‘Darkeinu’ Contest Reveals Jewish Knowledge Champions

The final round of Darkeinu “Olympics” quiz on Jewish tradition knowledge took place last week in Petersburg, Russia. While 1,700 school students from 8 FSU countries participated in the contest’s first round, only 360 made it to the second, and finally 47 arrived to fight for “Olympic” victory.

“This is the fourth year our contest take place, and we see that students greet it with increasing enthusiasm, glad to show off the knowledge they gain in Jewish heritage classes throughout the year and even ready for some extra-curricular studying” said Darkeinu coordinator Mrs. Sarah Vernick.

Darkeinu is the FSU’s Jewish education curriculum that is adopted by the majority of Jewish schools in the region. It runs the contest to raise the level of involvement and prestige for Jewish heritage subjects in a region traditionally focused on academic excellence.

This year the finals were also attended by an Israeli delegation of education and diaspora relations officials, who were impressed with the level of contenders’ knowledge and overall tournament organization.

Where as early quiz rounds consisted of only one stage each – a written test, the final round was more challenging: there were five stages, with only two contestants making it to the final stage in each age group (5-6 grade, 7-8 and 9-11). The day began with “homework” presentations, then questions competition, on to charades that required thorough Jewish knowledge as well as quick-thinking, then an oral essay on an illustration. The last stage was a blitz-tournament where the two final contenders had to answer 13 questions in 2 minutes, with the winner giving the highest number of correct answers.

“This was a tough competition,” said Lina Komishanova from Volgograd, one of the finalists. “The stages were difficult, while emotions were over the edge.” At the end of the day Darkeinu champions became: Pinchas Kabanovsky from Perm, Anastasia Ostapenko and Milena Gnedkova from Samara. Second and third places for each age group were claimed by participants from Khabarovsk, Saratov, Omsk and Novosibirsk.

However everyone of the finalists was a winner, participants said. “We got to tour the city, visited some of the most interesting museums – it was very informative and overall exciting, “ said Levy Kozhevnikov, also a finalist from Volgograd. The group also enjoyed a spectacular scientific show and a festive dinner at the end of the tournament day. They met with the special guests – Mr. Dvir Kahane, the head of the Israeli Ministry of the Diaspora, and Dr. Dalit Atrakchi from the Israeli Ministry of Education.

Another honorary guest at the contest was Mr. Gary Torgow, chairman of Mosaic Untied, an organization that supports ties between diaspora Jewry and Israel.

The final round in Petersburg brought together participants from 19 cities throughout Russia. Another round of finals will be held in Ukraine later this month for contestants from other FSU countries.

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