On Sunday morning, December 15, the Jerusalem Theater reverberated with the exciting sounds of Torah as it hosted the Premier Chidon Olami, the worldwide contest of Talmud Israeli (TI).
The gathering included family and friends of the 15 finalist duos as well as hundreds of excited classmates, educators and TI followers. The contestants who made it to the climactic finals were parents and children who had prepared for the worldwide chidon for years. Of the 15, three pairs were from the New York area and two had Teaneck connections.
Opening the event was an uplifting rendition of “Am Yisrael Chai” performed by the IDF Chief Chazzan Shai Abramson and his troupe. Rabbi Avi Rath, educational director and editor of Talmud Olami, served as master of ceremonies. Rabbi Rath encapsulated the mission of Talmud Israeli as bringing togetherness to Am Yisrael, “Yachad Lev B’lev,” as well as “Yachad Horim Ve’yeladim,” togetherness with parents and their children.
Talmud Israeli originated over a decade ago as a program to bring together individuals, parents and children, schools, and synagogues in the study of Jewish wisdom through halacha, aggadah, thought, and midrash from the 1,000-year-old Talmud. Its seven volumes, individual Masechet and Suggiyot books, weekly publications, and video clips are all available in English and Hebrew. The myriad of materials provide sources of learning Talmud with Torah, modern Jewish history and Israel.
In Israel, Talmud Israeli is implemented in more than 200 schools in over 100 communities across the nation.The weekly publication in Hebrew includes the daf for each day of the week and Israeli and Zionist ideas and values, including important characters and events. It serves as enrichment for Jewish studies and as a means to connect to the entire community in Israel. To date in the U.S., Talmud Israeli is used in Jewish day schools including HALB, HAFTR, SAR, JEC, Ramaz, Westchester Day School, and Yavneh Academy. The materials are gaining popularity across the globe and are studied worldwide in countries which include Canada, Germany, Turkey, and China.
The 15 finalist parent-child contestants consisted of fathers and mothers with sons and daughters from across Israel, including Petach Tikvah, Beit El, Mitzpeh Rimon, Beit El, Lod, and Yad Binyamin. The parents— doctors, lawyers, engineers and educators—set time aside to study Torah with their children, who ranged in age from nine years old to pre-Bnei Mitzvah. Three of the parent-child teams were from the local area. Dr. Jordan Rosenstock, a nephrologist. and his son Eytan hail from White Plains. Eytan, who will become a Bar Mitzvah this week, is an 8th grader at Westchester Day School. Jordana Osband Glazer and her son, Jonah, reside in Riverdale. Osband Glazer is a pediatrician who lectures widely on Torah topics, Jonah is a seventh grader at SAR. In addition to learning Torah with his mother he plays soccer, studies guitar and bakes weekly Shabbat challahs. Jonah’s father, David Glazer, an instructor at SAR, is a native of Teaneck.
Dovid Kanarfogel grew up in Teaneck and is the son of Rabbi Dr. Ephraim and Devorah Kanarfogel. His son Ezra, a fourth grader at HAFTR, was the youngest contestant in the chidon.
In introducing the pair, Rabbi Rath shared their special story. One year ago, Hindy Kanarfogel z”l, mother of Ezra and his four siblings, including his fellow triplets, was tragically taken from the family. When Ezra was notified that he was chosen to participate in the chidon, his father was determined to bring all five siblings to Israel. On the morning of the chidon, graduates from HAFTR spending their gap year in Israel made themselves available to watch over the younger Kanarfogel siblings during the program. Kanarfogel requested that the event be a tribute to his beloved Hindy, who was a treasured teacher and curriculum coordinator at HAFTR.
Prior to the concluding rounds of questions, the contestants responded to a rigorous and lengthy written exam for which they were awarded points were added to those accrued in the final oral contest. The illustrious panel of judges consisted of Rav Bar Levi of Israel’s Department of Education; Rav Doron Peretz, director of World Mizrachi; IDF Chief Rabbi Eyal Krin; Chidon Tanach Grand Champion Pinchas Neria;; Tzilit Jacobsohn, head of the Bat Melech organization; Miriam Peretz, recipient of Pras Yisrael; and Shosh Nagar, head of the Chemed Educational Network. President Reuven Rivlin posed the last question of the chidon.
Mayor Moshe Leon of Jerusalem, who himself sets aside time for Torah learning, addressed the program, praising the choice of Jerusalem for the premier chidon as the city that “unites and promotes togetherness.” Talmud Israeli Founder and Editor-in-Chief Meir Jacobsohn, who also serves as the CEO of Medison Pharmaceuticals, which supports the project, shared passionate introductory message. Quoting the heroic world-renowned educator Janusz Korczak, who perished escorting his students to their deaths during the Holocaust, he said, “He who is concerned about days, will plant wheat. He who is concerned about years, will plant trees. But he who is concerned about the generations of the future will educate children.”
Top winners of the Premier Chidon Tanach Israeli were Beit El residents Yosef Shriki and his son Nissim Noam. A special tribute was paid to Diaspora winners Dr. Jordan and Eytan Rosenstock and a thunderous mazal tov was wished to Eytan upon his upcoming Bar Mitzvah celebration.
By Pearl Markovitz