Toggle Menu
Click here to register for the 2024 Dr. Edward A. Crown Scholarship Dinner

4 Kislev 5781

November 20, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Ever since we reopened three months ago, every day has been an adventure, with new opportunities and new challenges. For example, today, four additional teachers had to teach remotely, either because a household member had symptoms or childcare challenges. But we were prepared with TA’s to manage the technology and even Mr. Harris, who filled in for a couple of periods and our students continued to learn.

But more importantly, there are the opportunities that no one could have ever imagined. For me, it’s some of the “little things” like standing at the door every morning not only checking temperature and wellness certificates, but also have the chance to say “boker tov” to all of our students. And, of course there is the opportunity to be watch our faculty create safe but engaging programs and employ innovative teaching techniques, many of which will outlast the pandemic. 

We have such a great school. And what makes it remarkable are the people, the teachers and parents who care so much to provide our students with the best Jewish high experience imaginable. 

Thanksgiving is coming and we need your help to make sure that our ICJA community stays safe. 

Following the CDC guidelines, we remind you:

1. Avoid unnecessary travel over the holiday break. If you must travel, please send us ASAP your travel plans and the safety measures you will be taking. Our medical committee will review these plans to determine if a post trip quarantine is necessary.

2. Shabbat and Thanksgiving meals should be confined to one’s nuclear family/pod with no more than 10 people.

3. Masks, Social Distancing and Hand Hygiene, must be vigilantly observed.

4. If you come into contact with anyone who has COVID or develops it over the break you will be required to quarantine for 14 days before returning to school.

Tomorrow night our ICGC, in partnership with Sharsheret will be having a “Babka Bake” – see the attached flyer. We are so proud of ICGC and the leadership opportunities it provides our female students. The program should be a lot of fun, and we thank ICJA alum Samantha Frank ’13 (aka “The Frank Chef”) for being part of this program. Special thanks to the Walder Foundation for their support of girls’ programming at ICJA.

Candle Lighting tonight is at 4:05 pm, and this week in my dvar Torah I talk about the balance of engagement and personal growth as seen through Avraham Avinu – click here for the drasha.

Shabbat Shalom, stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

3 Kislev 5781

November 19, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Last night was a spectacular Open House for prospective students. Our admissions director, Mrs. Suzy Nussbaum, and our volunteer committee, led by Mrs. Julie Thomas, created a powerful program for over 130 people who joined online. But the best part was our students, Zeke Zwelling and Rachel Schwartz, who spoke about their ICJA experience, and Laura Bellows, Noah Brody, Noa Gavant, Rotem Levi, Gideon Miller, Audrey Perlman, Isaac Shiner, and Jonathan Thomas, who were panelists for the Q&A.  

Thank you to everyone and especially to our students – they are the secret to our great successes.

On the topic of successes, earlier this week, we had our bi-monthly meeting of the Investment Club. Led by 10th grader Ben Boyarskiy, the club has 69 participants signed up in their WhatsApp group, many of whom joined the online meeting with a presentation by ICJA parent and investment advisor, Mr. Max Wasserman. But then an amazing thing followed when the Wassermans offered to donate $2,000 to fund an investment account for the club and help them learn how to buy and sell stocks, with a percentage of the profits going to ICJA! What a fantastic opportunity and special thanks to Brenda and Max Wasserman and faculty advisor, Mr. Josh Cooper.

Last year, one of the more active clubs was the chess club. Every day chess players were taking over spaces in the Math/Science commons and even drawing onlookers! This year, because of COVID restrictions, we put away the boards because how can you play chess and distance? Today, some of the players found a solution – use one of the six-foot tables in the commons, and only one student at a time walks up to the table to make a move, while the other stands back. It’s a little unusual of a way to play, but it works. 

TOMORROW is the deadline to get information in for the upcoming COVID-19 test. If you have not yet responded, please do so ASAP (there is no need to wait until the deadline!). Click here to complete the personal information form. Click here for the HIPAA and Informed Consent forms that must be signed and returned to the office.

Tomorrow, early dismissal is at 1:58 pm. We skip 1st period in the morning, and in the afternoon, only periods 10, 11, and 12 meet.

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

2 Kislev 5781

November 18, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Last night more than 30 students joined with their mechanchim and mechanchot (Rabbis Fox and Stromer and Mmes. Gold and Kraft) to hear an inspiring shiur from R’ Joey Rosenfeld. R’ Rosenfeld not only is a practicing psychotherapist but also does a lot of work on the interface between Jewish philosophy, spirituality, and psychology. And the program hit a “home run.” As one parent who was listening in wrote to Rabbi Stromer, “his message was so important for kids (and us adults!) Yaashar koach!”

Today in Mrs. Kraft’s Chumash class, her students had an opportunity to learn b’chevruta (but at a safe distance), exploring the messages of the story of the midwives in Egypt. It was a great class, but even better, there was a real “kol Torah” as the girls studied together and argued the text’s finer points.

Tonight is the long-awaited Open House “Out-of-the-Box” for prospective students. Not only has our admissions director Mrs. Nussbaum been working long hours, but her parents’ committee led by Mrs. Julie Thomas has helped us create what we are sure will be a memorable evening. Early this morning parents and board members were at school picking up surprise boxes to deliver to all of the 8th graders registered for tonight’s event. But that’s just the start – because we need your help to encourage 8th graders and their parents to become part of our extraordinary ICJA family. 

Please help us spread the word about all of the great things that happen every day in our school. From classes to clubs, inspiring lessons, to fun “pop-up” programs, ICJA is a school like no other. If you know someone who would benefit from our outstanding combination of college prep and Judaic studies, encourage them to apply. (Applications are already coming in and can be complete online at our new website

By the way, have you seen our new website? The website launch was yesterday, and it is fabulous. Kol HaKavod to our communications director, Avigail Bass, for leading our team to this spectacular new site.

Finally, and I know you are getting many emails from me and our office, we need everyone to complete the online form and the two paper forms for our upcoming all-school COVID-19 test. For those who have asked – it will be a PCR test and involve a nasopharyngeal swab – because those are the most accurate options we have. Click here to complete the personal information form. Click here for the HIPAA and Informed Consent forms that must be signed and returned to the office.

PLEASE get us the information ASAP. We need to collate everything and send it to the testing agency before Shabbat to administer the test on November 30th.

Tomorrow, dismissal is at 5:39 pm.

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

1 Kislev 5781

November 17, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Today is Rosh Chodesh Kislev – which means that Chanukah is just around the corner, and despite the many challenges we face, life and learning go on at ICJA. But it also means that tonight at 8:00 pm is a special program from our Mechanchim and Mechanchot “Finding Light: Chanukah and the Power to Be” with R’ Joey Rosenfeld. It will be in Rabbi Stromer’s zoom room – click here – don’t miss this great opportunity!

Yesterday, because of the detailed email I sent regarding our upcoming testing, I didn’t have a chance to tell you about a great class that Rabbi Yoni Fox taught to the 11th graders. The subject was “shemirat halashon” (aka “lashon harah), and it was informative and engaging, as he explored some of the halachot and the impact it has both on the one who speaks “lashon harah” and the person who is the subject of that “lashon harah.” But what made the class extra-special was that it was the way Mrs. Arons chose to introduce Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” to her English classes. Who knows what would have happened in Salem if they too had learned about the prohibitions of “lashon harah”!? Kudos to Mrs. Arons and Rabbi Fox for bridging Kodesh and Chol!

Today in Mr. Sears’ physics class, they used a great app that has already become a staple of his instructional routine. Called classkick, it allows students to safely interact with one another, in small groups or even 1:1. In many ways, it solves the problem of how students can work together while at a distance. It’s so good that Dr. Kahan and Ms. Sennett visited his class to see how it can be incorporated into more classes in school.

This past Sunday, I was interviewed by Shira Hanau of JTA about the impact the latest wave of COVID is having on our community. The article just appeared, and I think it came out well. Here’s the link. BUT, before you tease me, yes, the best quote is “Matanky added: ‘I don’t know how you can put in bli ayin hara and pu pu pu” — Hebrew and Yiddish terms meant to ward off the evil eye — “into the article, but figure out a way.'”

Earlier, I was asked about students who may have recovered from COVID and now have antibodies – are they required to observe the same safety measures of masks, distance, and hand washing. I asked our medical committee, and Dr. Ben Katz’s response was, “This is REALLY tricky because while there is evidence that antibodies are protective, we don’t know how long they last… for now, people with antibodies need to behave the same as everyone else. 

On a sad note, tomorrow night is the first yahrzeit of former ICJA teacher Tzippy Rimel, a”h and her daughter, Noam Rachel, a”h. Tzippy was beloved by her students and our entire community, and we still mourn her death in a tragic car accident. Tomorrow at 12:15p Chicago time, there will be a memorial in Israel – here is the link.

Finally, for those who have not completed our online and paper forms for the all-school testing on November 30 – please take care of it ASAPClick here to complete the personal information form. Click here for the HIPAA and Informed Consent forms that must be signed and returned to the office.

Tomorrow dismissal is at 4:58 pm, and we skip 12th period.

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5781

November 16, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

We are very proud of our ICJA community and the way we have managed during this pandemic. Despite many obstacles, our faculty and families have risen to the challenge and done everything possible to ensure our community’s health and safety while continuing to provide a high-quality ICJA education.

However, with the spike in our nation’s COVID cases, and despite all of the good news on the vaccine front, our medical committee has recommended that we initiate a program of all-school PCR COVID testing. The first test will be administered to all students, faculty, and staff on the Monday following our Thanksgiving break, with results available soon afterward.

We have contracted with Skokie-based LifeScan Labs to administer the test during school on November 30, 2020. The test will be offered at no charge to our students, staff, and faculty, but we will need everyone to provide insurance information and complete HIPPA and Informed Consent forms. (If a family does not have medical insurance, we will arrange for the test to be paid for via the CARES Act.)

In order to have everything in place for the November 30th testing, please complete the necessary forms and submit them to the office no later than this Friday, November 20. (However, the earlier you can complete this information, the better!)

Click here to complete the online personal information form.

Click here for the HIPAA and Informed Consent forms that must be signed and returned to the office (the forms are also attached)

We recognize that testing the entire school only provides a snapshot of moment when testing occurs. We also understand that there can be situations where G-d forbid someone may come into contact with a COVID positive person immediately before or after the testing, which the test cannot detect. Nevertheless, our medical committee believes that combined with our regular safety protocol, this testing will add one more layer of protection at this most challenging time of the pandemic.

If students, staff, or faculty are not in school on November 30th, they must arrange for a PCR test on their own and present the results to the school before returning to school. 

Please feel free to be in touch with me with any questions. 

Finally, tonight is Rosh Chodesh Kislev and tomorrow morning after davening will will have a special treat of donuts and hot chocolate for all students who come to our minyan. By the way, if you have not yet made it to our optional minyan – tomorrow would be a great time to start! Special thanks to Harry and Annette Gendler, parents of ICJA alumni for sponsoring this special treat. Tomorrow dismissal is at 4:58 pm and we skip 2nd period.

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 


Sign up for our Newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.