Frisch students clinch five of 15 top awards at national finals as campus Chidon community flourishes.
Yeshivat Frisch sophomore Maya Tratt scored a top two victory at the Dr. Shimshon Isseroff U.S. National Bible Contest for Jewish Youth (Chidon HaTanach) on Sunday, May 1, winning the chance to represent the USA at next year’s International Chidon HaTanach in Israel. But the excitement doesn’t end there. Frisch sent a record 15 students to the national finals, which included over 250 participants from around the country. By the end of the day, Frisch’s powerhouse Chidon delegation clinched five of the top 15 awards in the Hebrew High School division: junior Josh Knoll tied for third place, freshman Ilan Romm came in fourth, junior Tamar Rosenfeld came in sixth, and junior Rami Kirsch came in 15th.
When one thinks of the Chidon HaTanach, the image of a solitary individual often comes to mind, a lone student poring over a sefer. But Chidon culture at Frisch has blossomed and undergone somewhat of a revolution over the past couple of years, in part thanks to the efforts of Frisch alumnus and 2020 National Youth Chidon Champion Beni Romm and Frisch faculty Chidon coach Rabbi Yair Shahak, World Languages department chair, and to date the only American to have won first place at the International Chidon HaTanach for Adults (in 2016).
While individual study is critical for success in the competition, Chidon HaTanach at Frisch is both a club and a team, where the only prerequisite is love of Tanach and a desire to learn. In fact, Knoll and Rosenfeld intend to continue co-captaining the team next year, even though as seniors they will be ineligible to compete again.
“I think that the Chidon team at Frisch is so special because even though Chidon HaTanach is an individual competition, at Frisch it was treated as a team event,” explained Knoll. “As a captain of the team, it really meant a lot to me to see everyone supporting their teammates and pushing each other to study more. I believe that the Hebrew High School division was dominated by Frisch, and not just by one person, because of how well we prepared as a team.”
Rosenfeld agreed. “Looking back at this last year, memories of organizing weekly meetings, playing Motzei Shabbos kahoots, and putting together last minute quizzes run through my mind, but most of all, I cherish the feeling I felt when I saw over a dozen of my teammates studying, getting excited and supporting one another with Chidon. As a captain, seeing such a large and robust team so dedicated to Chidon really inspired me to put my full efforts into Chidon and made me so proud to see their love of Chidon and Torah blossom throughout the year.”
Tratt, who will now be preparing for the international competition, discussed her journey learning Tanach for the Chidon. “The best part of my experience doing Chidon thus far has definitely been the new perspective it’s given me on Tanach study and the text in general,” she said. “There’s also been the component of Chidon being a ‘team sport’ at Frisch that makes it all the more meaningful and enjoyable.”
As for the future? “I really want to hone my analytical skills of Nach by widening my knowledge of the historical time period through other literature from the same era,” Tratt added. “I feel immensely fortunate to be (iy”H) going to Israel next year, representing both Frisch and the United States and hoping to widen my scope of Tanach through that experience.”
Frisch’s Chidon HaTanach faculty adviser Rabbi Asher Bush, noting the special achievements of the students who placed in the top tier of competitors, also expressed his pride in the entire Chidon HaTanach team. “I am incredibly proud of our entire group of over two dozen students who participated, worked together and bonded in the most beautiful way as they coached each other and cheered each other on,” said Rabbi Bush. “They are indeed a very special group and we have much to be proud of.”
Rabbi Shahak agreed: “It has been a privilege helping coach the team as they deepen their knowledge of Tanach. Their caliber as students and as bnei and bnot Torah is simply outstanding.”
“We’re proud of all of our contestants from around the country,” said Rabbi Dovi Nadel, coordinator of the National Bible Contest. “The strength of the team at Frisch is a testament to the hard work of students and teachers. This is no small accomplishment. We look forward to the continued growth of the Chidon program and hope that their success inspires other schools around the country to follow their lead!”