In a modest home framed by Mullumbimby’s sprawling rainforests and babbling creeks, 11-year-old Shalev Mayor Solell is engrossed in a book. He’s not just any boy, and this is not just any book. He is the embodiment of cultural persistence, and the book is a testament to the indomitable spirit of a community long resigned to spiritual solitude.
Solell is far removed from the Jewish educational powerhouses of Sydney or Melbourne, because in this sleepy NSW town there isn’t even one Jewish day school. Yet, Solell was recently crowned champion of the JewQ Australia Championships. His journey tells a wider story of how one initiative is empowering young Jews around the world to connect to their heritage in a fun and meaningful way.
JewQ Australia serves as the regional wing of a global initiative that began in the US in 2019. Starting with 250 participants, JewQ has ballooned into a program that serves over 3600 children across 23 countries. It’s more than just a competition; it’s a lifeline for children like Solell, offering them an opportunity to learn about their heritage in a gamified, engaging manner.
Recognising the rarity of formal Jewish education in the town, Solell took it upon himself to learn and practise diligently. He came to the competition fully prepared, armed with a deep understanding of Jewish history, tradition and culture. He was determined to make the most of the resources available to him, and his efforts paid off in the form of a well-deserved victory.
Rachel Ben-Harosh, one of the driving forces behind the Chabad House in Byron Shire, said: “Living in the beautiful remote Northern Rivers, there’s a wide variety of activities on offer. We’re honoured to have Shalev prioritise his regular participation in Chabad House activities as well as in Camp Gan Israel.”
Rabbi Tomer Ben-Harosh added: “This is the first year that Chabad Byron Shire has joined the JewQ competition, and Shalev was the first to sign up once we announced it. He studied with dedication, passing all the tests with flying colours. We are so proud of him!”
Solell is now preparing to represent Australia in the International JewQ Championships in New York.