First Chassidic woman judge rules on some smart Jewish kids


Faygie Levy Holt,

( — Fourth-grader Avery McMullen of Haverford, Pa., loves to learn, and says language arts is her favorite subject. But it was her knowledge of Judaism that propelled her to the head of the class in an international Jewish competition for kids.

When she received an application from her teacher at the Hebrew School of the Arts, a program of Chabad of Delaware County, for the JewQ International Torah Championship, Avery wanted in. Working at home in her spare time, Avery was rewarded for her hard work, taking home first place for her grade-level at the JewQ finale earlier this month.

“I am so, so proud of Avery,” said her mother, Alyson. “She worked so hard and took her own time to study and learn and she never complained about it.”

To make it to the finale, Avery had to pass four different tests on her knowledge of Jewish topics and beat out other competitors at her Hebrew school.

“Even though you do a lot of studying at the end it is really fun because you learn a lot, and you get to have fun at a Shabbaton” for all the JewQ participants, said 10-year-old Avery. “I made a lot of friends in my bunk for the Shabbaton.”

An initiative of CKids (the Chabad Children’s Club), JewQ is a competition that challenges students not attending Jewish day school to learn independently under the guidance of their local Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries.

One of the judges this year—joining Professor Eve Krakowski, an author and educator at Princeton University and Mushky Loewenthal, co-director of CKids and creator of the successful IsraelQuest curriculum—was an actual judge, Rachel Freier, the first Chassidic woman judge in New York, and the first Chassidic woman to win elective office in the United States.. Freier was first approached about judging JewQ two years ago, but that competition was postponed due to Covid.

“When I heard about the program from Rabbi Zalman [Loewenthal, director of CKids], I was instantly amazed and willing to partake in this,” she said. “My impression of the young children was of a young group of Jewish children who were motivated, inspired and excited to be Jewish. The idea of having them study all year to prepare for this competition was fabulous! Even the adult enjoyed the program!”

JewQ is open to students in grades 3rd through 7th, with one winner in each division. The other winners at this year’s competition were: Yuval Dobzinski of Florida; Ezra Kovsky of Pennsylvania; Noah Guzman of New York; and Chana Blois of Massachusetts.