The Education Ministry launched a nationwide bar and bat mitzva speech contest this week aimed at improving teens’ writing and public speaking skills.

The competition, called the “Outstanding Speeches Contest,” targets sixth-graders across the country who will be writing their personal speeches as a mandatory part of their Israeli culture and heritage classes. To help them in this task, they will also learn about the weekly Torah portion and other relevant material.

While students will not be graded on the assignment, each school can decide to submit speeches to the competition which will be held later this year.

The Education Ministry stressed that students should write speeches connecting their personal views to Jewish tradition and its relevance to their lives. In addition, the students will be required to observe a clear syntax, use rich vocabulary and employ appropriate and high-level language.

Dalit Stauber, the ministry’s director-general, noted that the ministry strongly wishes to encourage students to engage in creative writing and practice standing in front of an audience.

“Bar and bat mitzva speeches are an influential step in the process of becoming mature, and the ministry sees it fit to encourage students to write them meaningfully while expressing their views and personal interests,” she said in a statement.

Stauber added that she believes the competition will strengthen the pupils’ relationships with their Jewish heritage.

The project is “a series of programs and initiatives that the ministry is running in order to nurture creativity as well as written and verbal expression,” she further explained.

Tzipi Koritzky, head of the ministry’s culture department, also expressed confidence in the “Outstanding Speeches Contest,” and explained that writing the personal speeches symbolizes the students’ transition from childhood to adulthood.

The Education Ministry also specified that only schools which offer the Israeli culture and heritage classes will take part in the competition, which does not include Arab students.

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