NY Jewish Girl Wins National Torah Competition

A 14-year-old Jewish high school girl won her division of the national Torah competition, held last Sunday at Yeshiva University.

Rachel Hirshfeld,

Ben Ish Hai Torah
Ben Ish Hai Torah
Israel news photo: Flash 90

A 14-year-old modern Orthodox Jewish girl and freshman at the SAR High School won her division of Chidon HaTanach, the national Torah competition, held last Sunday at Yeshiva University in New York, The New York Times reported. 

The winners, among the approximately 115 contestants, are sent to compete at the international finals in Jerusalem next year.

“I made a lot of lists on my own,” said Shalhevet Schwartz, referring to her lists of kings, tribes, and lineage. “I studied about 20 or 30 minutes a day. But yesterday I spent eight hours working on it. And Thursday I took all day off from school to study. But this is the only thing in my life I ever study responsibly for. Everything else, I just cram,” she told the newspaper.

Versions of the competition have existed for over 50 years, in Israel and in the United States. The American version is run by the Jewish Agency for Israel, which aims at connecting Jewish people around the world to the Land of Israel and promoting aliyah. The agency sponsors regional competitions in the United States, writes the quiz and pays for the national winners to travel to Israel for the world championships. In Israel, the Americans vie against champions from 21 other countries.

Unlike her adversaries, though, Shalhevet has had secular schooling. For junior high, she attended Hunter College High School, a public school in Manhattan. Her Torah knowledge comes largely from her father, Elliot, an optometrist and ordained rabbi, and her mother, Bat Sheva Marcus.

A sampler of the questions Shalhevet and her fellow competitors faced down included, “Which king bought Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver — Omri, Zimri, Ahab or Baasha? 

“Who said to whom, ‘If you would deal thus with me, kill me rather, I beg you, and let me see no more of my wretchedness’ — Moses to G-d, Joab to Solomon, Naboth to Ahab, or Obadiah to Elijah?” “Who was not David’s son — Adonijah, Solomon, Absalom or Joab?”

(For those of you playing along, the answers are: Omri, Moses to God, Joab.)