Discussing the Parsha and Haftorah around my cousin’s Shabbat table on Friday night, in Melbourne, Australia, is a little different from other families. While most families usually have the rudimentary recount of the Parsha and skim over the Haftorah, the Kaltmann family conversation is a little more in depth because six of the Kaltmann children won a place to compete in the International Bible Quiz (Chidon HaTanach) in Jerusalem.
Proud parents Menashe (Max) and Deena Kaltmann have seven children who thrive on challenges. The likelihood of a family holiday to Israel from Australia seemed extremely unlikely due to the prohibitive cost and distance, so instead the Kaltmann children chose to make their own way to Israel by winning places in the international Bible Quiz.
While the eldest Kaltmann child did not compete in the Bible Quiz, this was not due to lack of Biblical prowess (today he is an ordained Rabbi!), but rather because the family had never heard of the competition before 2006 when a cousin had competed in the Australian Bible Quiz qualification stage. Inspired by what seemed like a fantastic experience and an opportunity to learn Torah and travel the land, the family’s mission became ensuring that all Kaltmann children had the opportunity to experience a once in a life time opportunity. By winning this spot, each of the children were able to attend a camp with Jewish participants from over 40 countries, a chance to meet with the Prime Minister and President of Israel, and tour the land they had studied so much about.
The first Kaltmann child to compete in the Bible Quiz was Nomi in 2008. Inspired by her time on the camp and the experiences she had competing in the International and Diaspora Bible Quizzes she returned home and helped coach her siblings. Doovie representing Australia in 2009, then Sara in 2010 and Eli in 2011 followed in quick succession. After a few years off the final two Kaltmann competitors represented Australia in Israel with Lele competing in 2015 and Akiva in 2016. During these many years, the walls in the house were covered in Biblical family trees, routes, places, people and numbers and recordings of prophecies and songs to help memorise difficult chapters floated around the house. However, when Akiva left for Israel two weeks ago, these learning tools were taken down for the last time to end 9 years of Kaltmann involvement in the Quiz.
While the family has seen 2 Prime Ministers, 2 Presidents of Israel and 2 Bible quiz hosts, the one central theme that has united them throughout this unique privilege has been the Bible and the chance to experience the true home of the Jewish people.