June 17, 2010
Born in Miami, reared in Las Vegas, and having studied abroad in Greece, recent Rollins graduate Jonathan Stamm (Class of 2010) has experienced the world. Accumulating not only knowledge but wisdom everywhere he goes, Stamm has gained insight into the values that people hold dear. This year, Stamm demonstrated his insight in his essay Ethics without Faith: Darkness and was named one of Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest’s five winners.
An annual competition, the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest challenges students to analyze urgent ethical issues in today's world. Founded by Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity encourages students to write thought-provoking personal essays that raise questions and showcase rational arguments for ethical action.
“My essay is about faith, and, ultimately, faith in oneself, in order to secure some semblance of integrity and ethical continuity in our lives,” said Stamm. “The essay is crafted around a story from my past. During my junior year abroad in Greece, I was traveling through a region called Mt. Athos and actually living in several Greek Orthodox monasteries. There was a particular episode of that trip that was the main focus of this piece in which I break my ethical ‘code’ by lying to a holy man in confidence. Ultimately, it is the dream I had that night that becomes the catalyst for this essay, and I retain this central anecdote as a source of analysis and bewilderment, leading both the reader and myself to a realization about the essential nature of faith within us all.”
As a philosophy major and Jewish studies minor, Stamm first learned of the contest from his “Politics & Poverty” course instructor, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion Eric Smaw, last fall.
“I guess he must have liked my writing because after our first paper he pulled me aside and told me about this contest, which he thought I had more than a legitimate chance of winning,” said Stamm. “As the months went by, I included two more mentors, Dr. Tom Cook and Dr. Yudit Greenberg, in the brainstorming process. Had it not been for these distinguished professors, this contest would have meant nothing more to me than just another flyer posted on a corkboard.”
“Jon has distinguished himself as a highly intelligent and thoughtful student with excellent analytic and writing skills,” said Greenberg. “Jon was deeply impacted by a story we read by Chaim Grade, The Quarrel and its film adaptation, which narrates a philosophical debate between two childhood friends who survived the Holocaust and met after World War II and offers compelling arguments about faith and doubt in God and humanity after the calamities of the Holocaust. His visit to Israel in 2008 provided yet another intensive immersion in Jewish history and contemporary politics, and his semester in Greece both broadened his global horizons and brought to light, as his essay conveys, recurrent questions of identity, faith and truth, which culminated in his Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay. I am delighted to have been Jon’s teacher and mentor, and proud of him for having intellectual and spiritual integrity, and the courage to express his personal journey in such a profound way.”
What can we expect next from this award-winning Rollins graduate?
“The million-dollar question,” said Stamm. “For the upcoming year, I have been granted the opportunity to learn how to do business overseas, living several months in Vietnam and several months in Sweden. I’m very excited about it, and I’m due to leave for Vietnam in September. Living in different places makes me realize I’m never done growing. If there ever is a sage, he or she is a rare phenomenon. For the rest of us, living in new and different places keeps us from becoming too set in our ways. It is indeed challenging to have to readjust, but the more I experience the more lessons I learn, and there are plenty of lessons out there waiting for me.”
The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity will present Stamm with his award at an honorary award ceremony this fall in New York City. For more information on the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest, visit http://www.eliewieselfoundation.org/prizeinethics.aspx.
--Brittany Fornof (Class of 2011)