The ability to adapt to sudden and unexpectedly changing circumstances is a quality that is indispensable for achievement of success. Without a doubt, Darkeinu’s dedicated staff managed to put this maxim into practice, allowing more than 2,500 Jewish students, from no-less-than 52 different cities, across nine different countries to contend for the championship title of Darkeinu Olympics-5780. The quick-mindedness of Darkeinu’s team allowed the competition to proceed despite restrictions on travel and gatherings necessitated by the COVID19 outbreak—via a special online format. Also in spite of the problems associated with the pandemic, the geographic scope of where this year’s young Olympians hailed, widened as compared to previous years, and included youths from: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Israel, Kirghizstan, Latvia, Russia, Ukraine, and Slovakia.
Before the extent of the problem posed by COVID19 became apparent, the Darkeinu team was naturally looking forward to getting acquainted with the participants and congratulating the winners—face-to-face. While the team was disappointed that the epidemiological situation precluded this, they were extremely pleased that all the aspects of the contest were conducted seamlessly via the internet, as well as the subsequent announcement of the winners.
This is the seventh such annual competition organized by the Darkeinu Educational Project, testing the participants’ knowledge of subjects such as; Tanah, Hassidism, Jewish traditions—as well as other aspects of Jewish cultural heritage. This is also the second year in a row that Darkeinu organized an event geared especially for children aged 5-7, called “Darkeinu Kids”.
The winding down of the Olympiad coincided with the beginning of Shavuot, and Rabbi Berel Lazar—the Chief Rabbi of Russia—used the occasion to extend holiday greetings to all the participants, as well as to congratulate them on successfully conducting the Olympics despite the limits imposed by the public health situation.
Rabbi Lazar was joined in extending congratulations to Darkeinu’s Olympians by Rabanit Kineret Myers of Orenburg, Russia; and Rabanit Dina Stambler of Kamenskoye Ukraine; as well the esteemed scholar and instructor of Tanah and Jewish Studies at the Or Avner School in Zaporozhye, Ukraine—Esther Panfilova.
At the closing ceremony of the Olympics, the participants were treated to a performance by a special musical guest—the accomplished Jewish singer/songwriter, Pinchas Tzinman—performer of kosher rap and hip-hop, alternative rock, and Hasidic reggae. Mr. Tzinman presented the audience with the musical composition entitled; “All Things in Life Work Towards the Good”.
The 1st place medalist in the 9-11 grades category—David Mirkin of Bishkek, commented: “It definitely wasn’t easy [but very rewarding] and I wish to thank my teachers as well as members of the Darkeinu project—who have performed Herculean labor to make all this possible,” said Mr. Mirkin. “The acts of our forefathers are a model and an example to follow—for us—their descendants. We should always orient ourselves on these experiences of the past, study our history and traditions. Thank you so much to all who made this possible,” he added.
“Darkeynu Olympics” is one of the flagship projects of the Darkeinu Jewish heritage learning program, as well as a unique initiative in the field of Jewish education for children of all ages, operating across the entire former Soviet Union.