Seventh-grader Rachel W. made history of her own last month, placing third in a state-wide essay contest sponsored by the Jewish Museum of Florida. Rachel traveled to Miami to attend the opening of a new exhibit and to receive her award. We are so proud of her! See her story below…
My Trip to Miami By: Rachel W.
A new exhibit was created in the Jewish Museum of Florida (JMOF) called, “Florida Jews in the Military”. To promote the exhibit, the Museum (which is in Miami, FL) sponsored an essay contest about Jewish Floridian soldiers. For the essay, you had to choose a Jewish soldier who was born in Florida and write about his/her life and how the soldier affected you.
I won third place out of 105 other middle school contestants from all over Florida. I have never been so excited! Because I won third place, I was invited to the opening ceremony for the new exhibit. There I was given a certificate and a reward of fifty dollars.
I went to Miami to accept the reward and I thought that the museum was not going to be very interesting. When I got there, I was astounded. The museum was small, but amazing. Each wall was filled with pictures and stories about Jewish Floridians; no space was left empty. It is amazing how many Jews were born or visited Florida. There was so much information on the walls that I could stay in the museum for a whole day and still be reading all of the facts! JMOF was beautiful. I thought it was so cool that it used to be a synagogue.
At the ceremony, many speeches were shared by many different people including: former soldiers, people who helped create this exhibit and museum, and major JMOF sponsors. The speeches were very touching, especially the speeches from the soldiers. They had many stories to tell about the wars they were in and the antisemitism they experienced. Overall, the ceremony was very special.
After the speeches were given, the other contest winners and I were called to the bima (stage) to accept our certificates. When they called my name, they said a little bit about my essay and I have never felt so proud. The soldier whom I wrote about was Stuart A. Wolfer. He served in Baghdad, Iraq during the Iraqi War. He also served in Kuwait, but was killed in Iraq. He was a great soldier. He was also known to be kind, intelligent, a wonderful father and husband, and a dedicated Jew. He served and died for our country, so I thought to acknowledge him and show how amazing he was by writing about him in my essay.
After the ceremony ended, there was a party. While everyone was in the party room eating, lounging, and socializing, I was having my picture taken next to Stuart’s portrait on the wall of soldiers who served in Iraq. A soldier walked by and asked, “Is this man a part of your family?”
I answered, “No, but I wrote an essay about him.”
The soldier said, “That’s really nice. It is so sad that he passed. Actually, I was there when he died. Since we are both Jewish, they told me that he had passed. Although I was not in the gym at the time of the rocket attack, I learned about his death later on. I did not personally know him, but he was a very good man from what I have heard.”
I was astonished. My mother then asked, “Do you think that we should contact his wife about my daughter’s essay and her slideshow about him?”
The soldier answered, “She would be so happy to hear that. Give me a week and I will find her e-mail and I will contact you when I find it.”
I was so thankful for the soldier who was just talking to me. I am also ecstatic to show Stuart’s wife the slideshow and essay I put together about him.
Overall, the trip to Miami was amazing. I loved the ceremony and the new exhibit. Driving six hours from Jacksonville to Miami was so worth it!