Carter Touzalin ’23 Wins Second Consecutive Dreidel Championship


Ben Ackman, Editor, Staff Writer

On Friday, January 6th, Carter Touzalin ‘23 claimed victory in the Hebrew Club Dreidel Tournament after an intense seven-way match. The triumph is his second title in a row. “It’s well expected. I mean, I don’t know what these guys were thinking, that they could beat me, the champion.” said Touzalin after winning. The senior carried the match with a tiebreaking spin against runner up Charles Burt ‘23. Notably, neither of them are Jewish; nor was third place Thomas Deloy ‘23.

Dreidel is a game traditionally played on Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday that spans eight days every year. It originates from similar games played in various languages in Europe, itself being adapted to Yiddish. Hanukkah celebrates the retaking of Jerusalem by the Maccabees, a faction of Jewish militant rebels, from the Seleucid Empire (a subdivision of Alexander the Great’s Macedonia) in 164 BCE. In particular, it commemorates a Talmudic legend wherein a day’s worth of sanctified oil for lighting the Temple menorah miraculously lasted eight days, enough time for more oil to be produced. Traditionally, Jews celebrate this holiday by lighting their own menorahs, eating foods fried in oil, and of course, playing Dreidel.

The match raged on for an entire community period. Participation was limited to six finalists who had earned the right to advance to the final match before Christmas break, at the Hebrew Club’s Hanukkah Party. In addition to them, there was Touzalin, who was allowed to take part because of his status as defending champion. Elimination was based on standard Dreidel rules: a four-sided top is spun, and the Hebrew letter written on the side that it stops determines the spinner’s reward. 

Touzalin, going third in the first round, claimed the first Gimel of the game, which gave him a lead he held on to for the rest of the period. Per the final’s rules, each player would contribute a piece to refill the pot every time it was emptied by a Gimel. Consequently, Ben Vassallo ‘26 and Henry Eig ‘25 were the first to go, exiting early and simultaneously. As the youngest competitor, Vassallo went first in the clockwise rotation. Since Eig was sitting on his right, the two of them lost much of their starting allotment of pieces to replenish the pot while they waited for their turn to spin. Theo Josephson ‘23, plagued by unlucky spins, later joined them. The next to go was myself, Ben Ackman ‘23, who despite his excellent spinning form, faultless sportsmanship, and commendable humility, was made to withdraw by poor Dreidel results.

With the top three players decided, the game shifted into deadlock. Thomas Deloy came close to elimination, but some fortunate spins kept him in the running. Meanwhile, Carter Touzalin captivated the audience with his inscrutable techniques; he slapped the table, fanned the spinning top, and claimed Gimel after Gimel. Eventually, referee and Hebrew Club co-president Ori Pinn ‘23 raised the required ante from one piece to two, and later to three. This proved too much to bear for Deloy, and soon it was only between Touzalin and Charles Burt. Although the defending champion had a noticeable lead, Pinn decided it would be all-or-nothing: both players would spin simultaneously, and the best letter would win. Burt, his spin ending much faster than Touzalin’s, rolled Hay. The room watched in suspense, waiting for the last Dreidel to fall. It slowly rolled to a stop, and revealed Gimel.

After a dramatic finale, Carter Touzalin defended his title as Dreidel champion. His prize: a small trophy depicting a Dreidel. “Well fought by Charles and Deloy, well fought,” said Touzalin. “But there was no question [of who would win].” For his victory, he thanks his parents, as well as Hebrew Club presidents Logan Dunkel ‘23 and Ori Pinn for inviting him to compete. Being a senior, this is his final year at Prep, so the crown will again be up for grabs next year. However, his accomplishment stands above the crowd of run-of-the-mill Dreidel champions, and it casts doubt upon the notion of Dreidel being a game of chance and not skill.