Earlier this spring, Donna Klein Jewish Academy sixth grader Owen Sturm placed first in the sixth and seventh grade English Division at the American Chidon Ha’Tanach Bible Contest National Finals at Yeshiva University. The win was not only a moment of personal achievement but had historical significance for his family as well. Growing up, Owen’s mother Deena participated in the Canadian Chidon HaTanach contest multiple times, so she found the experience of helping Owen prepare this year especially meaningful.
What really completed the significance of L’Dor VaDor, “from generation to generation,” for Owen’s participation in the competition is that his great-grandfather Max Aiken, whom Owen’s middle name is for, was often referred to as the Grandfather of the Bible Study Contest in Canada. Max’s vision, to have an all-inclusive contest to encourage every Jewish child to participate in learning about our heritage, has now been a reality for nearly 80 years as Chidon HaTanach competitions are held yearly in his native Canada.
“After I won, I felt really happy to be carrying on my great-grandfather’s memory,” said Owen on his victory and family legacy. “Going into the contest, I was 100-percent aware of what my history with the Chidon was, so I felt like I had succeeded in making him happy.”
To prepare for the competition, Owen and Deena studied together several times per week. Though his school was part of the English division of the contest, they read in Hebrew as well as to make sure they didn’t miss any aspect of information or relevancy from the translation.
“This was a wonderful bonding experience for Owen and me, and it was an activity we both looked forward to. I even taught him some study hacks I myself used when I studied this same material for the Chidon more than 25 years ago!” Deena shared.
Sponsored by The Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Chidon HaTanach for Youth competition tests students on the details of stories in several Biblical books. More than 80 schools around the country offer three different regional exams over the course of the year, with the top 240 qualifiers, out of the more than 550 participants, being invited to come to the contest in New York.
The top winners of both the American Chidon HaTanach contest, as well as the one held in Canada, get to go to The Jewish Agency’s International Bible Contest in Israel.