Kesser Torah College (KTC) students Bayla Gourarie and Liorah Kessel are “absolutely ecstatic and over the moon” to have qualified for the finals of the Chidon Sefer Hamitzvos, said KTC Jewish studies teacher Rabbi Yehuda Straiton.
The quiz is based on a book called Sefer Hamitzvot, and the girls will travel to New York later this month after studying for more than six months. Bayla and Liorah will join hundreds of students from around the world, competing in three qualifying rounds.
“It’s a lot of hard work, and now it’s paid off and I’m really proud of myself,” Liorah told The AJN. “I’m really excited to represent Sydney, my school and the Nefesh community. Everyone should get involved, not only for the prize, but just to keep learning.”
Rabbi Straiton said, “It’s a very, very difficult and competitive but fantastic competition that really sharpens the mind and teaches students higher order thinking.”
This is the first year that KTC has participated in the quiz, and the school is “very excited and very proud of them”. Rabbi Straiton hopes that more students will participate in the years to come and said he looks forward to sending more participants overseas in the future.
College principal Roy Steinman said, “We are delighted to have Kesser Torah students represent our school at this level – they have worked really hard and we are proud of their achievements.”
Rabbi Straiton added he has two younger students who heard about Bayla and Liorah’s success, which has inspired them to start studying Sefer Hamitzvot in their spare time in preparation for when they are old enough to compete.
“The girls are so committed. An important component is self-motivation and determination to see it through, and these girls have that in spades,” Rabbi Straiton said. “The ripple effect on others in the school is a very positive effect. It’s very sweet and something special for the school. We’re extremely proud of them and very happy.”