
The Meaningful Life Center is now exploring ways how to channel the enthusiasm and momentum created by this contest into classes, programs, and curricula to further the effort of applying Chassidus to life.
The MyLife Essay Contest Team is proud to showcase some of the amazing talent that has emerged through this year’s contest! Many of the essays will be reviewed and published over the coming weeks and months.
The MyLife: Chassidus Applied Essay Contest is a project of The Meaningful Life Center, and graciously sponsored by the Meromim Foundation. MLC reports that there will be exciting new follow-ups to the Essay Contest. To stay tuned for announcements, and to find out about next year’s contest, subscribe to the MLC mailing list.