Girls representing the middle school at Yeshiva at the Jersey Shore were crowned division champions in the 2013 Torah Bowl competition held March 7.
The YJS boys’ team, meanwhile, finished second in their division, nearly making it a double victory for the school in a competition that tests students’ knowledge of Jewish text.
Next up for the YJS girls is a championship playoff against division winners from Jewish schools in other parts of the metropolitan New York area.
The strong showing was all the more impressive because the YJS team members are rookies. The Ocean school, which hosted the competition, has never before participated in a Torah Bowl.
“We are an expansion team, and we used our entire middle school enrollment in the contest,” said Rabbi Elie Tuchman, head of school and one of three coaches for the YJS Torah Bowl teams.
The two seventh-grade and two fifth-grade girls topped a New Jersey field that included Bruriah High School for Girls (Elizabeth), Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva (Edison), Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy (Livingston), and the reigning champs, Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey (River Edge).
The YJS boys’ team, comprised of one eighth-grader, five seventh-graders, and four sixth-graders, finished behind RPRY in the final round of the regular season. The YJS competitors were eighth-grader Robert Samuel; seventh-graders Avi Braun, Aviel Fradkine, Dov Tuchman, Simcha Shron, and Yosef Friedman; and sixth-graders Ariel Braun, Jacob Winters, Joel Paley, and Shea Cornick.
The girls on the winning YJS team were seventh-graders Tova Braun and Amy Shapiro and fifth-graders Shari Samuel and Serah Shohet.
In a phone interview, Rabbi Mair Wolofsky told NJJN he created the competition, formally known as the New York Metropolitan Torah Bowl League, in 1995, modeling it after television quiz shows like the GE College Bowl and Jeopardy. Players use buzzers to “capture” questions, making speed as well as knowledge part of the winning equation.
Now in its 18th season, the Torah Bowl operates as an independent private enterprise. Wolofsky, who is principal and head of school at Shalom Torah Academy in Morganville, said the competition is organized into boys’ and girls’ flights, with everyone receiving the same questions. High schools compete against high schools, middle schools against middle schools. “The goal of Torah Bowl is to encourage Torah study in an exciting and informal atmosphere, and all Orthodox Hebrew day schools are eligible to compete,” said Wolofsky.
This year, enrollment exceeded 600 students on approximately 65 teams.
“Throughout the season, the students, on their own time, need to diligently study the material, which consists of an entire book of the Torah, complete with all text and every Rashi commentary,” said Tuchman. “This year’s teams studied the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy).
“Competing in a Torah Bowl requires a tremendous amount of dedication,” added Tuchman.
Also coaching the YJS team are teacher Nechama Levitan and student teacher Shira Tuchman, Rabbi Tuchman’s daughter and a former Torah Bowl champion when she was attending Bruriah High School several years ago.