By COLlive reporter
Last Shabbos was one spectacular weekend for the 55 high school girls from Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles, Florida, Monsey and Crown Heights who gathered together to celebrate the completion of Batsheva Learning Center’s 3rd annual High School Chidon.
The Chidon was initiated 2 years ago with the goal of creating higher level learning opportunities for high school girls that would challenge them to master an entire sefer and empower them to develop skills for learning on their own. The program is directed by Mrs. Chaya Zeitlin. In its first year, just 12 contestants from 5 schools in the Tri-state area made it onstage for the final competition. This year, the program has grown to 55 students from 12 schools across the United States and Canada.
After spending the past few months mastering an entire sefer of 53 maamarim, the Shabbaton was an opportunity for these girls to finally meet each other and spend a weekend reflecting on their experience, discussing what they learned and bonding with peers from around the country who shared their passion for learning.
When the girls first arrived at the gorgeous Vallevue mansion in New Jersey that would host them, they were split into 6 groups and told to create graffiti posters based on some of the concepts they learned. The results were incredible.
After a beautiful Shabbos of learning, singing, and bonding, the girls participated in a make-your-own-pizza Melaveh Malka and an interactive activity where each group picked a maamar and a creative medium with which to present it.
For their closing activity Sunday morning, the girls got together in their groups again and each wrote up a sentence about how they changed as a result of the Chidon. Then, they put their sentences together to create beautiful poems about their experience.
Some of the powerful lines that the girls wrote were:
“I used to think I was on my own, now I know I’m part of something bigger.”
“I used to learn because I have to, now I learn because I want to.”
“I used to think I needed a teacher to learn, now I know I can open a sefer and learn on my own.”
A few hours after returning from the retreat, the girls gathered for the final competition in Crown Heights. Esty Scheiner, an alumna of the first High School Chidon two years ago, spoke at the event. She described taking the sefer she learned for Chidon with her to her work office and how the learning she did for the Chidon still impacts her day-to-day life. Mrs. Yedida Wolfe, a proud parent of one of the contestants, spoke about how transformative the Chidon was for her daughter and for her family. “I’m in awe of this group of young women.” she said “The Chidon really created an atmosphere of learning in our home. Everyone noticed it.”
Miryam Mariasha Liberow, a 12th grader who participated in the Chidon for the second time this year, also addressed the crowd:
“Before I signed up, I kept doubting myself – am I actually capable of doing this?” she began. “I pushed myself, learning every free moment that I had and I loved every second of it. By the time I was studying for the 5th test, it didn’t matter what my grade would be; I knew that no matter what I would get, I had put in the effort to learn an entire sefer and that was enough of an accomplishment for me.
I cannot describe the rush of excitement when I finished the last maamar. It was like earning something you can never buy with any money in the world. Chidon has definitely impacted my life not only in learning but in believing in myself that I can reach any goal, fulfill any dream and make any vision I have a reality.”
The contestants competed in an interactive game show and all 55 contestants were called up to receive wooden plaques.
Finally, the top 3 place winners of the Chidon were announced. Bronze medals and a 3 volume set of the Frierdiker Rebbe’s maamarim were awarded to Chana Raskin from Beis Rivka of Montreal and Zissel Tennenbaum from Monsey Beis Chaya Mushka. The silver medal and a 4-volume set of the Rebbe’s maamarim were awarded to Dassi Spritzer from Bnos Beis Yaakov of Lakewood. The gold medal and a full set of Likkutei Sichos were awarded to Devorah Hendel from Bnos Menachem of Crown Heights.