An Olympiad on Jewish traditions and history entitled A Fairy Tale Became a Reality: the 70th Anniversary of the State of Israel was held in Tel Aviv from 29 April to 3 May, and 29 students from ORT schools in Ukraine, Moldova, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Kyrgyzstan visited Israel with their teachers and advanced to the final stage.
Taking first prize was Denis Solovyov, 13, an eighth grader at ORT Simcha Educational Complex in Kiev, who prepared for the competition by studying the history of the State of Israel.
He competed in earlier stages of the competition at the inter-school level followed by the international online level, eventually travelling to Israel for the third and final stage – and his second time visiting the country.
In addition to being the first prize winner, Denis is unique in that there have been no previous finalists from the ORT Simcha school.
The second-place winner was Daniil Svager, 15, who attends Vilnius Sholom Aleichem ORT School.
Daniil prepared for three months by studying the history of the State of Israel and Jewish traditions, holidays, rituals and other aspects, and also completed the first two stages.
Like Denis, he enjoyed his time in Israel, remarking, “especially the Golan Heights – it was the first time I visited the hills,” and he said he was impressed by Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
ORT day schools in the former Soviet Union combine a robust academic curriculum with Jewish studies in cooperation with local governments and the Israel Ministry of Education. Students are taught Jewish history and traditions, learn about Israel and enjoy Jewish holiday and cultural celebrations with their families.
ORT schools are a bridge to Jewish heritage eroded after years of Soviet repression, and for many Jews, strengthen their Jewish identity and commitment. The Jewish studies departments of the ORT schools benefit from the Heftsiba program, which provides students with hot lunches and bus transportation, and salary increases for teachers, to offer an unparalleled and accessible Jewish experience appreciated by thousands.
Kol hakavod to all the ORT students who participated in the Olympiad, which has taken place since 2012, and to the two prize winners.