Yishai Eisenberg is First Non-Israeli in 20 Years to Win International Bible Competition
On April 16, Yishai Eisenberg, a freshman at the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy / Yeshiva University High School for Boys (YUHSB), became the first non-Israeli in 20 years to win the Chidon HaTanakh, Israel’s annual International Bible Competition for high school students. Eisenberg, of Passiac, NJ, dominated the competition from the outset, becoming the first champion in its 50-year run to share the winner’s circle when he finished the final round tied with Elior Babian of Beit Shemesh.
An illustration of the country’s desire to connect Jewish independence to Jewish values, the annual contest took place on Yom Ha’atzmaut at The Jerusalem Theater, under the auspices of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron.
“We are all very proud of Yishai’s amazing accomplishment,” said Rabbi Michael Taubes, head of school at YUHSB. “We know how much time and effort he put into preparing for this and were all rooting for him. It’s unbelievable just to qualify for the competition, but to actually win is incredible.”
Until Eisenberg’s victory, no American had won the contest since 1988, when another YUHSB student, and current RIETS Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Jeremy Wieder took first place.
When the international competition began, 58 contestants from over 26 countries took the stage. Eisenberg secured a spot in this year’s competition by achieving the only perfect score at the National Bible Contest, which took place at Yeshiva University on May 6, 2012.
In what was intended to be the tie-breaking final round, host Avshalom Kor presented Eisenberg and Babian with a series of difficult questions, allowing each only five seconds to answer with no opportunities to correct themselves. After 12 intense rounds of head-to-head competition, both contestants received perfect scores, resulting in the unprecedented tie.