July 17, 2024
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Teaneckers Ezriel Vinar and Yehuda Zinberg Compete in 2020 International Chidon HaTanach

The Chidon HaTanach was instituted on the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel in May of 1958, and for youth it was established in 1960. The idea for the Chidon was suggested by Rabbanit Ora Herzog, the wife of the first Chief Rabbi of the state, Rav Chaim Herzog, and the mother of the current director of the Jewish Agency and head of the Chidon HaTanach Yaakov Herzog. Every year the young national champions from each representative country prepare over 400 chapters of Tanach for a year, preparing to compete in the international competition. Those who scored the highest on a preliminary written exam qualify to compete on Israeli television on Yom Ha’atzmaut. This year, despite COVID-19, the international Chidon went on as usual at 11 a.m. sans a live audience and was the only live event of the day in all of Israel. The continuity of this Yom Ha’atzmaut tradition was a testament to the continuing significance of this program that was declared at its outset when the first prime minister of the State of Israel, David Ben Gurion, declared, “The Tanach is our only true ‘mandate’ and we must pass it down to our future generations.”

According to Rabbi Dovi Nadel, USA coordinator of the Chidon HaTanach, National Bible Contest of the Jewish Agency for Israel, this year there were 63 international final contestants in the Chidon representing 28 countries including Israel. Among the top 16 who won top spots in the final stage of the Chidon were three North Americans who scored among the top 10 winners. After Kalat HaChidon Ruth Cohen from Ulpanat HaRav Baharan and Chatan HaTanach Moshe Glidai from Yeshivat Mekor Chaim, three North American students were among the top 10 winners. Chaim Natan “Nussie” Shields of Baltimore, a student at the Yeshiva of Greater Washington, placed third. Ezriel Vinar of Teaneck, an 11th grader at TABC, placed fifth. Yehuda Zinberg of Teaneck, a ninth grader at The IDEA School, placed 10th. Vinar and Zinberg are a source of great pride to our Teaneck community.

Ezriel Vinar, son of Michal and Dov, is no stranger to the world of the Chidon HaTanach. As an eighth grader in Yeshivat Noam as well as during his ninth and 10th grades at TABC, Vinar participated in the national Chidon. Last year, as a 10th grader, he qualified to participate in the international Chidon this year. Despite his disappointment at the inability to compete on site in Jerusalem, Vinar was in good spirits, sure that he will be able to recoup the tour of the country that is gifted to the international finalists two weeks before the actual chidon.

Vinar has been fortunate in having a great support system and key role models in this endeavor. Netanel, his older brother, who is now in his first year of study at Yeshivat Birkat Moshe in Maale Adumim, was last year’s sixth place international Chidon winner. His plans are to continue studying and make aliyah in the near future. Throughout this past year, brothers Netanel and Ezriel spent many hours in review sessions together through WhatsApp. Their mother, Michal, shares, “Listening to both of them ‘leining’ the material together was my greatest pleasure.” Rabbi Neil Winkler of Fort Lee and currently Israel also served as a mentor to Vinar for several years.

Considering his participation in the chidon for four years, Vinar is now the proud expert on over hundreds of perakim of Tanach. In a testament to the Chidon, Vinar shared, “I believe that the Chidon is not only a great way to gain knowledge of the Tanach, but also to retain that knowledge and allow it to be preserved and improved upon in the future.”

Yehuda Zinberg, son of Yael and David, is a freshman at The IDEA School housed at the JCC of Tenafly. As a student at Yavneh Academy, he participated in three national Chidon competitions, in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, finally qualifying for the international Chidon last May by placing first in the middle school division. As for role models and mentors, at Yavneh Zinberg took part in the Chidon Club led by Morah Keren Kedmi. At The IDEA School he prepared with Judaic principal Rabbi Tavi Koslowe and was mentored outside of school by Teaneck Rabbi Ezra Frazer, himself a Chidon winner both as a youth as well as an adult. When asked about his inability to compete in Jerusalem this year, Zinberg was confident that he would in the future, as he had many times in the past, visit Israel and the large family he has living there.

When asked about the meaning of being a four-time participant in the Chidon, Zinberg shared, “Studying large portions of Tanach gives me an opportunity to become familiar with the different styles of language used in individual sefarim and get to understand their special meanings.”

USA Chidon coordinator Rabbi Dovi Nadel was very impressed with the live broadcast of the current Chidon and the way it overcame the distance between the Israeli and international contestants. He commented, “The lengths to which so many individuals went to make this annual event happen is nothing short of extraordinary. The event was actually live! Students in their homes were filmed at all hours of day and night to appear at 11 a.m. in Israel. From feedback I’ve gotten, contestants felt embraced by Israel and excited to be a part of it all.” He is currently very busy coordinating this year’s upcoming May 10 Chidon HaTanach national finals involving over 80 American schools and over 200 national finalists, all online!

During the two-hour Chidon HaTanach live broadcast, inspirational addresses were delivered by Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, Minister of Education Rav Rafi Peretz, and director of the Jewish Agency Yaakov Herzog. The distinguished panel of judges was comprised of Speaker of the Knesset Rav Aluf, Benny Gantz, World Champion of the Chidon Rav Yoav Schlossberg, the composer of the questions, Shmuel Abuav, head of the Department of Education, and noted educator and heroine of Israel Miriam Peretz.

Referring to our current worldwide isolation, Jewish Agency chairman Yaakov Herzog likened us to Noach in his “teivah,” sheltering all together and waiting for the redemption. “We are practicing ‘ahava hadadit, mutual love, as the actions of each one of us can impact the wellbeing of the next one. This is one of the basic credos of our Torah, ‘V’ahavta l’reacha kamocha.’”’

By Pearl Markovitz

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