PARAMUS Brothers Darren and Ike Sultan of West Orange emerged victorious from last Sunday’s national finals of the Chidon HaTanach, the National Bible Contest. Darren, a sophomore, and Ike, a junior at the Frisch School here, finished first and third respectively among about ’00 students from across the county.
Frisch students and brothers Darren (grade 10) and Ike (grade 11) Sultan, of West Orange, who finished first and third respectively in the national finals of the Chidon HaTanach The National Bible Contest.
In preparation for the famously difficult quiz offered in Hebrew for yeshiva students and in English for supplementary school students on middle- and high-school levels Darren and Ike needed to familiarize themselves thoroughly with about 70 chapters from the Tanach the Five Books of Moses, Prophets, and Writings along with selected rabbinic commentaries. In order to advance to the national finals, students must first participate in a three-part regional qualifying round, which both brothers had done successfully ever since seventh grade.
"The preparation required to compete in this contest is extraordinarily rigorous," said Dr. Kalman Stein, principal of the co-ed yeshiva high school of nearly 650 students. "Their accomplishment is truly impressive."
As first-place winner, Darren is eligible for a free trip next May to Jerusalem for the international finals of the contest, which is sponsored by The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Department of Jewish Zionist Education. Instituted by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, the contest is held on Israel Independence Day and is nationally televised. Most years, New Jersey residents are represented in the final rounds, although the contest is virtually always won by an Israeli.
"I am really looking forward to traveling to Israel to compete in the finals," said Darren Sultan. "Now I just need to figure out how to balance my preparation for the finals with the demanding academic schedule of my junior year at Frisch." He also participates in the school’s Torah Bowl team.
Both Sultans said the process of studying the material gave them an enhanced appreciation of the Bible and the many thematic and textual connections between the various books of the canon.
This is not the first time siblings from New Jersey have made it to the national level in the same year; it has happened on several occasions in the past decade. One such pair were Elmwood Park residents Solomon Kutnicki and his younger brother Daniel (Chaim).
In 1998, Solomon, then a student at Bergen County Academies and the supplementary Bergen County High School for Jewish Studies, took first place in the high-school-level English version of the contest. He went on to graduate from the California Institute of Technology. Chaim, who placed in the top 10 on the middle-school-level Hebrew version that same year, went on to graduate from Frisch and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Both brothers now live in Israel.
"The Chidon was important preparation for Jewish living," said Chaim Kutnicki. "I’d never had another opportunity to focus bare-bones on Tanach learning, which is something you don’t get otherwise. I can still quote pesukim [verses] from all over Tanach, and that’s a direct result of having read so many pesukim over and over before the Chidon."