Thursday morning, 292 male finalists from around the world descended upon the Jewish Children’s Museum, ready to begin the legendary weekend of fun and excitement that the Chidon Sefer Hamitzvos has become.
They were divided up into six teams: “Yad Hachazaka,” “Sefer Hamitzvos,” “Peirush Hamishnayos,” “Moreh Nevuchim,” “Sha’alos U’teshuvos,” and “Iggeres Harambam,” and given ID cards to match.
Head staff welcomed each participant with packages full of goodies and Chidon sweatshirts. Counselors greeted their teams with warm smiles. “It feels like such a big responsibility, to have such powerful children in my charge,” says counselor Mendel Raichik. “Just to think of how much they had to work and how many hours they studied to get here—it’s amazing!” Each of the finalists representing their schools needed to pass two qualifying tests to be eligible to join the Shabbaton.
Chayolim started off their first Shabbaton day like Chassidim—with a spirited davening in 770 and a trip to the Ohel, writing panim to give the Rebbe nachas. “Listening to the chayolim sing niggunim together the entire ride was heartwarming,” says head counselor Berel Namdar.
Students took the final Chidon test, the determining factor of who will win a gold, silver, or bronze medal. “Even if I don’t win, I’m proud of myself for making it here,” says Avrohom Feldman, a contestant from Sydney, Australia.
From there chayolim and staff were treated out to a full day of fun, planned by event coordinators Chanie Mentz, Sarah Elharrar and Tzivos Hashem staff Mushka Green and Mushkie Harlig.
They started with a jumping session at Bounce trampoline sports, a barbeque in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and then a great time at an indoor-outdoor waterpark rented out especially for these boys. “These kids have worked incredibly hard to make it this far,” says Rabbi Shimmy Weinbaum, Chidon coordinator and Director of Chayolei Tzivos Hashem. “They deserve all this and more!”