Following shortly after the International Chidon HaTanach held in Israel this past Yom Ha’atzmaut, at which all three of the USA finalists placed within the top six winners (two from area schools!), the Dr. Shimshon Isseroff USA Chidon HaTanach held its finalist rounds, to send students to next year’s Israel competition. The event on Sunday, May 3, included national finalists, many from New Jersey and New York, representing local day and high schools.
Among the local highlights, finishing in first place in the Hebrew sixth-seventh grade division was Micky Cyrulnik, a student at Yeshivat Noam. In third place in the same division was Eli Friedman, a student at Yavneh Academy.
In the Hebrew eighth grade division, qualifying to compete in Yerushalayim in 2022, was Ramaz student Avi Flatto-Katz. Second place in the same division was Ayelet Poupko, a student at Ben Porat Yosef. In fourth place is Eytan Rosenstock of Westchester Day School. Yeshivat Noam student Gabriel Cohen placed fifth in the division.
Winners in the Hebrew high school division who will be competing next year in the international chidon in Yerushalayim were Elisha Kahan of Flatbush Yeshiva High School and Yitzchak Spivak of Yeshivas Ohr Reuven in Monsey. Winner of the English high school division, who will also be competing in Israel next year, was Yisroel Kaplowitz of Beth Tfilloh in Baltimore.
According to Rabbi Dovi Nadel, who has coordinated the Chidon for the past six years and helped name it in honor of Dr. Shimshon Isseroff last year, all of the participants in the Chidon, from their initial preparation to their finals, are winners. “Students in the national program covered between 60 and 80 perakim depending on division. Devarim, Shmuel Bet, Rut, selections from Iyov and Daniel, and the high school also learned Yirmiyahu.
The day-long event also featured activities from shiurim, to Kahoots to Panoplies. The closing ceremony of the Chidon began with contestants from across the country sharing their favorite pasuk from the books of Tanach that they had studied. The finalists also marked a moment of silence together, in memory of the victims of the Meron Lag B’Omer tragedy.
Focusing upon the recent naming of the USA Chidon in honor of Dr. Shimshon Isseroff, and now marking his 100th birthday, a video of Dr. Isseroff was shown, highlighting his decades coordinating the Chidon, now in its 60th year, and the volume of educational materials he prepared for day schools across the country. Most recently, Dr. Isseroff’s great-granddaughter experienced the thrill of learning from her “Sabba Rabba’s” workbooks. Dr. Isseroff currently resides in Teaneck with his daughter Nechama Polak and family.
“By our estimates there were over 800 people in attendance in the final virtual closing ceremonies, with parents and grandparents tuning in from around the country,” said Rabbi Nadel.
Another speaker was Sarah Shaye, a ninth grade student at YULA in Los Angeles, who placed sixth in the international Chidon. She shared with the finalists her appreciation of the journey that was afforded to her through the Chidon. “The Chidon strengthened my connection to Hashem, improved my performance of mitzvot, and changed my perspective on everything around me.”
After a nail-biting Kahoot, Rabbi Nadel paid tribute to another legendary coordinator of the USA Chidon, Dr. Moshe Avital, z”l, who was taken from us earlier this year. During his 12 years as coordinator of the USA Chidon, Dr. Avital inspired the participants with his determination to promulgate the precious legacy of the Jewish people through their limud Torah. As a survivor of 10 concentrations camps and death marches, Dr. Avital’s life was a lesson in fortitude and determination having served in the IDF during its infancy and its fight for survival. An author of 20 books, Dr. Avital would call his own children and his myriad students yaldei hanissim, children of the miracles. He taught that he would refer to them as both his nekama, revenge, and his nechama, solace. In the brief video, the finalists watched Rabbi Avital share his memories of the Shoah, the destruction, and the tekuma, rising and rebirth.
Prior to the announcement of the winners, in keeping with a relatively new addition to the Chidon, Rabbi Nadel recited a specially composed hadran extolling the enormous learning that had been completed in the course of the year by hundreds of students participating in this Torah journey of excellence.
Congratulations were extended to all the national finalists, including the following local participants in the digital event (provided by Chidon staff): Ben Porat Yosef: Ayelet Poupko; Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey: Liora Schreiber, Tova Rotblat, Nava Price, Sarah Benoff; JKHA/RKYHS: Judah Marcus, Samuel Colchamiro, Sophie Steiner, Ayelet Shoval; Westchester Day School: Eytan Rosenstock, Ilan Romm; Yeshivat Noam: Tziporah Gordon, Ariella Goldgewert, Mickey Cyrulnik, Yonatan Halstuch, Gabriel Cohen; Yavneh Academy: Eli Friedman, Esti Schreiber, Emanuela Milman, Ami Forman, Ephraim Fisher; Bruriah: Ruthie Fleisher; Naaleh High School: Sara Moskowitz, Emunah Aspir, Chana Aspir; TABC: Shimon Ross; Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School: Avi Friedman; Ramaz School: Avi Flatto-Katz; SAR: Barbara Sasson, Isaac Kalker, Jonathan Farkas; Frisch: Elza Koslowe, Rami Kirsch, Liam Lewis, Ari Spivak, Gabe Rothman, Tamar Rosenfeld, Alex Massel, Josh Stopek, Maya Tratt, Rebecca Kermaier, Sarit Greenwood, Ellora Gissinger, Ari Elkin, Shoshana Schwartz; Manhattan High School for Girls: Hodaya Zerbib, Bruria Schwartz, Golda Schuster, Adielle Rosenblum, Yehudis Kundin, Adi Hacker, Tova Berger, Elky Schwartz, Rikki Schreiber; RPRY: Boaz Kafri; Yeshivat He’Atid: Yosef Moshe Bennett.
By Pearl Markovitz