Yair Shakah, cantor and educator at the Rimon Center in East Windsor, was one of two winners of the International Adult Bible Contest held in Jerusalem in December.
Shahak, 28, represented the United States, and shared the top honor with Israeli Yafit Silman.
Shahak’s wife, Yaelle Frohlich, also an educator at the Rimon Center, was a finalist in the competition; she represented Canada. They were the first husband-wife contestants to compete against each other.
The competition drew 27 finalists, aged 24 and older, from all over the world, who took a rigorous written exam. It ended in a final round of 16 competitors, with finalists being quizzed orally in front of an audience that included Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
Shahak was one of the international competition’s final eight contestants when it was last held in 2014.
“Something that bothers me is how little most Jews know about Jewish history, and you can’t know Jewish history without knowing Bible,” Shahak told JTA. “Biblical history is not in a vacuum, that it maybe happened but we don’t really talk about it. I think it was real and it did happen, and we have to understand how it happened and what it means for us.”
Shahak holds a B.A. in Hebrew literature, Bible, and music and a master’s degree in biblical and Semitic studies from Yeshiva University. He is pursuing a master’s of music in violin performance at the Aaron Copland School of Music in New York.
His wife holds a B.A. in English communications and a master’s in modern Jewish history from Yeshiva University and is a Ph.D. candidate at New York University, specializing in 19th-century intellectual Jewish history.
The two are regular educators at the Rimon Center and often lead explanatory Shabbat services.