For children from small Jewish neighborhoods, it can be hard…
The International Torah Championship is on a roll in South and Central America—launching this week in 14 countries.
Five years ago, JewQ launched in Long Island with 100 Hebrew school students. Since then, the International Torah Championship has expanded all over the world, with its most recent launch in 14 Latin American countries.
Now in its second year, JewQ Latin America includes kids from small, traditional Jewish communities in Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia, Cuba, México, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Panamá—along with this year’s expansion to 5 new countries: Uruguay, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Venezuela and Spain.
A project spearheaded by the Spanish division of Merkos 302, with the generous backing of the Toledo family, this week’s JewQ launch marks the second year of the International Torah Competition that’s become a global phenomenon in Chabad Hebrew Schools all over the world. “We are proud to honor the legacy of Rajel Toledo, a loving wife, mother, and a champion of Jewish education,” says Rabbi Mendel Raskin, director of JewQ International.
JewQ has made a lasting impression on the young Jewish neshamos of South and Central American countries, where there isn’t a strong infrastructure of Jewish youth programming such as what exists in the United States. Motivated by JewQ’s introduction, some shluchim have launched new Hebrew Schools to accommodate the program.
“When these kids are learning about their Judaism in their small towns, they feel connected to thousands of other Jewish kids learning the same thing all over the world,” says Rabbi Chai Kohan, who directs the Spanish division of Merkos 302.
While American schools are gearing up for summer vacation, Latin American schools are already a few months in, with JewQ launching this week and continuing through until Cheshvan, when a grand championship will determine which champions will qualify to join the CKids JewQ International Shabbaton in March, a life-changing weekend experience.
“Here in Central and South America, there aren’t so many Jewish kids like them,” says Rochel Fried, Shlucha in Guayaquil, Ecuador. “Being part of this global competition, with over 2,000 other Hebrew School students, brings up real feelings of Jewish pride.”
The Living Jewish textbook, the foundation of the JewQ curriculum, was translated into Spanish under Rabbi Kohan’s direction. After kids studied, reviewed, and passed tests, they earned the privilege of joining the CKids International Shabbaton.
“The Hebrew Schools who joined in our first year applauded this opportunity,” says Mrs.Etti Silberstein, of Tzach Argentina, who’s coordinating the program for Argentina. “This year, they are all back for more—5 cities along with 9 new shluchim. ”
Besides for the kids lucky enough to participate in the warm, immersive environment of the Shabbaton, every JewQ champion absorbs an incredible amount of information from their JewQ textbooks, aptly titled Living Jewish for its fundamental nature in how to lead a Jewish life.
“The JewQ method of making Judaism personal and fun, resonates with children no matter where they come from,” says Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch. “We’ve seen its unique impact on the communities and countries worldwide that have participated and we look forward to seeing it continue to grow.”
To learn more about JewQ and the full suite of programs CKids offers, visit CKids.org.
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