Two Beth Tfiloh students see success in global competitions

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Yisrael Kaplowitz (Courtesy of Toby Kaplowitz)

Two Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School students recently made their mark in global competitions.

Eighth grader Yisrael Kaplowitz won first place in a virtual Chidon-HaTanach national Bible contest, while 10th grader Shaina Ermine was the East Coast regional winner of a global trivia game organized by OpenDor Media.


For Yisrael, a 14 year old who lives in Pikesville, this is the second time he has won a Chidon Ha-Tanach competition. Last year, he won first place at the national level in the English division for sixth and seventh graders. This year, he won first place at the national level of Chidon-HaTanach’s English division for students in eighth grade through high school.

At different points in the school year, organizers of the contest sent his school three separate regional tests for students to take, Yisrael said. Students who achieved a particular score on the three tests combined were then invited to compete at the national level.

As the winner of the national round, Yisrael will receive a trip to Israel to compete in the international round set to take place next year around Yom Ha’atzmaut, said Rabbi Elliot Kaplowitz of Netivot Shalom, Yisrael’s father.

“Last year, I was completely shocked,” Yisrael said. “This year, I was also surprised. … I didn’t really expect to win for a second time. But I definitely felt that it was more of a possibility this year.”

Rabbi Kaplowitz said he was surprised as well.

“Last year, obviously, we were very excited,” he said. “He’s a great student, he’s a great kid, but we knew this was a very big competition, and we had no previous experience, no expectation for him to do anything other than have a great time being a part of it. And so when he won, it was a huge surprise to all of us and it was just amazing. And never could have imagined that it could happen again.”

Shaina Ermine
Shaina Ermine (Jasmine Spivack)

Meanwhile, 15-year-old Shaina of Baltimore saw success in a global trivia game on Israeli history, culture and current events, organized by Unpacked for Educators, a division of the nonprofit OpenDor Media.

Shaina has been interested in Israel-focused competitions for years, she said. In middle school, she often did well in similar competitions. When her principal informed students of the contest during the run-up toward Yom Ha’atzmaut, she saw it as “a fun way to learn some new things
about Israel.”

Shaina was one of 10 winners from around the world. Others came from California and Texas and from other countries, including the United Kingdom, Hungary, South Africa and Singapore.

Shaina attributed much of her success to her past experiences taking tests on Israel in Beth Tfiloh classes.

“Shaina made us so proud by being a North American regional winner,” said Neil Rubin, one of Shaina’s teachers and a former JT editor, in an email. “She is sweet, bright and has the passions for Judaism and Israel that we hope to instill in all of our students.”

After the competition, Shaina was invited to participate in the subsequent championship round. While she did not place in the championship round, she did “have a lot of fun with it,” she said.

To students thinking of entering similar contests, Shaina advises studying hard, not stressing out and having fun. “You really got to focus on having fun,” she said. “Instead of just turning it all into this big competition, you kind of just want to live in the moment, take it all in.”

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