Sisters Shira Wiesenberg (ICJA ’96), Talia Zisook (ICJA ’00), and Aliza Rosenbaum (ICJA ’05) are each important pillars of Chicago Jewish education – and devoted stay-at-home mothers who are inspiring others.
A social worker, Shira previously ran a NJ special ed school and supervised group homes for young adults with special needs. After moving back to Chicago, Shira settled in West Rogers Park with her husband Rafael. She is a devoted mother and stepmother, including two ICJA graduates and current sophomore, Moshe. After a number of years working part-time for Yachad, Shira embarked on a new professional endeavor this year as Educational Director for the recently-established Netivot Academy, a school for Jewish children with developmental disabilities that’s housed in Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi.
Despite her busy volunteering and professional schedule, Shira explains “My main focus is on the family. I believe there’s no greater investment of a talented person than to raise the next generation of kids to be caring people with strong values, who are immersed in Judaism and Torah – It’s something that I’m very passionate about.”
Shira has warm memories from her time at ICJA: “I had some great teachers and role models;” she particularly remembers Rabbi Myers and Mrs. Wainkrantz. “I felt like Ida Crown was big enough – and small enough,” Shira explains. She was able to assume leadership roles in high school, without getting lost in the crowd.
Talia is a busy wife and mother, teacher, artist and musician. She has played piano at many local school programs and events, worked as a parent volunteer teaching JCFS’s “Safety Kid” program at Arie Crown, and brought music and puppetry to young children in various early childhood programs.
While Talia considers her family her “magnum opus,” she is involved in many quiet, behind-the-scenes chessed activities outside of the home as well. From her involvement in the newly-founded LJam women’s band, to recruiting ICJA’s Mechanechet Lynn Kraft to train a cohort of new kallah teachers for the Chicago community, to brainstorming shidduch ideas for her single friends, Talia finds chesed both invigorating and meaningful. Talia also takes pleasure in supporting her husband, Rabbi Josh Zisook, in his community role as Admissions Director at HTC.
ICJA has inspired Talia to pursue her talents in ways that enrich the lives of others. Mrs. Wainkranz, in particular, has been a role model over the years. “She is the real deal. A woman who lives and breathes the lessons of the Torah; there for her family and the community at large, and utilizing her talents for avodat Hashem.”
Like her sisters, Aliza Rosenbaum is a familiar presence in Chicago’s Jewish schools. Married to ICJA teacher Rabbi Menachem Rosenbaum, Aliza spent ten years teaching at Hillel Torah before taking off this year to focus on her family. She somehow still finds the time to give shiurim and classes in the community – teaching at Asicha (a program for post-seminary women in Chicago), giving classes for teachers at ATT, and speaking for YU Torah Mitzion Kollel and JLife. She continues to work on special programs at Hillel Torah, staying connected to faculty and students while on leave.
ICJA inspired Aliza by opening her eyes to Judaic and secular subjects. Ms. Goldstein, Mrs. Kahan, Mrs. Arons and Mrs. Goldsmith all helped spark a life-long love of English literature. “Rabbi Reuven Gross is still my rebbe,” Aliza notes. “The teachers at the Academy have been lifelong role models for me.”
Aliza also wants people to understand the importance of finding a work-life balance. “We cannot do it all, and ‘family first’ is a valuable mantra – I always appreciated when my teachers at ICJA brought their families to Shabbatons, talked about them in class, or explained absences from school by letting us in on both happy and sad family events – it is helpful to see role models who are prioritizing family and striving for the right work-life balance.”