Boy Wins National Spelling Bee With Yiddish 'Knaidel'

Arvind Mahankali Grabs $30K by Acing Word for Dumpling

Winner: Arvind Mahankali, 13, of Bayside Hills, N.Y., won the National Spelling Bee with ‘Knaidel.’
Getty Images
Winner: Arvind Mahankali, 13, of Bayside Hills, N.Y., won the National Spelling Bee with ‘Knaidel.’

By JTA

Published May 31, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

An Indian American boy from New York won a national spelling contest thanks to his ability to correctly spell the word knaidel, a Yiddish-derived word for a traditional Jewish dumpling.

Arvind Mahankali, 13, of Bayside Hills, N.Y., beat 10 other finalists at the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee held Thursday in Oxon Hill, Md.

He won $30,000 in cash, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond from Merriam-Webster and $2,000 worth of reference works from Encyclopedia Britannica, as well as a shiny engraved trophy and the title of “champion.”

German words have led Mahankali to his spelling-bee demise for the past two years, when he twice placed third at the bee.

Vocabulary.com, which covered the bee, described knaidel as coming from “German-derived Yiddish.” It quoted Mahankali as telling ESPN, “the German curse has turned into the German blessing.”

The finals featured another word of Jewish origin. Hannah Citsay, a student at St. Anne Catholic School in Lancaster, Pa., correctly spelled “hesped,” the Hebrew word for eulogy at a Jewish memorial service, in the sixth round.

Despite correctly spelling “hesped,” Citsay was eliminated in a new portion of the contest, where contestants had to provide the definition of a word.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?








You may also be interested in our English-language newsletters:













We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.