Hadassah has announced the winners of its contest to research the biblical roots of place names in the United States.
The contest was initiated last June by the group’s national Jewish Education Department to encourage local chapters to investigate why U.S. communities were given biblical names.
About 30 states have a town called Jerusalem, or its derivative, Salem. Half the states have a town called Bethel. Twenty states have a town called Goshen or Hebron.
The first prize winner, announced earlier this month, was Marna Simon, who studied William Penn and the entire Moravian community that settled her hometown of Bethlehem, Pa.
Sarah Gordon Weiss took second place with her research on the Quaker community that settled in Lusum – now Jericho, N.Y.
Honorable mention went to Emily Holtzer of Holiday Springs, Fla., who wrote a descriptive poem about the biblical influence on the settlers.
“The people who got involved in it, got involved,” said Barbara Spack, national chairwoman of the Jewish Education Department.
The contest was also a means for the national Jewish women’s organization to reach out to the communities.
“That’s where Hadassah is going. To make these connections, to make us stronger as Jews and members of our communities,” Spack said.