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11 Iyar 5781

April 23, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

This afternoon, as I was leaving class and walking through the commons, I saw a great sight!

Students were learning together. Some were just schmoozing, and there, bouncing back and forth between two whiteboards, was Mr. Keller simultaneously helping two different students with their math. Each student was working on their problems – and he was helping them. And it was one more nachas to observe. Thanks Mr. Keller, for going the extra mile for your students.

Yesterday was my second Town Hall meeting for 9th graders. As was true of the first one, we had an interesting conversation about the role of fans at sporting events and the best way to support a team without undermining the opposition. But we also talked about what the future post-COVID looks like for ICJA.

As of today, most of our students 16 and older have received the vaccine. Yet, masks are still required in school. Why? There are two reasons. The first is the law that mandates masking. And the second is the concern of our medical committee and public health officials about trying to have a single institution where some people are masked, and others are not. Because even those who have had the vaccine run a small risk of getting infected with a variant, and those who are yet to be vaccinated are significantly at risk.

Nevertheless, our medical committee believes that even before the end of the school year, some of the restrictions could be relaxed. Added to that the hope that there will be approval for the vaccine for our younger students, and the future looks very bright!

By the way, we have scheduled another all-school COVID test for April 29th. I hope that this may be the final all-school test of the year.

My pre-Shabbat dvar Torah is available here – https://youtu.be/9CkjrmOQxcA

Candle lighting is at 7:21 pm.

Shabbat shalom, stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!

LAM

Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy


10 Iyar 5781

April 22, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Let’s start with some nachas! The following seniors have been recognized for their academic excellence and named Illinois State Scholars: Ayden Allswang, Alyssa Amrami, Noah Brody, Shira David, Daniella Glass, Simone Miller, Rachel Schwartz, and Isaac Zipperstein. Kol haKavod! 


Let’s continue with the nachas: This coming Tuesday evening at 6:30 pm, we will have an online reading of our award-winning literary journal Charlotte’s Web – (click here for the link). Named for longstanding ICJA teacher, Mrs. Charlotte Rosenwald, a”h, the journal has been guided by Mrs. Arons and edited by talented seniors each year. This year’s editors are Shira David and Dahlia Matanky.

And then there is this piece of nachas: Today’s Purple Day was an amazing success. Thanks to Talia Jacobs and David Gaffen, our students participated in an online seminar about domestic abuse. Among the many lessons learned was that everyone needs to have a person they can trust, and everyone needs to speak up for themselves and others. Thank you to Jeffrey Younger of the Shalom Task Force for making this all possible.

This brings me to one final related piece of nachas for today: Our recent student survey has yielded a lot of information, and we are still reviewing it and considering the next steps. But after today’s presentation, I checked to see one piece of data – that among the yeshiva high schools who also took the survey, our students rated us highest on the question “There is at least one adult in the school whom I trust and can talk to when needed.” 

Finally, a few announcements:

1. Seniors – if you want to purchase your school-issued iPad, please bring a $100 check to the office. If not, please be ready to return your iPad, the charging cube, and cable by June 1st.

2. Next week, we will have two Lag Ba’Omer events on Thursday night and a Chesed Day in honor of Lag BaOmer on Friday. See the attached flyers for more information

3. On Thursday, April 29, we will have the next all-school COVID test.

Tomorrow, dismissal is at 3:34 pm, and periods 7, 8, and 9 meet.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!

LAM

Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy


9 Iyar 5781

April 21, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Yesterday, right after I sent my update, a parent wrote to tell me that the baseball game I had announced was postponed. “Don’t they tell you anything?” wrote the parent? I guess not. 

Attached are the latest schedules. Tonight there is an away game at 7:30 pm, and Sunday is both another baseball game against RZ and the opening of the girls’ soccer season, with a home game at noon.

This morning I had the chance to drop into Rabbi Kurtz’s Talmud class and listen to part of Andrew Bersson’s presentation on his family tree. What does a family tree have to do with 10th grade Talmud? The answer begins with a question that Rabbi Kurtz asked his students on Yom HaShoah and continues with his desire for his students to understand their mesorah – where we come from and the deep traditions we have as Jews. 

Next, I had time to sit in for a few minutes to Rabbi Stromer’s class. His students were learning about the laws of kashrut via a case study in Slurpee’s. In the time I was there, I heard the students talk about complex halachic concepts such as “ta’am,” “kavush k’mevushal dami,” and “ne’emanut.” It was creative and impressive, and I’m proud of how much his class is learning.

Of course, today was a bit more unusual than most days – with the seniors out (I heard the boys had a great baseball game and the girls had a great get-together), the 9th and 10th graders having the PSAT, and only the 11th graders having class as usual. It was both very quiet and very busy – a strange combination, but it worked.

A few minutes ago, I finished my interview for the videos, which will be part of our Scholarship Dinner. This year we are honoring three people who made this past year possible – Dr. Ben Katz, Dr. Amy Kaissar, and Rabbi Dr. Binyomin Segal. Each of them has been supporters of our mission for many years, but this year their contributions made the difference as we faced one of the most significant challenges of our 78-year history. Please reserve June 10th, and please support our efforts to finish raising funds for our scholarship needs!

Tomorrow is “Purple Day” – remember to wear something purple and get a free cupcake at lunchtime. And it is Earth Day. Our Interact Club encourages students to help clean up our campus and donate trees in Israel ($18.00 per tree) in honor of Earth Day. See the attached flyers for more information.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!

LAM

Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy


8 Iyar 5781

April 20, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Just in case you were concerned about how difficult this year must be on our senior class – last night, a group of them came into the building to “decorate.” When I arrived this morning, I discovered over 2,000 rubber ducks (I wonder if they considered using 2,021?) strategically placed throughout the school. There were ducks in the front lobby that spelled out “‘2021”, and there were ducks on the walls, ducks in my office, and ducks in the hallways (almost like the frogs in Egypt… “frogs here, frogs there…”). Most of the ducks were small, some a little larger, and then there was a 4’ ft. duck sitting on one of the chairs in our front office.

All of which leads me to believe that the seniors are doing much better this year. Most are vaccinated, and they’re preparing for tomorrow’s “ditch day,” studying for their AP’s, planning senior retreat at Camp CHI, and drawing ever closer to an in-person graduation on June 6, 2021!

Tomorrow is the opening game of our Girls’ Soccer season (tomorrow 5:30 pm @ ICJA). 

While we take all necessary precautions at those games, not all of the fans who attend are as careful. Please do your best to maintain and masking whenever possible. As reported in today’s news, most of the recent COVID outbreaks have been traced back to school sports – click here. We still need to be careful!

Wednesday afternoon is the PSAT test for the 9th and 10th grades. I mentioned yesterday how important the information we get is to the school – but it’s also important for our students. The reason is that PSAT provides detailed reports to every test taker, which includes data on one’s path towards college readiness and recommendations for free online classes from Khan Academy, which will address any weaknesses a student may have. 

Tomorrow, because of the PSAT testing, mincha for all 11th graders will take place in the cafeteria.

Thursday is “Purple Day” – remember to wear something purple and get a free cupcake at lunchtime. But it is also Earth Day. In honor of Earth Day our Interact Club encourages students to help clean up our campus and donate trees in Israel ($18.00 per tree). See the attached flyer for more information.

Tomorrow is an early dismissal day (4:58 pm), and we skip 12th period. 

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!

LAM

Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy


7 Iyar 5781

April 19, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Today, my semi-monthly Town hall meetings started all over again with the 9th-grade boys. (Thursday 5th period will be the 9th-grade girls).

As first-year students, they’ve never had finals, so part of the meeting was dedicated to that subject. Then we spoke about planning for next year. And finally, we discussed baseball, but not about playing baseball (even though I did get to congratulate the 9th graders who were on the team that won the Crosstown Classic tournament that ICJA!). Instead, we had an interesting conversation about what it means to be a fan and what is appropriate and inappropriate to do while cheering on your team. It’s a critical conversation, one that I hope parents will have with their children as well. Because we live in an era when language has become harsh, and role models, especially in professional sports, often cross the line of civil behavior. But we can’t! We must do our best to cheer on our team without ever demeaning our opponents. To do anything else is not the way of a Ben or Bat Torah!

A bit later in the morning, the senior class participated in a presentation by the organization, ORA. ORA has pioneered advocacy for agunot, and they are the driving force behind the use of the RCA halachic prenup. Emily Zimmer of ORA did a great job explaining how gett refusal is a form of abuse and steps that can be taken to ensure that if G-d forbid a marriage must end, that it happens with respect and according to halachic guidelines

This afternoon at 3:00 pm, the election of graduation speakers for the class of 5781 was completed. I am pleased to announce that the following four seniors were selected by their peers to speak at this year’s graduation: Noa Brasch, Simone Miller, Rachel Schwartz, and Zeke Zwelling. Mazal tov to them!

Just a few minutes ago, Mrs. Kahan shared with me the great news that one of her students – Sarah Friedman, won first place in the state-wide writing competition, “Letters about Literature.” There were thousands of entries, and her essay about lessons she learned from the book “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” came in first! In May, Sarah will be participating in an online ceremony hosted by the Secretary of State.

All of which is just a small taste of some of the excitement of today!

And, of course, there is so much more to come. Wednesday is the PSAT for the 9th and 10th graders. The test is essential because it gives us objective data on each student’s progress over the year and helps us plan for next year.

Thursday is “Purple Day,” a national Yeshiva High School school event that focuses on the scourge of domestic abuse. Talia Jacobs and David Gaffen have been hard at work planning the event, including an online presentation for grades 9-11 and materials and information available in school. Those wearing purple will be legible to receive a free cupcake at lunch to recognize their support of this unique initiative!

Bottom line – it’s been another exciting and important day at ICJA! I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!

LAM

Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy

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