Speaking to a crowd of nearly 1,000, Rabbi Matanky reflected on the Academy’s past, present and future and offered thanks and recognition to the many who helped ICJA dedicate the new building.
Just a little more than an hour ago, before THIS remarkable gathering, before we heard from all of the great communal leaders who preceded me at this podium… a small gathering of Academy family began to dedicate this building in a uniquely JEWISH way – by forming the very first minyan in our new beit midrash.
We prayed together, and we sang, and more than of a few of us were moved, not only by the prayers… but by the moment – by the realization that after more than a decade of commitment to a dream – this campus, this מקום תורה, this symbol of all that is great and good about a modern Orthodox Jewish education – has FINALLY come to fruition!
It was… an unforgettable experience, one that I will treasure, and one that is only surpassed by THIS gathering – by seeing all of you here today to celebrate the past, the present, and the future of our school.
Twenty years ago I began to serve… what I thought, was a one year interim principalship for my alma mater. An opportunity that I embraced because my history with the Academy goes back so many years. My father in law was a student at the Academy in the 40’s, and I’ve often shared my memories of the groundbreaking of 2828 Pratt in the 60’s. I was a student in the 70’s, a teacher since the 80’s and my children were students in the 90’s and into this new millennium.
And while so much has changed – one thing has remained constant – that the Academy has remained true to it’s mission – a mission that in 1942 was described as “to integrate secular studies with a thorough Jewish education, in order to foster religious living and learning among the rank and file of American Jewish youth” and that today we describe as “inspiring Bnei and Bnot Torah to thrive in the modern world.”
And the credit goes to so many. To both our lay and klei kodesh.
To our founders, the Associated Talmud Torahs and the Hebrew Theological College.
To the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, and especially our VERY good friends – champions of this project, Dr. Steve Nasatir and Jeffrey Cohen.
To the Crown Goodman Family, and Mr. Lester Crown and Mr. Charles Goodman who were with us every step of the way with devotion, generosity of spirit and a vision of greatness.
To Academy alum, Rabbi Morris Esformes and his wife Delecia who dedicated this campus to the memory of his father, Philip Esformes, z”l – and to his mother Mrs. Rebecca Esformes, who we are so honored to have with us today.
To Jacques Gliksberg and David Strulowitz – who shepherded this campaign with grace, skill and never-ending devotion.
To our parents and students, and especially, to the great Jewish educators, men and women who devoted their lives to our school, and who were led by great visionaries, first and foremost, MY principal, Rabbi Shlomo Rapoport, z”l, whose wife Hilda is with us today, Rabbi Blanchard, Rabbi Well and of course Rabbi Myers, who is also with us this morning, and who continues to teach at the Academy, with great distinction.
They created the traditions of excellence that is the hallmark of the Academy and continues to inspire the great Jewish educators of today – led by my administrative team, Rabbi Louis Fliegelman, Dr. Shelly Green, Daniel Harris, and Dr. Jeremy Kahan, our office team of CFO Michael London, Wendy Margolin, Rivkah Rabin, Rachel Topper, Candace Resis, Joanne Maris and Antoinette Burson and my development team of Deva Zwelling and especially Jane Best, the director of this project campaign, who made this day REALLY happen. Jane would you please stand so that we can recognize you for all of your efforts on behalf of this project! And of course by the most talented group of teachers and support personnel of any school in America – who make EVERY day happen.
This day is a tribute to all of you – a tribute to your talent, your love and your devotion to our students. Thank you so very much!
At the conclusion of shacharit, we added the traditional psalm for Chanukah, a song of thanksgiving that King David composed as he looked out at his newly built Temple, and his magnificent palace – Psalm 30 that begins with the words מזמור שיר חנוכת הבית לדוד – a song to the dedication of House of David.
And yet what is most interesting about this psalm – is that is not reserved for Chanukah – but recited every day at the beginning of our davening – a custom, that is more recent than many of us might imagine.
So why did later authorities also include this psalm into every day?
I believe that the answer is… that as much as gratitude and thanksgiving are important when momentous events occur – when buildings are dedicated and opportunities created – we need to begin every day with thanks.
Which is my prayer for all of us on this occasion – because as much as we celebrate the Academy today, as much we regale in this new magnificent structure and dream of all that it will make possible – we need to celebrate every day.
Because every day at the Academy miracles happen as we touch the hearts and minds of young men and women, as we offer opportunities for growth and for achievement that were unimagined a generation ago, and as we continue to be faithful to our past, devoted to the present and committed to an even better future.
We are the Academy and we are proud of our students, our alumni and all who support our vision.
So thank you for being here today and for celebrating with us.
Thank for making this day possible… but PLEASE join us as forge ahead to create an even greater future. Support us, send us your children and grandchildren to our school and share in all of the wonders that God has given us – the opportunity, the strength and please God, the wisdom to inspire and to direct generations to come!
Mazal tov to all of us – שהחיינו וקיימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה!