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2023 Contest

Winning Essay by Amit Sapir

University of Florida, Senior

As my foot slid into the gravel of the railroad tracks, my mind boggled with emotions. Confusion overran anger, anger constructing anxiety. August of 2019. Auschwitz concentration camp, Poland. Seventy-five years prior, my ancestors stood in my footsteps. Yet, unlike myself, they would never step outside of those gates.

It was just eight years ago when laughter filled the air as I paraded down the streets of Jerusalem on my 13th birthday to be crowned “bar mitzvah majesty.” As I sang before the Western Wall kingdom, Your Majesty noticed a Frenchman waving his Israeli flag, displaying love for our Judaic performance. For such chivalry I repaid my fellow knight with a formal salutation of a high-five. It wasn’t until a couple weeks later that I found out that this nameless knight had been the victim of an anti-Semitic terrorist attack in Paris. Social media and news outlets shared the unspeakable truth that the terrorist entered a kosher deli, and this French Jew that I met only months prior jumped in the line of fire to save other Jewish customers shopping for Shabbat dinner. He had come to Israel for the first time when we crossed paths, and the few seconds of unconditional love and joy he displayed for my bar mitzvah has always had a special place in my heart.

Panic struck within the kingdom I always expected to harbor such stability and celebration. I feared the light of hope was lost, contemplating whether anything has changed in how the world thought of Jews.

Amit Sapir
Age: 21
Senior, University of Florida
Expected Graduation: 2024

After reading a book after my bar mitzvah called “All the Light We Cannot See,” anger and confusion from Poland resurfaced. I was mad at the author for making me empathetic toward a Nazi. For portraying the Germans in a positive light of innocence. For forgetting to mention the suffering and havoc of Jews. But I realized the truth later on: The novel is the symbol of good conforming to wrong, the virtuous obedient to evil. The reality was that despite the Holocaust’s immorality, the light of hope was brightened when contrasted against conformity and obedience, two fatal flaws of human civilization.

The light of hope. I’m inspired by the resonating message: “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.” Throughout history, the Jewish people maintained their sense of optimism. Yet, there are many opportunities for pessimism to seep through the openings and undermine the mentality we’ve developed for a lifetime. Anti-Semitism was one of them. The idea of hostility and prejudice against a community I always found loving and selfless had the potential of extinguishing that light of hope. My perspective is exemplified in my commitment to ensuring that everyone continues to sparkle with light in their eyes, never giving up on aspirations for hope and sanguinity among all people.

Our social media-driven world provides a duality in establishing a society reflective of brightness and the light of hope.

The idea that social media have revolutionized the power of perspective can be both advantageous yet misleading; therefore, it’s the power of the moral to shine bright in factual determination despite the dark. Anti-Semitism can be countered through the interconnected reliance of social media in the dissemination of validity and strength for pro-Judaic initiatives. We treasure the idea of universal communication, especially when the Jewish people once faced adversity and hardship through the propaganda of the Nazi Party. The evil desire for racial superiority, as spurred by the eugenics movement of the 20th century, must be constantly retaliated through the voice of justice, resonating through the intricate beauty of networking and intertwined communication systems of the modern era.

We’re given the opportunity of life to spread brightness into the eyes of others before our time comes to close them forever. I’m grateful for this blessing of sight and light, especially by staying optimistic in how our common humanity can reconcile our diversity. Challenging life’s meaning is the truest expression of the state of being human. Our diversity harmonizes through an understanding of how conformity and obedience to authority can dismantle that humanity through hate. It’s about making sure society moves forward to eliminate that hate to create our version of the perfect race: the human race, one that runs on love. Whether bringing a Jewish perspective to the social media community, encouraging unity through our diversity, or living the life my ancestors or the Frenchman should have been given, I remain determined to be the light the world cannot yet see.