JCoSS friends win interfaith youth competition exploring pandemic experience
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JCoSS friends win interfaith youth competition exploring pandemic experience

Miriam Burns and Scarlett Hershcorn, both 11, won the younger age category for their ‘Little Local Book Hub’ entry for the Faiths United competition

Scarlett Hershkorn (left) and Miriam Burns (right) at the Stanmore book Hub
Scarlett Hershkorn (left) and Miriam Burns (right) at the Stanmore book Hub

Jewish youngsters were among the winners of this year’s Faiths United youth competition after being asked to show how their community had been brought together by the coronavirus pandemic.

Friends Miriam Burns and Scarlett Hershcorn, both 11, start at JCoSS this month having won the younger age category for their ‘Little Local Book Hub’ entry, while Esti Elijah, 17, was runner-up in the older age bracket.

They were among the winners in the ‘Connected Communities’ competition, sponsored by Jewish News, after a judging panel led by some of Britain’s foremost educators assessed the entries.

The girls’ efforts were recognised at a virtual awards event featuring Faith Minister Lord Greenhalgh last week, after entrants aged 7-18 submitted their responses to the question: “How has the COVID-19 crisis brought your community together?”.

The idea for the book hub came about during lockdown when Scarlett’s mum Monique put some second-hand books outside her Stanmore home in north-west London for others to take, since book shops, schools and libraries were closed and people told to stay inside had time on their hands to read.

Miriam’s mum Sarah quickly followed suit in Edgware and their friend Tonie Jascourt helped with the online messaging. The girls helped organise the open idea sites, run from the front gardens of volunteers, and the idea quickly took off.

“Dozens more volunteers joined in over the next few months and the project spread as far as Ipswich, Gloucester and Cornwall, plus a second Hub in a different part of Edgware, run by Natasha Wise,” said Miriam’s mum Sarah.

“The response from local communities has been incredible,” said Monique. “People say it really kept them going when the world was shut down.”

The competition submissions, which came in various forms, including video, drawing, photos, poem, and prose, were judged by Dame Helen Hyde and Sir Antony Seldon, among others, with partners including the i Newspaper and the Eden Project as well as Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh media outlets.

The initiative was a project of Faiths United, a coalition of faith leaders and activists responding to the pandemic, which was set up in March of this year. It is chaired by Jewish philanthropist and interfaith champion Maurice Ostro.

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