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20 Kislev 5782

November 24, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Chanukah is almost upon us, and with all of the scheduled programming, it has been quite hectic at school. But we’ll be ready, and we look forward to a meaningful week of Chanukah, which will also include Wednesday evening activities from both the mechanchot (Mrs. Gold and Mrs. Kraft) and mechanchim (Rabbi Fox and Rabbi Stromer).

The mechanchot will be leading an ICGC Scavenger Hunt at Navy Pier. Buses will leave ICJA at 7:30 pm and return at 9:30 pm. It’s going to be a great evening!

And the boys are invited to show their school spirit at an ICJA Aces at a home game that starts at 7:00 pm. There will be giveaways, halftime programs and competitions, and Rabbi Fox’s famous cholent. 

On a completely different note, I want to remind everyone of a problem cropping up at dismissal – drivers who pick up students while in the left lane of the driveway. It’s dangerous, and we ask that the left lane be used only as a passing lane for exiting the pickup line and that all cars that will be picking up or dropping off students only do so only when pulled up along the curb on the right side.

Yesterday, I mentioned the JUMP Mentoring Project, but I forgot to include Zack Miller as a member of the team – my apologies.

And finally, we are headed into the Thanksgiving holiday. As you may be aware, there is a fascinating halachic debate regarding the status of Thanksgiving celebrations (click here for more information). But there is no debate on our obligation to give thanks to G-d and to others for all of the goodness we enjoy. 

Over this weekend, I will be thinking about the great opportunity I have to work with amazing colleagues and students. And I will be grateful for all of our ICJA leadership led by the board president, Dr. Avy Dachman, who provides the support to keep our school running. And I will also be grateful for the medical committee that has lent us their wisdom in these most trying times – Dr. Avy Dachman, Dr. David Dobkin, Dr. Amy Kaissar, Dr. Ben Katz, and Dr. Dov Shapiro.

Whether you will be celebrating Thanksgiving or not, take some time over the next few days to celebrate ICJA. We are an exceptional community, and together we have helped to transform the lives of young men and women for nearly 80 years!

Stay safe, stay connected, and stay inspired!



Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

19 Kislev 5782

November 23, 2021

Dear I.C.J.A. Family:

Mondays are such a busy day that I forgot to tell you about our students who are part of the J.U.M.P. initiative (N.C.S.Y.’s Jewish Unity Mentoring Program) and their visit to Hillel Torah. As you may recall, about a month ago, we sent a delegation to New York, and they returned with a project they had developed – to mentor middle school children creating opportunities to learn and to have fun. 

Yesterday, the JUMP Team (Hersch Linzer, Joshua Felix, Joshua Kupietzky, Audrey Perlman, Noah Fensterheim, and Andrew Bersson) went to Hillel Torah for their first program with the 7th grade. Here is what 7th-grade teacher Rabbi Leibtag wrote to me: 

“R’ Matanky – I just wanted to share with you what an incredible job the juniors did this morning at Hillel Torah. Thank you for allowing them to come. They were prepared, engaging, and ran a great session. As their former teacher, it was an incredible experience to watch them teach the younger students and actively engage with the 7th graders… To me, this was a wonderful and new opportunity for our students to start creating relationships with some “older” students and hopefully grow over the year.” Wow!

Last night, Rabbi Fliegelman hosted the first College Planning program for 11th graders and their parents. The room was packed with students and parents, and there were college reps from the University of Maryland, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. They were great, and their presentations were informative and to the point. But the star of the evening was senior Sarah Friedman, who shared with everyone what she did to get her applications ready and what they could learn from her. (In fact, after she spoke, Rabbi Fliegelman and I just looked at each other and said we could end the evening right then! But of course, we didn’t.)

Today, I was speaking with a teacher at the entrance to my office when I saw students carrying box loads of cans. It took me a minute to realize what was happening. But when I did, I was in awe of our student council, who collected 508 cans of food for the Ark Food Pantry. It was a pretty impressive feat, and a large measure of the credit goes to Rabbi Daniel Fox’s 9th grade Gemara classes, who donated 200 cans!

But it’s not the only fantastic thing our students are doing. Just this afternoon, Ben Boyarskiy reached out to me to tell me that he, Josh Kupietzky, and Matthew Schneider are starting an Entrepreneurship Club. Mr. Cooper has already volunteered to be the club advisor. 

So what will the Entrepreneurship Club do? It will help students 1. Identify problems/needs; 2. Brainstorm business plans; 3. Split into groups; 4. Create business pitches; 5. Be guided by esteemed mentors and speakers; 6. Compete in a business pitch competition before a panel of judges. (See the attached flyer)

Don’t forget about the first meeting of the H.A.M. radio club – scheduled for tomorrow night (Wednesday, right after school, in the Biology Lab.

Finally, the Senior Shabbaton is going to be postponed. Unfortunately, there were significant challenges with finding a good location. But, it’s only a postponement, not a cancellation. Stay tuned for a new date!

Tomorrow is an early dismissal day and we skip 10th period.

Stay safe, stay connected, and stay inspired!



Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

18 Kislev 5782

November 22, 2021

Dear Parents:

You never know who is going to be coming to ICJA. For example, today, we hosted the new shaliach of Bnei Akiva, the director of NCSY, a mayor, and a judge!

Who was the mayor? Her name is Aliza Bloch, and she is the mayor of Beit Shemesh. And she came to ICJA to see what a Jewish high school in Chicago is all about. Mr. Harris and Dr. Brown gave her a tour of ICJA, and she couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about our building and our students. This is a most meaningful compliment – because Mayor Bloch was an award-winning educator in Israel before she became a mayor – and so she truly knows how to judge a good school.

Speaking of judging, today we also had the privilege of welcoming ICJA parent Judge Mitchell Goldberg as an “expert witness” in Mrs. Arons’s sophomore honors English classes as they prepared to try Victor Frankenstein for capital murder!  

Dressed in his judicial robes, Judge Goldberg fielded student questions. Students Dory Marshall and Josh Paskoff asked the judge to define murder and being an accessory after the fact, two ideas that apply to the novel’s text. Ayelet Appel wanted to know if a person had a dog and didn’t train it and it killed someone, would the owner be held responsible (similar to Dr. Frankenstein and his monster!). Add to that the questions of Joseph Rothner, Yonah Rubin and Taly Benzaquel, and so many others that it was a great learning opportunity.

By the way, we did have one more visitor today, a prospective student who Aaron Hartman escorted – thanks, Aaron, for being such a good ICJA student ambassador!

Next week, believe it or not, is Chanukah, and we’re gearing up for an extraordinary series of events. Every day there will be something different, including Wednesday’s breakfast with teachers. In addition, every grade will be having a unique five-day seminar on Jewish thought. Why on Chanukah? Because the Seleucid Greeks sought to break our connection with G-d, and so Chanukah is the perfect time to understand better what we believe and why we believe.

Finally, an interesting data point – last week, we surveyed parents and teachers about the “Meet the Teacher” software we used for parent-teacher conferences. Both parents and teachers found the system to be an excellent way to conduct these meetings. In fact, only eight parents gave it a score lower than eight (on a one to ten scale)! 

Tomorrow is an early dismissal day, and we skip 5/6 period (i.e., students who have lunch 5th period, skip 6th period, and students who have lunch 6th period skip 5th period).

And 11th grade students and parents – don’t forget that at 7:30pm tonight at ICJA is the “kick-off” to College planning meeting. 

Stay safe, stay connected, and stay inspired!



Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

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