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7 Tishrei 5780
September 25, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Over the past couple of days, I have been in touch with our medical committee to review several questions that have cropped up since the beginning of the school year.

The first question was related to our sports program, which until now, has been limited to an outdoor conditioning program. Based upon their recommendation, we will be resuming a limited schedule of interscholastic Cross Country meets. Students will need to be masked when not running, starts will need to be distanced, and families will be responsible for transporting the athletes to meets, since busing is not an option.

Whether or not other sports will meet and compete is still unknown and will depend on the recommendations of IHSA, IDPH, the Skokie Board of Health, and our medical committee. At this point, all other sports are on hold, even though we do hope that things change for the better, and we’ll be able to resume sports this year. 

The second question was related to the resumption of our regular minyanim at ICJA. Based on our experiences these past five weeks, we have worked out the logistics of minyanim and breakfast. However, because there is significant concern that our community might G-d forbid, experience a spike in COVID cases due to gatherings over the holidays, we were advised to delay this final phase of reopening until at least two weeks after Sukkot.

In the meantime, we will continue to ask that our students either daven at their local synagogues, at home or join us for the optional ICJA minyan at 8:05 am.

This leads me to one more plea about the health of our community and our school’s ability to remain open. When not in school, please continue to follow the CDC’s simple guidelines of wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and practicing proper hand hygiene. And please, don’t take risks by creating events, whether large outdoor gatherings, club sports teams, or learning programs that do not adhere to the strictest of standards. Unfortunately, just today, one of our local day schools had to close until after Sukkot. We depend on you to make sure that we will not, G-d forbid, be forced to do the same.

Finally, on a happier note, our teachers and students continue to amaze. This morning at 7:00 am the students in Mrs. Goldstein’s English seminar were up and discussing literature. This afternoon Mr. Sears’ Physics class was using Google Jamboard to make class presentations on kinematics. Rabbis Fox and Stromer had a very successful 11th-grade boys’ mishmar with two-thirds of the class in attendance. And tomorrow night is the ICGC “Frumba event” 8:30 pm at ICJA.

One hundred ninety years ago, in his commentary to Parshat Bechukotai, the Chatam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe Sofer 1762-1838) wrote that the year 5780 would be a most challenging year with many people passing away. But he also noted that 5781 – תשפ”א would be a year of salvation, symbolized by the phrase מאשפת ירים אביון – “from the refuse He will lift them up.” 

Our community truly needs to be lifted up from all the challenges we face. May our actions, combined with G-d’s constant protection, keep everyone safe and transform this new year into a year of blessing, good health, inspiration, and Torah living.

Have a wonderful Shabbat and a meaningful fast, and I look forward to seeing everyone on Tuesday (dismissal will be at 4:47, and we will skip 1st period).

Gmar Chatima Tova!

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


6 Tishrei 5780
September 24, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Today was one of those days that so many wonderful things are happening that it’s hard to choose just a few to share. But I’ll try anyway. 🙂

First, there was Mrs. Kraft’s 11th-grade girls’ Navi class‘ “field trip” to our model of the Beit HaMikdash. (For those who don’t know, our model in the learning commons was commissioned by the late Paul and Doris Rosenberg, a”h, for our Pratt building. It was made in Israel by the same team who built the model that is now in the Billy Rose Garden of the Israel Museum!) They went because they were learning about Shlomo HaMelech and the universal nature of Sukkot, which included the 70 offerings given on Sukkot in the Beit HaMikdash. So, the class went to see where it would have happened.

Next, there was Mrs. Pederson’s Geometry class. It’s a large class and includes two students who are learning remotely. But what was very impressive was her use of technology to include the students who were in-person and remote. Her iPad was running both zoom and notability. As a result, she could use her iPad as a mobile whiteboard, projecting that image onto the front screen – while letting her remote students see all the work on their own devices. Also, the images and notes can be saved to a file and shared with her class. It was really impressive!


And along the way, I passed one of the mechanchot, sitting on the floor with students (socially distanced of course), schmoozing and helping them strategize about some issues, the smell of cholent for tonight’s 11th-grade mishmar were wafting through the commons, and thing so very normal!

By the way – the Illinois Holocaust Museum Teen Leadership Board is accepting applications. It’s an excellent opportunity for students, and all grades are eligible. For more information and to apply – here is the link. Applications are due October 9th.

Tomorrow, erev Shabbat dismissal will be 3:20 pm with the afternoon periods 10, 11 & 12. Next week, because of Yom Kippur and Erev Sukkot, it will be a shortened school week of Tuesday through Thursday. 

Finally, and as I mentioned before, there is great concern about a possible COVID spike following Sukkot because of visitors to our community and those who may be traveling for the holiday. Please, we depend on everyone doing their part to follow the safety protocols of masks, distance, and hand hygiene. Also, please remember that you may need to attend school remotely for 14 days upon your return if you choose to visit a hot spot. If you have any questions, please be in touch!

Stay safe, stay in touch, and be inspired!

B’vracha l’Gmar Chatima Tova,

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


5 Tishrei 5780
September 23, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Often, I write about the outstanding academics or extracurricular programs at ICJA – and they are great. But today, I had a chance to drop into one of our 10th-grade art classes. Ms. Kathy Kelly, who is a professional artist and has been our Art teacher for nearly 28 years (!), was teaching a class on perspective. The students were busy trying to create a scene, using templates and ruler, colors and shading, and doing a great job.

What made this class even more exceptional was that one student worked remotely, visible on the classroom iPad, and just as engaged as all of the rest. What a great class! And it’s only one of the fine arts classes that we are proud to offer at ICJA because the arts are essential to a well-rounded education, and that’s why we invest in art, advanced art, and band. By the way, to get a flavor of our music program, click here for a video we showed this spring about one of the student musicians, Moshe Lodkin. 

Last night, one of our students, Ben Boyarskiy, sent me an email about our newest extracurricular offering – an Investment Club at ICJA. Together with Isaac Zipperstein, they have recruited a faculty advisor and students for a bi-weekly meeting and conversation. A flyer is attached.

Tomorrow night is an Israel Advocacy Club meeting at 7:00 pm in Ms. Sennett’s Zoom room and an 11th-grade Boys Mishmar at 8:30 pm.

Tomorrow, dismissal is at 5:29 pm.

Stay safe, stay in touch, and be inspired!

B’vracha,

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


4 Tishrei 5780
September 22, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Every morning I have to opportunity to see most of our students as they arrive at school. The first group starts coming about 7:45 am for the optional outside minyan, and the second wave starts at 8:40 am when the building officially opens. What continues to amaze me is how resilient and adaptable our students and faculty are. If someone had suggested just a year ago that to enter our building, everyone would have to be masked, undergo a self-wellness screening, and maintain distance in the classroom – no one would have ever believed it.

But it has happened. And while I am confident that please G-d, in the not too distant future, things will revert to normal, in the meantime, our students and faculty are exceptional.

Of course, things have changed, from students who must stay home due to COVID zooming into class, to students who in class finding it a little more challenging to whisper to a classmate (six feet is far!). But overall, it’s really working. So much so, that in addition to all of the classes meeting – Student Council elections are scheduled for next week, ICGC had a Board Meeting in the tents today, the 11th grade Boys’ Mishmar is set for Thursday night, the wrestling and cross country teams are conditioning together, and the Israel Advocacy Club is up and running.

However, one challenge we still face is when a student or teacher (or a member of their household) develops a cold or flu-like symptoms and needs to stay home. Dr. Green is managing the remote learning needs related to COVID with aplomb, but there seems to be a bit of confusion regarding the “symptoms” that would require someone to stay home.

Here is the list of symptoms from our medical committee: FeverLoss of Taste or SmellSore Throat, Shortness of BreathVomiting & Diarrhea (if no other cause), or a Cough/Congestion. However, a simple runny nose or sneeze are not symptoms that should cause someone to have to stay home. 

Finally, with Sukkot vacation just around the corner, please review the attached letter about health and safety. Remember that what you do outside of school directly impacts our ability to keep our school safe and open. Don’t forget that even when you are outdoors, wearing a mask can protect you and others nearby. This is true whether walking on the street, playing basketball in the park, or davening in a tent. And of course, it is even more essential to safety when you are inside a building. We are counting on everyone to help!

Signup for next week’s free period spaces is already open. Click here https://www.signupgenius.com/go/ICJA_Week_9-22

Tomorrow, we skip 11th period, and dismissal is at 4:47 pm.

Stay safe, stay in touch, and be inspired!

B’vracha,

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


3 Tishrei 5780
September 21, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Gmar chatima tova!

A couple of weeks ago, Dikla Weitzner, the director of Camp Moshava Wild Rose, forwarded an email to me that had been forwarded to her by Alan Silverman, director of Camp Moshava Indian Orchard. The email that started all of this forwarding was from Jason Burch, a history teacher at Nekoosa High School in Wisconsin. (For anyone reading this who went to Moshava, Nekoosa is about 20 miles northwest of Plainfield, WI.)

What did he want? Mr. Burch teaches a course in world religions and wanted help in teaching his students about Judaism. As he wrote, “I am reaching out to you specifically since you are the only Jewish organization that I was able to find located in central Wisconsin.”

So what did I do? Of course, I forwarded that email to our history teacher, Mrs. Zeffren, who is also the coordinator of our Student-to-Student program – a program that has taught over a thousand students in public and parochial schools about Judaism. 

This past Friday, our students led a virtual “Student to Student” encounter with Mr. Burch’s students. They taught them about Jewish holidays, Jewish beliefs, life cycle events, Israel, and answered their questions. But unlike all of their previous programs in the Chicago Metropolitan area, this time, when they asked the students if anyone had ever attended a bar or bat mitzvah – no one had. In fact, until our ICJA students met with them, most had never met a Jew.

It was an eye-opening experience for our students, but also an opportunity for them to end the year with a real kiddush Hashem! Kol HaKavod to them.

Today, as you know, was a shortened day because of the fast. But tomorrow, we’ll be back to normal, starting with our optional ICJA minyan at 8:05, and ending with dismissal at 4:47 pm. Don’t forget that we are skipping 5th/6th period (students who have lunch 5th period, skip their 6th-period class, and students who have lunch 6th period, skip their 5th-period class).

Today, we also welcomed back Mrs. Olivia Friedman from her maternity leave. Having her back in class was great, and her students were excited to see her. We thank our newest mechanechet, Mrs. Alise Gold, who substituted for her since the beginning of the year. 

In the coming days, we will have the final plans for our post-Sukkot return to regular daily minyanim in school. While we appreciate everyone understanding the need to start school before embarking on the logistical challenges of starting with minyan and breakfast, we can’t wait to have the sounds of regular tefilla return to our building!

If you have not yet signed up for free-period spots, it’s not too late. Click here https://www.signupgenius.com/go/ICJA_Week_9-21

Stay safe, stay in touch, and be inspired!

B’vracha,

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

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