This month, as part of our ICJA Supporter Spotlight, we are excited to feature Susan and Joseph Ament. They have been instrumental in pioneering professional development at Ida Crown Jewish Academy since the early years, as well as taking their passion for Jewish day school education to the next level by working tirelessly to support and help ICJA for decades.
As a young child, Susan developed a passion for Jewish day school education when her parents sent her to a Jewish preschool at the age of 3 years old. She became increasingly more passionate about her Jewish observance, even at a young age, and by the time she was 7 or 8 years old, she asked to walk to services with her father, and continued to do so for many years. This experience was meaningful and long lasting to her, as she continued her journey through Hebrew school and advanced Hebrew classes in preparation for her Bat Mitzvah. Susan earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois in Champaign and began her early career teaching high school English. Always eager to learn and grow, she began learning more Judaica from the Spertus Institute. She found herself involved in Jewish communal service and as part of her graduate work at Spertus, she co-edited and contributed to an interdisciplinary textbook on the Holocaust with Rabbi Byron Sherwin, a professor and Dean of the Spertus Institute. She also wrote and edited a program book for a national conference, as part of the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education. Joseph Ament began his career as a CPA, and went on to practice law for the rest of his career. He was a Professor and Chairman of the Accounting and Taxation Department at Roosevelt University, having been a professor for 52 years and the chairman for 19 years. He is proud that a number of ICJA students went on to be his students at Roosevelt as well.
Shortly after Joe and Susan married, Joe’s Rabbi, Rabbi Albert Ellison z”l, gave a sermon on Rosh Hashana stressing that Jewish day school education is a mandatory key to a Jewish future. The Aments took the lesson to heart and decided right then that their kids would one day attend a Jewish day school, and strengthened their commitment to kashrut and observance of Shabbat and holidays. Their 3 children began in Jewish preschool and went on to Solomon Schechter Day School for their primary and middle school education. They found meaning in their daily Jewish life in Highland Park through sharing their traditions with their community and shul. As they grew in their observance and commitment to Judaism, they realized they would need to find a special Jewish high school for their children. All their previous experiences and studies on Jewish day schools helped them realize ICJA would be a great fit for their entire family. A bus took the kids from the northern suburbs to Skokie every day, setting out as early as 6:30am. The kids would study with a flashlight on the bus because many times it was still dark out when they departed by bus. With such devotion to their studies and the opportunities ICJA provided, all 3 of their children attended Ivy League schools and the finest yeshivas and seminaries. Their connection and love for ICJA is going strong, with many of their children’s and their own best friends having formed during those Ida Crown years. They have 3 grandchildren in New York and 6 in Israel, all of whom are receiving day school educations.
Being so heavily involved in the day school system, Susan noticed a tremendous need for professional development for teachers. As she made her way around the ICJA campus at times, making herself available to help where needed, teachers opened up about their needs as professional educators. They saw Susan as a person who cares about their professional development, and were comfortable confiding in her. She in turn saw teachers and staff passionate about their work, and felt inspired to provide them continued support. These moments were pivotal in Susan and Joe’s commitment to supporting ICJA’s professional development programming.
As tremendous as Joe and Susan’s accomplishments were in the areas of professional staff development at ICJA, these efforts were matched with the creation of our award winning literary magazine, Charlotte’s Web. A high school English teacher herself, Susan was most impressed with Charlotte Rosenwald a”h, a former ICJA English teacher. She taught all 3 Ament children, and inspired her students to reach new heights and experience a greater world out there through their creative writing. Charlotte’s Web was created in her memory after she died. Over the years the magazine has expanded and grown, incorporating many new elements to increase the level of professionalism. For the past 15 years, Charlotte’s Web has been recognized as a top 10 high school literary magazine in Illinois. The Aments are not only pleased with this state wide recognition, but they are also proud of the self-recognition the children receive when they read their writing in front of an audience of students, parents, and teachers. This annual event is highly regarded and quite meaningful for both the participants and the audience.
The Aments’ involvement with ICJA goes many steps further with Joe being the only lifetime member of the board. Since their oldest child was a freshman at ICJA, Joe got involved volunteering at the school and continued through the last 40 years. He spent 40 years as the President of the Academy Associates, chaired many committees and several dinners, and the Aments were honorees at the 1988 Dr. Edward A. Crown Scholarship dinner. They have continued to spread the light of Ida Crown Jewish Academy throughout the Chicago area, recommending our school to others, and advocating on behalf of ICJA at the Jewish Federation, where they both hold leadership roles. As a school and community, we would like to thank the Ament family for all their support and hard work on behalf of Ida Crown Jewish Academy.