2023 Middle School Essay Contest

Deadline to submit is 03/20/2023

This Year’s Essay Prompt:

“If you were building a Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience,
which 3 things would you put in it?”

We had so much fun deciding what to put into our new museum. But it wasn’t easy. MSJE covers thirteen Southern states and more than 300 years of history. We had to make some hard choices. Now it’s your turn…

Use specific examples from your own experiences or interests to support your ideas, beliefs, and convictions on what you feel best represents the Southern Jewish experience. While you can use your knowledge of Southern, Jewish, and American history as your starting point, don’t stop in the past. This is NOT a research paper, and the best essays will NOT be summaries of Southern Jewish history. Your essay will be judged foremost for its thoughtfulness, originality, clarity of expression, and adherence to contest theme, as well as its historical accuracy, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Museum staff will read and evaluate all entries and select the winning essays.

How to Start

  • Explore the MSJE website
  • Visit MSJE if you can
  • Talk to a parent, relative, or family friend about their upbringing
  • Consider these questions:
    • How can objects tell stories about a place, time, or community?
    • Have you ever felt like a “stranger in a strange land?” When and why?
    • Do you think the Southern Jewish experience is the same everywhere across the South? Why or why not?
    • What are objects that are important to you and your family? Why?

Rules and Formatting Guidelines

  • Contest is open to all students (grades 5–8) in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. You don’t have to be Jewish.
  • Your essay must be 500 words in length or less. Only one essay per student may be submitted.
  • All essays should:
    • be double-spaced
    • have one-inch margins
    • include page numbers
    • include an essay title
    • be typed in 12 point font
    • be saved as a .pdf
    • Submissions must be submitted via the contest website by March 20th, 2023
    • When you are ready to submit, click below, fill out the simple information form, and attach your essay


First Place: $500
Second Place: $250
Third Place: $100

Winners will be notified by mid-April. Winning essays will be posted on the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience’s website, along with the names of honorable mentions.

If you have questions about eligibility, rules, or anything, email us at info@msje.org.