The final stage of FJC’s Darkeinu ‘Olympics’ contest took place in Jerusalem earlier this week, determining winners in two age categories out of 36 finalists, who flew to Israel from 25 cities in the FSU. Overall, 2,000 students participated in the contest this year, making it the Olympic’s largest one yet.
The Olympics contest was launched six years ago by Darkeinu education curriculum as the informal Jewish studies education project aimed at motivating Jewish students in their heritage studies and providing a fun platform for competition and connection.
“The students who arrived at the finals this year showed tremendous results in their studies and dedication, “ said Nataly Nabitovsky, Darkeinu’s director. “The contest’s questions aren’t easy even in the first round and winning demanded real knowledge of the subjects. We are very proud of the winners and all those who participated,” she said.
2060 students aged 5 to 17, participated in the first round of the Darkeinu Olympics this year, coming from 42 cities of FSU countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Latvia as well as participants from Israel.
Pre-schoolers and first-graders participated for the first time, to much delight of the young participants. For them, the contest ended at two rounds and the winners got valuable presents and prizes. For high-school contestants the competition was tougher – there were three rounds and those who made it enjoyed a free trip to the finals. This year this included a four-day stay in Jerusalem as well as trips to Masada and around the city’s historical sites.
“I am very happy and excited that I won. This was a long journey for me – I’ve participated in the Olympics since 5th grade. Now I can finish high-school feeling that I really accomplished something. For me, Darkeinu Olympics is a chance to learn something new, meet new friends, see how I compare to others. To future finalists I say – relax and enjoy the ride, winning is not the most important – have a good time,” said Yulia Kobzar, 9-11th-grade category winner from Odessa, Ukraine.
“Darkeinu Olympics is a very important project – children come in contact with the basics of Judaism in a multi-faceted and meaningful way, begin to feel connected to others,’ said Simha Shapiro, mother of 2nd place winner Sonya. ‘To other parents, I wish to support their kids in contest preparations. Growing up in the Soviet Union we were devoid of such a Jewish connection, and its great joy to see our children make up for it.
Darkeinu Jewish studies curriculum, the contest’s organizer, was launched in 2007 by Lev Leviev, FJC President and his wife Olga. It is supported by sponsors and donors around the world.