Eight Jewish day school students last week won first prize for their text service that provides subscribers a sampling of Jewish law every morning.
The Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy’s JUMP team came away with a trophy and a $5,000 check for its Helpful Halacha text service. The group was among the finalists on April 2 at the NCSY Orthodox Jewish youth movement’s Jewish Unity Mentoring Program competition in New York.
“It’s crazy,” said Niv Leibowitz, 15, a JUMP team member. “We were very confident going in, but we never imagined we’d win. We’re very confident in our product.”
In New York, the team presented a 10-minute PowerPoint about Helpful Halacha and watched the four other finalist teams show their projects, as well as answer questions from the judges.
Judges included Allen Fagin, the executive vice president/chief professional office of the Orthodox Union; attorney Phil Rosen, co-head of Weil, Gotsal and Manges LLP; Hindy Poupko, deputy chief planning officer of the UJA-Federation of New York; Evan Bernstein of the Anti-Defamation League; and Rachel Kraus, vice president of marketing for the Westfield World Trade Center.
According to Alexa Szegedi, an NCSY education associate one of the reasons why Berman won was because how easily their projects could be bought into other communities.
“Berman saw a need in their community and they filled it through Helpful Halacha. And this is also a project that can be introduced and replicated into other communities; scalability was an important factor in the Board Room this year.
Team member Noach Lerman said, “The feeling of winning and meeting Allen Fagin was a once-in-a- lifetime experience that shows that hard work and commitment lead to immense success.”
The group said its service has 500 subscribers in 30 states. It will use its prize money to create a website, upgrade its texting plan and expand its marketing. Two of the other final teams will also be working with Berman to bring the Helpful Halacha service to their own communities
This is Berman Academy’s seventh entry to the contest and its first win. This this is only the second time they’ve made it to the final round.
“Winning was really incredible,” said team member Shayna Kagan. “It just shows how a small community can impact so many people. It really showed that our hard work paid off.”
Helpful Halacha’s current theme is the laws of Passover, which begins at sundown April 19. To subscribe, text “dailyhalacha” to 94253.