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Achim/Gate City Lodge Honors Essay Contest Winners Virtually


Seventh grade 1st prize winner Sophie Grace Thomas, from Decatur, Ga.


Eighth grade 1st prize winner Anjana Murthy, from Peachtree City, Ga.


Ninth grade 1st prize winner Ilana Levenberg, from Atlanta, Ga.
Atlanta’s B’nai B’rith Achim/Gate City Lodge held a live online ceremony in August honoring the nine winners of Enlighten America, its annual essay contest for 7th through 9th graders in the Atlanta area. A video of the event can be viewed on B’nai B’rith International’s YouTube channel at:

This year, the panel of local judges reviewed 26 compositions by young people whose writing underscored their personal beliefs regarding equality and respectful treatment for all regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation. Their essays incorporated a quote from an American president or world, national or local leader, which they related to current issues in today’s society.

Seventh grader Sophie Grace Thomas, who earned a first-place nod, wrote in her essay: “We can overcome intolerance through a different mindset driven by love, which respects all human beings and supports our ability to live as one.”

Guest speaker B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin commented on the contest’s theme, Tolerance, Equality and Respect for All, as he described the shared legacies of the Jewish and African American communities, and noted  the organization’s commitment to civil rights: “B’nai B’rith recognizes that our fight on behalf of the Jewish people includes the same fight for all religious and ethnic groups, to live without fear. Jews and Blacks as minorities found common cause based on our own history and the plight of African Americans; these experiences brought us together to try and create a better, more mutually respectful society.”

The students who submitted the winning essays, judged on content and clarity of expression, were awarded monetary prizes, books and certificates. First, second and third prize categories were designated for recipients in all three grades.   

All the winners signed the Enlighten America Pledge, a personal promise to acknowledge the humanity of all peoples and to educate and inspire others to make a stand against hate and prejudice in their daily lives.

Still timely and important today, B’nai B’rith launched Enlighten America in 2000 as a response to shootings sparked by racial and religious hatred in Los Angeles, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York and elsewhere.

The B’nai B’rith Enlighten America program was the inspiration for our new interactive initiative, None Shall Be Afraid. Read more here,

2020 Student winners of the Enlighten America Essay Contest

Sponsored by Achim/Gate City Lodge, Atlanta

$350 first place prizes:
Sophie Grace Thomas, 7th grade
Anjana Murthy, 8th grade
Ilana Levenberg, 9th grade

$250 second place prizes:
Noa Zusman, 7th grade
Genesis Isom, 8th grade
Austin Corn, 9th grade

$150 third place prizes:
Simran Gupta, 7th grade
Kymali Pierre, 8th grade
Emily Jane Kurtz, 9th grade