NWLJDS scores hat trick at Wembley Stadium

North West London Jewish Day School scored an amazing hat-trick at this year’s Etgar Challenge


North West London Jewish Day School scored an amazing hat-trick at this year’s Etgar Challenge. The three teams from NWLJDS took first, second and third place in the annual Jewish general knowledge quiz, the first time a school has ever achieved this feat.

More than 1,000 Jewish children aged ten competed in the Etgar Challenge at Wembley Stadium. Students came from 28 different UK Jewish day schools — from Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and London — while guests flew in from the United States and Israel to see the unique event happening live.

Competing in teams, the students answered a series of challenging questions that tested their Jewish general knowledge. Questions such as:

• Who wrote the megillah that we read on Tisha B’Av?

• What type of weather do we mention in the Amidah?

• What Hebrew phrase means “welcoming guests into our home”?

In addition, a series of creative challenges tested the ability of the students to apply their knowledge in inventive ways. For example, one challenge required the students to write a letter on papyrus from Pharaoh to Moses, telling him how disappointed he was at the way he had turned out. The winning entry by Rimon Team A scolded Moses for the damage he had caused to Egypt and wondered how he would ever make Egypt great again.

Jo Rosenfelder, co-founder of Etgar, said the performance of the teams overall was the best ever recorded with the winning team scoring over 90 per cent. Rabbi Zach Ford, one of the Jewish Studies teachers at NWLJDS, remarked: “Our students have worked really hard but I did not expect them to succeed quite like this.”

NWLJDS headteacher Judith Caplan said: “I am incredibly proud of North West’s year five pupils, who have worked so diligently and with such commitment to secure this Etgar victory for their school community.”

The full results were:

Etgar Champions – North West London Jewish Day School Team C

Etgar 2nd place – North West London Jewish Day School Team A

Etgar 3rd place – North West London Jewish Day School Team B

Best creative letter – Rimon Team A

Runner-up creative letter – Menorah Foundation Team E

Best stamp design – North Cheshire Team C

Runner-up stamp design – Noam Team B

Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely addressed the students at the outset of the event telling them that “knowledge is the greatest gift that you can ever be given”. Foundational knowledge, she said, ties Jews to their heritage, their history and their land.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis spoke at the end of the event before presenting the prizes to the winning teams. He said that, when he usually comes to Wembley Stadium, one team wins and the other team loses, which means half the stadium is happy and the other half is sad. “But at Etgar, every team leaves happy!”

Among the other guests were Samuel Hayek, head of JNF UK, Meira Lerner, head of Diaspora Affairs at WZO and Gary Phillips, chair of the London School of Jewish Studies (LSJS). The event was hosted by Rabbi Marc Levene, supported by Rabbi Luis Herszaft, both of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, accompanied by musician Yuval Havkin. “There is nothing at all like this in the UK,” said Rabbi Levene.

Etgar was founded in 2012 as a means of supporting Jewish primary schools to help students master foundational Jewish general knowledge and inspire them with a love of Jewish learning.

Adam Taub, Etgar’s co-founder, commented: “We were inspired by the work of ground-breaking educators like E D Hirsch who identified that foundational knowledge is key to developing a strong identity. Hirsch was working in the area of secular education but his ideas are remarkably Jewish!”

With just two part-time staff, Etgar runs largely on volunteer support to help to set up and run the huge event. In addition, more than 100 young adults, most of whom went through the programme at age ten, returned to act as madrichim, bringing to the event their dynamism and energy.

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