The national finals of the Chidon HaTanach for middle and high school students took place Sunday May 3, 2015 with a strong finish by day schools in our area. Shlomi Helfgot of Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC) placed third in the Hebrew high school division. Ilan Sasson, of SAR High School in Riverdale, placed fourth.
In the Hebrew middle school division, Avi Rybak (YBH Passaic) was the winner. There was a third-place tie between Helfgot’s brother Ephraim (Yavneh Academy), Uriel Simpson (Yeshivat Noam) and Esther Guelfguat (RYNJ). Rabbi Ezra Fraser, coordinator of the National Bible Contest, noted that the middle school students live in Bergen County but attend different schools, “which shows that our community has an appreciation of Tanach study that extends beyond the walls of any one institution.” Rabbi Frazer acknowledged the skill of Ruby Stepansky of Passaic, who coached winner Avi Rybak, and held review classes in which Esther Guelfguat and Uriel Simpson participated. This is the fourth consecutive year that one of Stepansky’s students won the contest. Last year’s national winner, Tehila Kornwasser, RYNJ, placed 10th in this year’s international competition.
The Chidon HaTanach, sponsored by The Jewish Agency for Israel, tests the students’ knowledge of Biblical stories and passages. A syllabus is sent to participating schools containing the books and chapters to study. The top scorers from preliminary tests compete in the national finals that are held in New York. The top scorer in each division represents the U.S. in the international competition held in Israel the following year. Approximately 250–300 students take the preliminary exams and about 125 participate in the New York finals.
By Bracha Schwartz