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19 Cheshvan 5781
November 6, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

I am sending today’s update earlier than usual because I just got off the phone with the Skokie Board of Health. The Board of Health has determined that because of the safety measures we have in place, our students are NOT considered “exposed” and will be permitted to return to school next week. 

This is, of course, great news, and we should be very proud of our commitment to the health and safety of our entire community. But this event is also a sobering moment and serves as a reminder of the importance of following the three W’s of COVID (WEAR masks, WASH hands, WATCH distance) both in and out of school. Because what you do outside of school matters, and what you do outside of school impacts others.

Please take our daily wellness check very seriously. When in doubt, stay home. If you experience flu-like symptoms, speak with your doctor, and get either an alternative diagnosis or a PCR COVID test. And then, stay home until the symptoms subside, and you receive negative results on the test or an alternative diagnosis. (For more information, see below)

Today, Rabbi Oren was online teaching his classes. We look forward to Tuesday when his students can return to school, and he will continue to remote into his classes. We continue to wish him and all who are affected by COVID refuah shlaima!

Today is a “short Friday,” and dismissal will be at 1:58 pm. Candle lighting tonight will be at 4:18 pm. And for my pre-Shabbat dvar Torah: “The Debate of Yishmael and Yitzchak” – click here.

Sunday, beginning at 12:30 pm are Parent-Teacher Conferences”
• If you need to access your schedule, you can do so here:
• To access teachers’ zoom rooms, please use the following []link: This link will be accessible, starting at 9 am on Sunday. 

Monday we don’t have school, and Tuesday will be an early dismissal day – we will skip 1st period.

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

Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.
Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

18 Cheshvan 5780
November 5, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Today was a lot of fun, as we surprised our students with our first “pop-up” special program – a carnival!

Since returning in person, we’ve been trying to find ways to add some fun into the day, despite COVID restrictions. We’ve had a virtual retreat, a pizza day, and tomorrow in honor of the end of the quarter, we’re having a muffin break at lunchtime. But today brought even more fun as each class spent a period outside just having a good time, playing carnival games and trying their skill on the “eliminator,” an inflatable that tests your reflexes, balance, and jumping ability. I even went on it – twice!

This was the first, but not the last; as Rabbi Fox and Mrs. Zeffren, our activities coordinators, are already planning another surprise “pop-up” for our students.

On a different note, we just received the results of the recent parent and student surveys. Both surveys indicated significant positive changes in our school, with more parents and more students feeling strongly about recommending ICJA to their friends. For example, 50% of our parents responded that they would be “extremely likely” (a “10”) to recommend ICJA to a friend, and another 19% gave us a “9”! And on the student side, we didn’t do as amazing, but 84% of students did give us between “7” and “10.” Of course, not everything was rosy, and there were suggestions for improvement, for which we are also grateful. In the coming weeks, all of the comments and ranking will be reviewed to gain an even better picture of parent and student concerns. Thank you for helping us make ICJA an ever-better school!

Tonight is a 12th-grade boys’ mishmar at 8:00 pm (flyer attached).

Tomorrow is a “short Friday.” We will skip 4th period, and 10, 11, and 12 will meet. Dismissal will be at 1:58 pm, and candle lighting will be at 4:18 pm. 

Don’t forget that Friday at 1 pm, our online registration for Parent-Teacher Conferences will close. If you have not yet registered, please do so ASAP. And then, on Sunday, we will open the website with all of the zoom room links –

And finally, looking ahead, on Motzaei Shabbat, November 21st, ICGC will be partnering with Sharsheret for an online “Pink Babka Bake,” led by ICJA alum Samantha Frank (flyer attached).

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!

Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.
Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

17 Cheshvan 5780
November 4, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

It’s been a busy day, but so is every day at ICJA with so many classes, more than 20 active clubs, and our limited but still active sports program. Nevertheless, as the day came to a close I wasn’t sure to write about.

School was already out, our 5:00 pm maariv minyan was over, and I decided to take a walk around the building, expecting it to be quiet and empty.

But as I left my office, I saw a group of students in the main commons. Why were they there? They were the senior staff of our Keter Yearbook – working on their year-long project that yields a fantastic keepsake every time. And they were there because that’s what the yearbook staff does, stay extra hours to get this project done.

Next, I walked over to the Math/Science Commons, and again, there were students there. Why were they there? They were there as members of our mathletes team – getting ready for tonight’s competition against 50 other schools in our division on zoom. Stats, Similarity, Theory of Equations, and Complex Numbers – those are tonight’s topics. Under the direction of our Math Department chair, Mrs. Pederson, I’m sure that we will do very well in the competition!

Our students are exceptional! And the opportunities that they seize are inspiring and so very meaningful.

Earlier today, I had the pleasure of interviewing online Sarah Weiss Maudi (ICJA 93). For the past two years, Sarah has been posted to the United Nations as part of the Israel Mission. And just a few weeks back, she scored a diplomatic coup – being the first woman from Israel to be appointed a vice-chair of the Legal Committee of the UN’s Western Europe and Other Group. 

I asked Sarah if growing up as a student at Hillel Torah and ICJA would she have ever imagined that she would be doing this? And her response was, “yes! this was my dream job,” and she reminded me that our Model UN helped her move forward along this path. To view the full interview, click here or to listen to the podcast, click here.

Tomorrow is a “regular day.” Dismissal will be at 5:39 pm, and all class periods will be meeting.

And on Friday at 1 pm, our online registration for Parent-Teacher Conferences will close. If you have not yet registered, please do so ASAP. And then, on Sunday, we will open the website with all of the zoom room links – []

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!

Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.
Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

16 Cheshvan 5780
November 3, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Today is election day. While the stakes are high and the emotions strong, in Rabbi Gross’ 9th grade Chumash class, election day was an opportunity to learn about leadership. Currently, they are learning about the emergence of Moshe Rabbeinu as the leader of the Jewish nation. Using this background and the uniqueness of this day, Rabbi Gross directed the class to compare the how the American political process chooses leaders, to how Torah leadership emerges organically via scholarship, action, and acceptance by the people. It was a lively and timely discussion and a great example of how our teachers bring the world around us into our Torah learning. Kol hakavod!

Last night, I consulted once again with our medical committee regarding our travel policy now that COVID-19 cases are spiking in so many places in the country. All of the doctors were in agreement, that as we have stated in the past:

• Anyone traveling to a high-risk state or high-risk Jewish community cannot return to school until they complete a 14-day quarantine
• Testing will not shorten this quarantine. However, exceptions can be made on a case by case basis for those who take their COVID precautions very seriously but only after a full review by our medical committee.

By the way, yesterday, the cRc also issued their updated guidelines for synagogues. In case you didn’t receive them, click here.

Over the past few weeks, we have had some staffing challenges due to COVID, especially in providing adequate opportunities for students who require extended time testing. The following days and times are now available:

     Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, 5th and 6th periods – Mrs. Burson will be in academic services.

     Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 7th – 12th periods – Mrs. Domsky will be in academic service

If additional times are needed, please see Mrs. Burson, and we will do our best to accommodate student needs.

Last Friday, an anonymous donor donated pizza so that our entire student body could enjoy a special lunch – on the house. When that happened, another donor stepped forward, and this Friday, in honor of the end of the quarter, we will be distributing muffins to all of the students

But in addition to being anonymous, the donor also asked that this gesture be in memory of long-time ICJA teacher Rabbi Meyer Juzint, z”l. For those who didn’t know him, Rabbi Juzint was an exceptional man who came to ICJA after the war and devoted his life to his students at ICJA and HTC. I was fortunate to have been in his Gemara class, as were thousands of others. While he passed away nearly twenty years ago, his impact remains so very strong. And I have a feeling that he would have enjoyed seeing a new generation of ICJA students enjoying a good snack!

Finally, and returning to where I began. Despite the strong opinions and feelings that this election season has generated, as Jews, we will pray for the safety, security, and goodwill of whoever wins this race. May G-d bless and protect,  guard and help the President and this great land! 

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!

Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.
Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

15 Cheshvan 5780
November 2, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Welcome to the tenth week of school and the final week of the first quarter at ICJA. Sunday will be our parent-teacher conferences, and on Monday, teachers will be submitting first quarter grades.

What does all that mean?

For some classes, it means that last week and this week, there were some more tests than usual. But only one per day, because we know what the end of a quarter is like, so we space out the test schedule. 

For everyone, it means that you will have the first set of grades, that hopefully will guide you into the next quarter, and towards your semester grade that is recorded on transcripts. (By the way, if there is an issue with a grade, please speak with your teacher as soon as possible because grade changes can only be made within three weeks of the end of the quarter.)

But enough about tests and grades because the ICJA experience is more than transcripts, tests, and grades.

Today, I began my day with a great email from Mrs. Olivia Friedman, who shared her interview in the online journal “Jewish Educational Leadership.” Click here to read her thoughts and some of the observations that she makes about the parent-school partnership. 

Not long after, I received an email from our mechanchot about three new programs they are planning for the girls at ICJA. Then I received the final schedule for an upcoming program for the whole school from our activities committee. And then I heard the great news from Rabbi Fliegelman about the 30 seniors who submitted their college applications for the November 1st early decision deadline.

Later in the day, I visited Mr. Keller’s 9th-grade math class where they were reviewing for tomorrow’s test which included graphing absolute values; I was interview by senior Dave Holman, who has been learning remotely about the ICJA online experience; and I heard about the way Mr. Sears integrates Google’s Jamboard, an online platform to allow students to collaborate while at a distance.

The day ended with our new maariv minyan (that now takes place every day at 5 pm), and the news that Thursday night there will be another mishmar for the 12th grade – thanks to the efforts of our mechanchim.

All in all, it was a great day today – but so is every day at our school, where I have the privilege to work with the best faculty and the most amazing students.

Tomorrow is an early dismissal day, and we skip 2nd period. 

And please, if you haven’t signed up for your appointments for parent-teacher conferences – please do it ASAP!

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!

Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.
Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

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