Michigan State Supreme Court Justice judges regional JewQ Championship

The competition is designed to bolster confidence through the mastery of Jewish knowledge, turning education into a gamified experience.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein at the JewQ regional competition. Photo by James Feldman.
Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein at the JewQ regional competition. Photo by James Feldman.

In anticipation of the International JewQ Championship finale in New York on April 7, numerous regional championships have taken already place. For one hardworking group of kids, the competition was judged by Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard H. Bernstein, together with Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov of The Shul-Chabad Lubavitch in West Bloomfield, Mich. In a blend of legal acumen and cultural celebration, Bernstein lent his judicial expertise to provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these kids.

The event, hosted by community leaders Rabbi Yishai and Rochel Leah Eliefja of JEMS at The Shul, along with Rabbi Menachem and Chana Caytak of Chabad of Troy, Mich., the championship brought together members of various Chabad houses in the area to celebrate the accomplishments of their respective Hebrew-school students.

For Bernstein, memorizing trivia is nothing new. As a legally blind person and Michigan’s first and only blind Supreme Court Justice, he has achieved remarkable success in the legal and political fields. Serving as a role model for the kids, he has risen above physical limitations; spent hours memorizing facts to become an accomplished lawyer advocating for the special-needs community; and ran 22 marathons before being elected as the State Supreme Justice.

A proud Jew and active member of the community, Bernstein complimented the JewQ participants on their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn, and reminded the participants that they were all winners. Hours of study and memorizing Jewish trivia is no easy feat.

“It was an honor to have such an esteemed guest judge at the regional championships in Michigan, and we’re sure the children will learn a lot from his example,” said Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of CKids’ umbrella organization, Merkos 302. “All the kids have put a tremendous amount of effort into this program, and no doubt it will stand them in good stead as a foundation for continued Torah study and active Jewish leaders in the future.”

JewQ Competition Cupcakes
Cupcakes at the JewQ regional competition in Michigan. Photo by James Feldman.

Representing the Detroit community at the JewQ International Championships this Sunday are the highest test scorers from the regional championship. Syler Van-Pelt will be representing JEMS together with five other JEMS students and Nora Akselrod from Chabad of Troy, and competing against children from more than 250 cities and 25 countries in a global celebration of Jewish learning and heritage watched by thousands worldwide.

This year’s competition has added significance at a time when many Jewish children in public schools encounter challenges to their identity, including antisemitism. The JewQ initiative, led by Rabbi Mendel Raskin of CKids International at Merkos 302, serves as an empowering experience. The competition is designed to bolster confidence through the mastery of Jewish knowledge, turning education into a gamified experience.

“In today’s environment, where Jewish children face undue challenges to their identity, JewQ is not just a competition; it’s a declaration of pride in who we are,” says Rabbi Yishai Eliefja, director of JEMS at The Shul-Chabad Lubavitch. “It’s about empowering youth with the confidence that comes from deep-rooted knowledge and understanding of their heritage.

To tune in virtually or purchase tickets for Sunday’s event, visit: ckids.org/jewsq.

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CKids—The Chabad Children’s network—has changed the game for kids’ Jewish involvement, experiences, and education. Whether it be Hebrew schools, day camps, after-school Enrichment, Shabbat and holiday programs or children’s clubs, CKids gives a special focus to children as a valuable community of their own.
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