Trivia night supports Pittsburgh Jewish teens

Trivia night supports Pittsburgh Jewish teens

The trivia contest was as much about camaraderie as competition.
Photo by Adam Reinherz
The trivia contest was as much about camaraderie as competition. Photo by Adam Reinherz

The least tricky question of the evening was why so many people attended a trivia night contest held at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh.

“I came to give to NCSY because I value the work that they do,” explained Yitzy Nadoff, a Squirrel Hill resident and one of 130 people who joined “The Q,” an interactive, multimedia team-based trivia game hosted by NCSY, a Jewish youth group affiliated with the Orthodox Union.  

Apart from stymying participants with name-that-tune challenges, anagrams, geographical riddles and other puzzles, the Saturday evening event showcased the youth group’s efforts.

“This is about building community support for NCSY and community awareness,” said Rabbi Ari Goldberg, director of Pittsburgh’s NCSY and Jewish Student Union (JSU) chapters.

Tovia Jacobs, a 12th-grader at Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh, outlined the youth group’s benefits when telling attendees in a speech midway through the program that NCSY has granted him Jewish identity, friendships and leadership skills.

Having a young adult speak offers listeners considerable insights, said Goldberg.

“To hear the story in their own words is a much more vivid and personal way” of delivering a message, the Jewish professional said. “It’s the difference between telling and showing.” When a young adult speaks, we’re able to “show our product.”

Listening to Jacobs’ story of personal growth was one of several notable moments throughout the evening, said Nina Butler of Squirrel Hill. “The best part of the night was to hear a NCSYer speak and to look around the room and see all the people supporting the idea of providing opportunities for kids to learn about their Jewish heritage.”  

Proceeds from the evening support scholarships and programs for Pittsburgh kids, said Goldberg. The event, though, is “not only about fundraising, but about friend-raising.”

According to Goldberg, attendance this year was 30 percent greater than last year’s event.

But fundraising and camaraderie aside, the night was also about competition.

Before the program began, several participants expressed hope that particular topics would arise. Nadoff, for instance, wished for as many computer-related questions as possible.

“Half of my table is CMU students,” he said. “We have a pretty good shot.”

Shmuel Hertzberg of Squirrel Hill, meanwhile, craved questions on 1970s rock. And Yikara Levari, also of Squirrel Hill, was pining for questions on American history.

“I got a 5 on the AP exam and my ancestors have been here since the 1600s,” she explained.

Oren Levy, a teacher at Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh, wanted questions “on fourth-grade Chumash.” And Ilana Kanal, a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh, was seeking chemistry-related queries.

Joel Ungar of Squirrel Hill was not keen on any particular topic, but said that heating and air conditioning is “something I know kind of.”

Others were less genre specific.

“I’m ready for anything. I brought my A-game,” said Rob Itskowitz of Squirrel Hill, quickly adding, “I came prepared.”

In the end, the winning honors belonged to Nina and Dan Butler, Stefanie and Jason Small, Jay and Sarah Luzer, Nancy and Leon Zionts and William Herlands.  

Claiming that it was neither the physical prowess exhibited when constructing a building block puzzle or the intellectual superiority demonstrated when analyzing cinema related illustrations, Nina Butler explained that the key to victory was actually something most people could easily understand.

“We were smart enough,” she quipped, “to ask really smart people to be on our team.”

Adam Reinherz can be reached at

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