St. Augustine Scholarship Contest

St. Augustine Scholarship Contest

Since its launch, the CJMA has awarded scholarships to 17 St. Augustine students, totaling over $9,750, as part of this annual essay contest. Over 100 students have submitted essays, exploring themes reflecting on unity between the Jewish and African-American communities.

Past contests and winners:


2023 St. Augustine High School Essay Contest

Essay Topic: The Shared Dreams of the Jewish and African-American Community

Description: Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie speaks about the danger of forming a single story about another person or group of people, and the power stories have to heal, when they convey the broadness of our humanity.

Both the Jewish community and the African-American community understand what is to experience the danger of a single story, and sometimes we even tell those stories about each other. And when we do, we lose the power to stand in the kind of solidarity that Rabbi Yoachim Prinz spoke about when he addressed the March on Washington in 1963, just moments before Dr. King began his “I have a dream” speech. 

In 500-750 words, how do you think the Jewish and African-American communities of America can avoid perpetuating stereotypical stories about one another and instead come together to build the community and country we all dream of?

Resources for the Essay:

  1. TED Talk by Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie.
  2. Rabbi Yoachim Prinz’s speech at the March on Washington: video here and transcript here
  3. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have a Dream” Speech Martin Luther King – I Have A Dream Speech – August 28, 1963 – YouTube

Ryan Jennings
10 April 2023

How do you think the Jewish and African-American communities of America can avoid perpetuating stereotypical stories about one another and instead come together to build the community and country we all dream of?

The Jewish and African-American communities have a long and complicated history in America. Both communities have faced discrimination and prejudice, but they have also played vital roles in building the country we know today. Unfortunately, there are still instances of stereotyping and misunderstanding between the two communities, which can hinder efforts towards collaboration and unity.

To avoid perpetuating stereotypical stories about one another, it is essential for members of both communities to engage in meaningful dialogue and education. One of the most significant challenges in achieving this is overcoming a lack of understanding of each other’s histories and experiences. The Jewish community and the African-American community have vastly different backgrounds and experiences in America, which can lead to misunderstandings and even hostility.

One way to address this is to create opportunities for dialogue and learning between the two communities. This could involve community events, workshops, or even joint community service projects. Through these types of activities, members of both communities can learn about each other’s experiences and develop a greater understanding of the challenges they face.

It is also crucial for members of both communities to challenge and confront harmful stereotypes when they encounter them. This means speaking out against harmful rhetoric and media portrayals that perpetuate negative stereotypes about either community. Members of both communities must also work to ensure that their own communities do not perpetuate stereotypes about the other community.

Another way to build bridges between the Jewish and African-American communities is to work together on shared causes. Both communities have a long history of fighting for social justice and equality. By joining forces, they can amplify their voices and make a greater impact.

For example, both communities have been active in fighting for voting rights, criminal justice reform, and immigrant rights. By working together on these issues, the Jewish and African-American communities can demonstrate their shared commitment to justice and equality.

Finally, it is essential to recognize that both communities have unique challenges and experiences that must be respected and understood. The Jewish community has a history of facing discrimination and persecution, which has led to a strong sense of community and a commitment to social justice. Meanwhile, the African-American community has a history of systemic oppression and racism, which has led to a legacy of resilience and strength in the face of adversity.

To build the community and country that we all dream of, we must recognize and honor these unique experiences while working together towards a common goal. This means creating space for dialogue, challenging stereotypes, and working together on shared causes. It also means respecting and understanding each other’s histories and experiences.

In conclusion, the Jewish and African-American communities have much to gain from working together. By challenging stereotypes and building bridges between the two communities, we can create a more just and equitable society for all. It will take commitment, education, and a willingness to listen and learn, but the rewards are well worth the effort. For your review and consideration of the JFGNO scholarship.

Respectfully, Ryan Jennings, class of 2024

Charles Gurley III
Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans Scholarship Essay Contest
St. Augustine High School
11 April 2023

The Shared Dreams of the Jewish and African American Community

The Jewish and African American communities in America have both suffered a long, persistent, and complex history of common difficulties, challenges, and experiences. Both communities have faced misconceptions, stereotypes, discrimination, persecution, and violence. Both have also fought tirelessly to discover ways to create a more fair and equitable society in the endless pursuit of civil rights, liberty, and true justice for all. This essay will explore some of the shared dreams each of these communities share, the ways these communities have worked together in the past, and the importance of reducing perpetuating stereotypical stories about one another to further strengthen their common fight for civil rights, justice, equality, and more equitable treatment.

It is evident from hearing both Rabbi Yoachim Prinz’s speech at the March on Washington given shortly before Martin Luther King’s, I Have a Dream Speech in 1963 that one of the most prized shared dreams of these communities is true and lasting freedom. This shared dream of freedom is rooted in both groups shared troubled histories of oppression and slavery. Jewish people faced significant and unimaginable turmoil and persecution in the Holocaust during World War II. Likewise, African Americans faced years of suffering through the experiences of slavery, racism, and segregation. Yet still today, Jewish communities suffer from anti-Semitism treatment, slurs and random acts of violence and African American communities suffer from police brutality and systemic racism. Through these identifiable and relatable experiences, both Jewish and African American communities have been active participants in the civil rights movement and have stood united in supporting each other’s efforts for fair and consistent treatment under the Constitution and the law.

Another shared dream as discussed in TED Talk by Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie is breaking free from the dangers of a single-story narrative. As stated by Author Adichie, both communities can have a single-story narrative stereotype of one another. A good strategy to combat this faulty stereotypical mindset is for each group to first acknowledge and address it within their respective community. For example, the Jewish community can work to challenge the single-story stereotype in its community that most African American males are gang members or thugs, while the African American community can work to challenge the single-story stereotype in its community that most Jewish people are wealthy and privileged.
Both stated stereotypes are narrowed viewpoints that are quite limited in nature and far from reality.

Another strategy to employ to combat this single-story stereotype is through education, advocacy, and intentionally collaborating and engaging in direct, open, and honest dialogue. This means creating spaces where members of each community could come together and share their unique experiences, concerns, and perspectives in a welcoming and non-judgmental setting. Engaging in such dialogue will allow members of each community to obtain a deeper understanding of each other’s history and culture, create more cohesiveness and develop a greater awareness and appreciation for the broad experiences and stories that exist within each community.

In closing, the shared dreams of the Jewish and African American communities are tightly woven into their common histories of slavery, persecution, discrimination, violence, and in their common constant pursuit of enduring freedom, peace, and justice. Over the years, these commonalities combined with the unrelenting passion, sacrifice, and tenacity of countless community activists, leaders, and ordinary citizens have empowered both groups to make notable progress in the achievement of these goals and objectives. To make farther progress, both groups must continue working hand in hand to fight inequality, and social injustice, as well as fighting single-story stereotypes and misconceptions about one another. Doing so will strengthen
relationships among both communities and foster a greater sense of cohesiveness, trust, and unity, which are all key to affecting change. These efforts will have a direct effect on reducing the perpetuating stereotypical stories each group has towards one another and instead allow for greater collaboration as a collective force to build stronger communities and a resilient nation of people. While these are by no means easy tasks, a concerted effort to accomplish these efforts is necessary if there lies any hope in making farther advancements in the fight for true and lasting freedom, peace, and justice. 


Landon Bishop 4/6/2021
Jewish Federation Essay Contest

I sat down and deeply thought about the topic, I never realized how similar the Exodus Liberation story and the story of the African American community’s journey for freedom was. The two together create a beautiful understanding of both cultures.

The Exodus Liberation story and the journey of the African American community to me symbolizes hope, and how trust in God will allow everything to work out in the end. We may suffer losses along the way, but our continued faith will always allow for us to make great strides in terms of our advancement. Not only does this fit with the themes of the Exodus and the African American community’s plight, we also have evidence to show these advancements.

As God called for Moses and many others to lead the Israelites, God also called leaders of the time to be pillars of inspiration for the African American community. We can draw a comparison between Dr. Martin Luther King and Moses, both worked for the better of their communities. They faced much adversity and hate, and in the end weren’t able to make it to the “Promised Land.” They were able to inspire millions of people and continue the work generations after. Another similarity was that African Americans, and the Hebrews were enslaved for a long time, and it was easy to lose faith during this time. They felt abandoned, in a foreign place that hated them for existing. It was through faith in God that two groups were delivered and how they were able to persevere during these times.

Even after their freedom both groups struggled to establish themselves and find their places in the world. The Hebrews were brought to a land that hated their beliefs; the people there wanted to see all that they stood for destroyed. At a climactic point the Hebrews were exiled and the Temple, a significant part of their faith, was completely destroyed. This is true for the African American community; the community was labeled as less than human. Every time African Americans tried to build something of their own, or tried to succeed; their efforts were undermined, they were stripped of their individuality and identity. Forced to adapt to a world that hated them. You can draw comparisons here to the African American community and the Hebrews.

You can draw the comparison that African culture was destroyed by slavery and society, similar to how Hebrew culture was destroyed during the Babylonian Exile. You draw the comparison to how the African American community and the Hebrews were forced into a land where they were both hated and lost their own uniqueness.

There has always been a connection between the African American community and the Church. There is a beautiful realization that in spite both the Hebrews and African Americans having their entire livelihoods and beliefs destroyed, and their culture and individuality taken away, they were able to rebuild and still stand strong today.

We can see that the Jewish culture today still stands, and the African American community still stands despite all that has happened. Through the faith and trust of God we were able to survive and are now thriving and succeeding in ways that are absolutely amazing. We had our first African American president as well as the first African American vice president. African Americans are at the forefront of education, entertainment, and the sports world.

We can learn that trust in God and hope for the future are the strongest things we can have as a community, and we can see that both the African American community and the Hebrews were not forgotten. Years of trials have paid off. For the Hebrews it took thousands of years, and for our community it took over four hundred. The full story of both is beautiful from beginning to end.

Loration Gabriel
Father Davis
Theology 2

The Journey of Liberation for people who suffer at the hands of others are sometimes very similar and done for the very same reasons; freedom to make choices and live in equality. The story of liberation for the Hebrew people in Egypt with Moses is in many ways an example of such when it comes to the journey and liberation of Africans in America with Harriet Tubman.

Harriet Tubman, who held the code name of “Moses” shared and ideal and passions like that of the Hebrew’s Moses which was to have her people free from the bondage and shackles of slavery. And just like that of the biblical Moses, she would use any means necessary to help them acquire freedom, even risking her own life at times.

I am sure that we have all heard the story of the biblical Moses and the danger that he was in being a Hebrew child himself. If not for the Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses surely would have met his doom. I personally have to believe that it was God that kept Moses so that he could fulfill his purpose in life.

Moses found himself in his early 20’s facing a difficult decision to help and protect those that were treated differently. Moses killed a man when trying to protect a slave, whom he will later find out is truly “his people.” Something inside Moses helped him grasp the things that people around him were experiencing was not only unfair to those who were suffering, but indeed very wrong. It was at that time Moses learned his true identity and the story of how he came to be with Pharoah.

Now let’s fast forward to a time after Moses but long before the abolishment of slavery in the Americas. Harriet Tubman like that of Moses was born into a tumultuous situation as she was born into slavery in the late 1820’s. Harriet escaped that capture and bondage of her masters and wanted to help others with their freedom just as the biblical Moses did.

The similarities between the two is not so much in the what or even the how but more so “why”. Moses and Harriet were both given their chance to live their lives free of any sort of labor or slavery. Moses grew up freely while Harriet escaped her captors and both were given the opportunity and the chance to leave the past behind and they went back to help the rest of the people that needed help.

Moses’ journey for his people was about freedom but more from the religious aspect and having a belief and faith in God. Harriet’s cry for liberation was escaping the horrors of being treated like animals. Harriet was able to go back on several occasions and free people successfully whereas Moses wanted to get all his people out at once and which is another difference. He wanted to get them all out as soon as possible. When Harriet went back more and more she kept going back until she couldn’t anymore.

Moses had a chance to go to the Promised Land but he chose to stay behind because he felt he wasn’t worthy of going to the Promised Land with the rest of his people. But Harriet enjoyed her last moments with her family and died of pneumonia at age 93. The only major difference I can say is between the two would be that Moses literally had the power of God at his side while Harriet had the will of God and some help from the other along the way. But Harriet and Moses are not far off of each other so to me personally I call them both Moses’.

The will, determination and strength of people can be seen in all groups and classes when it seems as though injustices and wrong doings are present. Both groups of people experienced a journey that is very unforgettable and forged in the fire. The endurance and persistence of both Moses and Harriet along with the people they freed have affected generations in so many ways that there isn’t enough time or paper in on this planet, but I know that I am forever grateful for learning about their tenuous spirit and the God that guided them.

Brenden Villavaso
Father Henry Davis, SSJ
Theology 2 Honors
April 6, 2021

Jewish Federation Essay Contest: Liberation in Egypt and America

The story of the Hebrews escaping captivity is a very interesting and important story in the lives of all African Americans. I personally feel that the students of St. Augustine and all Black people in America should identify how these stories are closely related. The story of the Hebrews escaping slavery began early before Christ in the Old Testament. The Hebrews had God on their side when he sent Moses to lead them out of enslavement.

Moses was a prophet sent by God who led the Hebrews on an unpleasant and difficult journey. Hebrew slaves were used as free labor as African Americans were used in America. These stories are almost exactly related due to them involving leaders. The Chosen People had Moses as slaves had Harriet Tubman, or New Moses. As a class, we discussed this and it is like Harriet Tubman was inspired by Moses. Both of their accomplishments took great courage and skill, but they did it for the greater good of the lives of their followers. These are both truly beautiful stories that are good lessons for people playing leadership roles. It shows great strength, determination and perseverance.

It takes a great leader with a heart filled with love and determination to complete feats that Harriet Tubman and Moses completed. As slaves learned to read and comprehend the Bible, they could have used these Old Testament stories as guides to their own freedom. The Old Testament Story in Exodus shows that God will forever work in your favor and keep you safe.  God worked with Moses every step of the way and guided him to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land.

It is also worth noting that Moses was not going to make it to the Promised Land himself even though he was guiding the Israelites there. This shows the major consideration and selflessness of his character. This can also be related to the story of Harriet Tubman with slaves in America. When Harriet Tubman led with the discovery of the path to freedom in the North which was known as the” Underground Railroad”, she also helped others find freedom. Harriet Tubman could have used it for herself and a few people, but she decided to go back, and help be a guide and be a “New Moses” for the people of that century.

In conclusion, we see that it is important to study and read the Bible as it can be implemented into our daily lives and help us fight daily battles. This can lead from small things to big time situations we find ourselves in as humans. Life is difficult and no one ever said it was going to be easy. Therefore, God gave us a special tool to use which is the Bible. It helps individuals see that they are not alone, and anything can be accomplished if you feed your heart, soul, and mind with good news. This is shown by how we can relate history from the Bible with History in Black America. These two stories are related and truly inspirational and teach leadership and courage. God’s leadership leads to righteous liberation and we can see this fact clearly in history.