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12 Cheshvan 5780
October 29, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

It’s been nine weeks, and next week we complete our first quarter back and school. It’s been a rewarding experience but a challenging one as well. As of today, we have two students in quarantine who tested positive and a few others who were exposed to people who were positive and are now in quarantine and symptom-free.

But we also have had more than two hundred in-person classes meet every day, with almost all of our teachers teaching in-person and students in attendance.

And great things are happening. 

Today, Mrs. Wainkrantz, who started the year in quarantine because of her husband’s illness (thank G-d he’s been home for weeks), gave an inspiring parshat hashavua lesson to her senior girls – some who were remoting in and most in person. Using source sheets, she taught about Sarah Imeinu who was, according to Chaza”l a prophet even before she met Avraham, and whose prophecy exceeded his, and she even told a story from a contemporary sage whose learned from this week’s parsha that no matter how old we may be there is always room for spiritual growth.

Also, today, not only did Rabbi Fliegelman’s class gather at Lighthouse Beach to daven vatikin, and a group of students approached Mr. Harris with a request – they wanted to find a space in school where they could have a Jewish philosophy club with Rabbi Sprung during their free time. Talk about inspiration!

On a different front, I am sure that you have been following the news about the IHSA deciding to begin the basketball season at its regular time, despite pleas from the Governor and opposition from the IDPH. At the direction of our medical committee, we will not participate in this plan. Instead, we will offer our athletes opportunities to build their basketball skills while maintaining distance and wearing masks. It’s not what we wanted to do – but it is the safe and responsible thing to do, especially now with the uptick in COVID cases. 

The wrestling season has been moved to the spring, but they will continue their conditioning, also masked and distanced, as will our fencing team.

Shabbat is coming quickly, and candle lighting is at 5:26 pm.  If you are interested, here is my Shabbat sermon, with a lesson we can learn from Avraham about menschlichkeit and this political season – click here 

And finally, our parent and student surveys are closing Sunday night. If you have not yet completed them, here is the parent survey link, and here is the student survey link.

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

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

11 Cheshvan 5780
October 29, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Unfortunately, we just received a second report of a student who has contracted the COVID-19 virus. ICJA 9th grader Ben-Tzion Rine has been quarantined at home since a family member exhibited COVID symptoms. His last day at school was this past Friday, and his symptoms have only emerged today. As a result, our medical committee has confirmed that his situation does not pose any risk to our school community.

We wish Ben-Tzion a refuah shlaima and thank his family for being vigilant with the COVID protocols and assuring our students’ safety.

Of course, hearing that there are two cases in our school is unnerving. Yet, both cases were contracted from family members and were not the result of a gathering or chas v’shalom from school. Therefore, bli ayin ha’ra I remain confident that we will be able to “weather this storm” and continue to provide the outstanding ICJA experience to all of our students.

However, I do have two requests:

1. Please stay in touch. If you have concerns or someone in your home is ill with COVID-like symptoms, please let us know. And of course, if someone in your home is diagnosed with COVID, please call or email me ASAP.

2. Now is the time to be extra vigilant. If you plan to attend an event, go to shul, travel, or gather with friends, please insist that everyone practices the three W’s – WEAR a mask, WASH your hands, WATCH your distance. All three of these safeguards are essential, whether inside or outside. 

But let’s not end on such a serious note. Because today was a great day, as our mechanchim were busy planning for tonight’s 11th-grade boys’ mishmar (8 pm @ ICJA) and our activities committee were finalizing plans for a series of exciting programs. 

AND at the same time, teachers were challenging their students with creative projects and great lessons. Rabbi Kurtz’s senior honors Ivrit class were creating podcasts of students calling NBA plays in Hebrew. And Mrs. Zeffren’s JH students were learning about Hellenism and Jewish Identity. They had to find the answer – “why do we care if we assimilate, what is the role of the Jewish people?” – by interviewing people and creating a podcast. 

Two of those students, Kayla Kupietzky and Adina Margolin, interviewed me, and they had a great question – “what can we do to combat assimilation?” My answer was to foster Jewish pride, educate our next generation, and act like Avraham Avinu, who welcomed strangers and then directed their thanks to G-d, the Creator of the Universe.

Which is what we try to do every day at ICJA – foster pride, educate the next generation, and provide a warm and welcoming environment where all of our students can find connection to G-d!

Tomorrow dismissal is at 1:58 pm; we skip 3rd-period and periods 7, 8, and 9 meet. And don’t forget there will be a free slice of pizza for everyone at lunchtime – donated anonymously to brighten up your day!

And don’t forget to take a few moments to complete our surveys (they will close on Monday). Here is the parent survey link, and here is the student survey link.

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!

Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

10 Cheshvan 5780
October 28, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Every day our teachers and students amaze me with their resilience, creativity, and drive. Today, in the hallway, I talked to a couple of our juniors and asked them how things were going. “Rabbi, everything’s great!” was their response. “But what about the masks and the distancing,” I asked. “Rabbi, don’t worry, it’s no big deal.”

But it is a big deal, and it is the way our school continues to operate despite the risks of COVID. But it’s also the reason that in addition to the courses that we offer, we continue to find new ways to engage our students in informal programming.

This morning there was a great activity for the 10th-grade boys, led by our mechanchimThursday night, our junior boys will have a mishmar. One of our students, 11th-grader Maya Wasserman, is pursuing her passion and forming a gourmet cooking club for girls, and our mechanchot have set up chevrutot with many of the girls. And hopefully, in the coming days, we will be announcing how we plan to restart segment of our sports program, of course, in a safe way!

Of course, we still need to vigilant about everyone’s health and safety and thank you for your continued partnership. In addition, we have increased the outside airflow in the building to 75%. This means that in addition to our MERV-13 filters, only 25% of the inside air is recirculated and then through hospital grade filters! 

Tomorrow will be the Town Hall meeting for 10th-grade girls (5th period), and dismissal will be at the regular time of 5:39 pm.

Over 140 parents and 40 students have responded to our surveys. If you haven’t, please take a few moments to complete them. Here is the parent survey link, and here is the student survey link.

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!

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

9 Cheshvan 5780
October 27, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

I just returned from visiting our science department – and wow(!) what a great experience. While sitting masked and socially distanced, and with some students remoting in, two classes were in the middle of discussing and evaluating their online labs, and two were reviewing the math necessary for chemistry problems. Two of the classes were APs, and two were conceptual level. But in all four classes, students were engaged, and their teachers were guiding them to understand the material. 

It’s been a while since I studied the hard sciences, and my background in more in the humanities and Judaic studies, so I didn’t immediately recognize all they were learning. But I did recognize great teaching, which is the hallmark of our science department and all of our departments.

Kol haKavod to our most talented faculty.

Earlier today, all of our students were invited to join our Hugo’s Heroes program. This program, which is now in its third year, trains our students in first aid and be part of a team able to respond to emergencies even before the “first responders” arrive. Please watch this video for more information, and to join the team, email Shira David at The first training session will be this Sunday.

Thursday night, our mechanchim are having another mishmar, this time for the 11th-grade boys, 8 pm at ICJA – the flyer is attached.

And Friday, an anonymous donor is sponsoring a piece of pizza for every student in the school. The pizza will be available in the gym from Starr Catering. Why is this anonymous donor doing this? Because, as she told me, she wants to give everyone a reason to smile – just a little more. I’m sure that this kind of gesture will not go unnoticed and will be appreciated. 

Tomorrow is another early dismissal day. School ends at 4:58 pm, and we skip 9th period.

Yesterday, there was a mistake on the link that I sent out yesterday for buying yearbooks. Here is the correct link –

But before I sign-off, just a reminder to complete the survey, I sent yesterday morning. Here is the parent survey link, and here is the student survey link.

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!

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

8 Cheshvan 5780
October 26, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Earlier today, the Governor announced additional restrictions for suburban Cook County (Region 10) due to the spike in COVID cases (click here for more information). While there were no further restrictions on schools, our medical committee has advised us to postpone our plans to restart our mandatory shacharit minyanim at ICJA. The reason for this is because of the breakfast that would follow davening and the need for students to remove their masks to eat. Please G-d, when things are safer and trends start to reverse, we will revisit this issue.

On a more upbeat note, earlier today, I also send links for both parent and student surveys. We want and need your feedback, and these surveys will take only a few minutes to complete but will hopefully give us essential information to help us better serve our students. Here is the parent survey link, and here is the student survey link.

Tomorrow when students arrive in school, they will find that we have placed ten coat racks for their winter coats. Coat racks #1-#5 are placed in the 300 wing and #6-#10 in the 400 wing. Each coat rack is labeled with 1st period room numbers. Students who have their first-period class in those rooms should use those racks. (I know it sounds a little complicated, but it’s not! Everyone will have it figured out within a day or so.)

Here is the full list coat racks and 1st period rooms (and a map with the the locations of the racks is attached):

Serving Room #Serving Room #Serving Room #
Coat Rack 1306315
Coat Rack 2313a313b
Coat Rack 3307318
Coat Rack 4304305
Coat Rack 5302303
Coat Rack 6401a418
Coat Rack 7401b402
Coat Rack 8405410414
Coat Rack 9411412
Coat Rack 10408409

Two final items

1. We are looking to hire an additional TA for the morning (9:00 am -1:15 pm). There is no teaching involved, but there is a requirement to be familiar with basic technology, and able supervise students while they are being taught remotely. If you know of anyone please have the person contact me.

2. It is that time of year when ICJA Keter Yearbooks are available for purchase. Pre-order this year’s yearbook now for 50% off! You can order with cash, checks, or from the website with the following link To order with the website, just add the yearbook to your cart, proceed to checkout, and enter your credit card information.

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!

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

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