• 2018 Stop Hate Essay Contest

    The 4th Annual Stop Hate Orange County Essay Contest is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County and the Orange County Human Rights Commission. The purpose of the contest is to promote tolerance and understanding through education. This year’s topic explores the idea of ethical decision making. This essay contest aims to encourage students to reflect on the choices people make which can affect not only their lives, but humanity as a whole.

An iPad Mini was awarded to Tyler Jacklitsch, 10th grader at Monroe-Woodbury HS. In addition, his teacher, Ms. Rivelli received a cash bonus of $100.

2nd runner up was Jessica Wu, 11th grader at Cornwall Central HS, who received $100.

Honorable mentions were James McGill, 11th grader at Cornwall and Emma Moziel, 10th grader at Cornwall. Both received $50.

All essays are below for your enjoyment.



Let's Make the Right Choice

At an early age, we are taught morals. Our parents lay the foundation for us to become ethical, responsible beings, with the hopes that one day if we see something wrong we will say something. For some people, it's easy to say something without the fear of being judged, but for others it's not that simple. As teenagers, we feel that we are always being judged by the world around us. We do not want to stand out. It is easier to blend in with the crowd. It is hard to stand up ... to make the right choice.

I love hockey. I love the camaraderie of a team. Most of the time, everyone gets along. Unfortunately, my current team has a bully. Being a younger player and not as skilled as the better players, I am constantly thinking about what I can do to stay out of the bully's focus. We are nervous at practice and games, because we are always wondering if today will be our day ... who will get called out and ridiculed today. One day, as our team was changing into our uniforms, one of the better players offered a spot on the locker room bench to a quiet teammate. The kid accepted the offer, changed and left as quickly as he could. When he left, the better player laughed and announced he was putting the teammate's bag in the shower and turning the water on. Everything I learned about doing the right thing flashed through my mind. Yet, I sat there, debating whether to say something, whether to make myself a target, whether to expose myself. The whole team sat there looking at each other and looking away. It felt like an eternity, but it was no more than 10 seconds. Finally, I stammered, "Hey, that's not right." Everyone stared at me. My face was flushed and my heart was pounding. Then, my other teammates started agreeing with me. After a tense silence, the player put the bag down, clearly irritated by everyone, and said, "It was just a joke. I can't believe you guys would think I would do that." I felt an immense sense of relief wash over me that I was not getting thrown into the shower. I looked around and saw the same sense of relief and pride in my teammates that I felt. We stood up to a bully and prevented something wrong from occurring.

My decision to speak up doesn't change the world. However, if everyone makes the choice to speak up when something is wrong, we can make a difference in the world. Elie Wiesel said, "Let us not forget, after all, that there is always a moment when the moral choice is made. Often because of one story or one book or one person, we are able to make a different choice, a choice for humanity, for life." All it took was my four words to change the outcome of a bad situation.

Sundays     BY Jessica Wu

Ask almost anyone who knows me, and they'll probably tell you that I am a die-hard atheist, one of the least-likely people to ever convert to Christianity - or follow any other religious faith, for that matter. In truth, I would probably agree with them; and yet, in perhaps what could be considered a fantastic oxymoron, it is Pastor *Elizabeth who has changed the very way I think about and approach my ethics, undoubtedly for the better.

On January 1st of2017, I began playing the piano for a small church in my community. 2017 proved to be a turbulent year for both myself and the world, between all the mass shootings, hurricanes, ongoing civil wars, and far too many more tragedies to name. There were many a Sundays that I entered that church feeling simply lost after a long week of desolating news. But Pastor Elizabeth stood at the pulpit every Sunday in spite of her own personal struggles and offered a beacon of optimism, a beacon of gratitude that was so unusual and new in my life. She preached often and thoughtfully about the importance of the individual in his/her ability to play a meaningful part in a greater whole, without an ounce of intent for glamour or glory. Granted, the sermons had a heavy focus on following Jesus, but I came to find that every message nonetheless had surprisingly incredible meaning in my God-less life.

I remember one Sunday in October, after the shooting in Las Vegas took fifty-eight innocent lives. As helpless as I felt sitting behind that piano, Pastor Elizabeth's much-needed words resonated in my mind. There is hope. There is hope if we choose to stand by our morals, and if we choose to lift up those morals beyond ourselves, in spite of every act of hate that tries to make us do otherwise.

In the following week, I donated what I could to the Las Vegas massacre victims. I did research on gun control advocacy, and I shared it with others so they could do the same. Pastor Elizabeth has brought to my forefront the understanding that my caring and thoughtful existence begins with an appreciation for all of the blessings that are poured out on me each day, regardless of whether they are by the grace of God. One cannot simply go out looking for a right answer and expect that one will magically appear. The right ethics, the right choice has to come from my own heatt: from my own willingness to believe that my infinitesimal good can and will tip the scale from evil. To be truly honest, I still don't know if I believe in that God, but I do know that in all the times I still feel lost, there exist people like the Pastor who still deeply believe in the potential of humanity- and no matter what otherworldly force determines the validity of that, I can be absolutely sure that it can start with me.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual.

No More Excuses. Love One Another     BY James McGill

If the world was likened to a portrait, then I used to gaze upon it from afar. Little did I care about any seemingly petty issues my peers faced. Their minor woes and grievances, stemming from the privileged existences they led, paled in comparison to problems people faced elsewhere; war in the Middle East, poverty in Africa, and so on. Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines ethics as "the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation." Throughout most of middle school, I simply did not feel any duty to help those around me with whatever problem they happened to face. My empathy was instead with those across the globe, with whom I thought were the ones burdened with truly "bad" problems. I simply did not see how bolstering those around me would benefit the world at large, and my beliefs were rock-solid, unmovable. As it turned out, however, one significant shift in my perception caused that rock to crumble.

It was Thanksgiving night when my grandfather noticed me rolling my eyes at something on my phone screen. He asked what had me exasperated, and I responded that one of my friends was broken up with and was, of course, lamenting that his life was over. "Well, aren't you going to comfort him?" he asked. I shrugged. "In the grand scheme of things, it's such a non-issue. What's the point?" I looked up at my grandfather, a man who had served in the Korean War, someone who had seen the worst of what humanity had to offer. Even back at home, he had worked as a Senator in the borough of Queens, advocating programs to aid the poor and downtrodden. If anyone would understand how petty a breakup was in the face of humanity's other woes, it was he. So I was surprised when, shaking his head, he uttered "Nonsense." Slowly, he turned towards me. "You can't go through life thinking about those who have it worse when you aren't in a position to help them. Each act of kindness is important, no matter how insignificant." I could only stare as he continued. "In Korea, I buried a special type of bullet, despite my officer's warning, so that I did not have to fire it. This bullet was supposed to inflict incredible pain upon impact." He put his hand on my shoulder, and I will never forget what he said next. "I realized then, despite any circumstances, each life is precious. You should always strive to do whatever is in your power to help others, to raise your fellow man up, no matter what."

I did end up texting my friend later that day, and he said that he appreciated my concern. That was only the first time my grandfather's philosophy rang true, however. From him, I have learned that nobody's trouble is invalid; if you strive to deal with the bad in the world, no matter how minute it seems, the world becomes a better place.

BKTE     By Emma Moziel

BKTE. The first time my dad left that note in my lunch bag I threw it away thinking it was a note he put in there by mistake. A few weeks later, he left me a note with those same 4 letters, BKTE. This time I knew it must stand for something. I figured it was something silly or funny because most of my dad's notes are usually intended to make me laugh. He often draws silly faces and leaves me inspirational quotes. At dinner that night, I asked him what BKTE stood for. He told me the message was simple, Be Kind To Everyone. We talked about the phrase that night and we imagined how much better the world would be if everyone was kind to everyone they meet.

BKTE no matter what their religion, race, or sexual orientation might be. These days you can't turn on the TV or look at your iPhone without being reminded about how much hate there is in the world. Palestinians hate Jews, white supremacists hate African Americans, and Republicans hate Democrats. Perhaps the saddest part of all this hate is the fact that we are essentially all the same. It is difficult to understand where all this hate comes from. When I read about a 20 year old white nationalist plowing his car into a group of protestors, I wondered what went through his mind as he was doing it? How can someone hate a group so much that he would drive a car into a crowd and kill them? Unfortunately, hate is handed down through generations. He probably hated because his father hated and his father hated because his grandfather hated. When will this hate ever stop? Perhaps my generation can stop it now by simply making the decision not to hate. Choose to learn about the people around us rather than hate them based on how they look or the God they may believe in.

My dad's message is pretty simple. I feel like he has handed me a responsibility to share the message to be nice no matter what and always think positively. He also made me live by the saying, "Never judge a book by its cover" and that's what I do every time I meet a new person. I always try to be kind in every type of situation. I'm not sure if he intended for anyone other than me and my lunch mates to read his message. But now that I have written about it, it has gone beyond my lunch bag and I hope these
four simple letters, BKTE, can spread even further and change the perspective of people's decision making.