Fourteen years ago, I walked into Rabbi Matanky’s office as a JUF News editor to interview him about day school leadership. Before we got started, he asked if I knew anyone interested in becoming director of communications. I spent the whole interview distracted by considering the job.
As the first position of its kind in Chicago-area day schools, I embarked on this job thinking it would be convenient for my young family and the change I needed after five years of magazine writing. Turns out this job changed our lives.
For 14 years I’ve been sharing your Academy stories. Now as I move on in my career, I want to share mine.
Marketing Boot Camp
Professionally, my part-time job as communications director was a career game changer. Unknowingly, I had accepted a spot in marketing boot camp.
I entered right at the cusp of the digital media explosion. My knowledge grew quickly to keep pace with rapid changes in the industry because Rabbi Matanky gave me the encouragement and support to grow professionally. We launched two website rebuilds (and are ready for a third), four social media channels and a weekly e-newsletter. After producing dozens of videos and hundreds of flyers, invitations and brochures, I can attest to being in the trenches of every aspect of print and digital marketing. It’s been challenging, exciting, fulfilling and an absolute privilege.
What happened personally took me by even greater surprise. I was an outsider to the Academy family. I didn’t know a soul. No relatives of mine ever attended this bedrock institution of Orthodox Jewish life. I had no real exposure to Religious Zionism, I didn’t know the Skokie Jewish community and probably couldn’t name anyone who attended KINS. I was a ba’al teshuva with a young family, who had just decided on Arie Crown Hebrew Day School for our oldest instead of following every other family like us to Bais Yaakov/YTT.
Rabbi Matanky saw me coming and made it his mission to expose me to a wider lens of Jewish thought and life. (Does leaving mean I have to return every book in my house with his name on it?) His guidance brought me to center, grounding me when I didn’t realize I needed it.
From Faculty to ICJA Parent
Today, our two oldest daughters are Academy students. I worked hard to promote this incredible school and ended up selling it to myself. The opportunities for our kids here, the dedication and professionalism of the administration and faculty, and the campus itself are unmatched in our city. There was no way we were going to turn elsewhere.
And we didn’t have to. We learned quickly that the Academy family is a big tent, where anyone one wanting an outstanding, researched-based Jewish and general studies education was welcome.
As Academy parents, we couldn’t be more grateful. We’ve seen a level of personal attention from teachers that is rare, one that is unmatched even in our own public school experiences in top districts. I won’t share the details in consideration of our daughters’ privacy, but suffice it to say that ICJA teachers and administrators have gone out of their way on multiple occasions to ensure our daughters have the education they need to thrive as Jews and in general studies.
Our family has been embraced by the Academy family, and we now have a greater understanding of the complexity of the Jewish community. Simply put, we’ve experienced what it means to not judge a person by their “box.”
Now, as I take my next professional move, I want to publicly thank Rabbi Matanky and all of the staff, parents and families for including us in the Academy family. I look forward to my next Academy role as parent, lay leader and biggest cheerleader.