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18 Iyar 5781

April 30, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Today was a glorious day at ICJA. It all began last night at the Lag B’Omer bonfires. Between the two events, nearly 50% of our students attending! And then came today – we started with Tehillim for the victims of the Meron tragedy, followed by a presentation by Eden Levi.

Eden is an 11th-grade grade student in Phoenix (her mother, Sunny Siegal Levi is an ICJA alum – class of ’95), and she has written a book on Emunah (click here). She was impressive – both for her joyous “teenager-ness” and for her thoughtfulness. And she also addressed the tragedy, explaining how it is possible to live with questions. Thanks to Jonathan Thomas who introduced Eden and Hannah Rothner who followed up with an announcement of an upcoming Mishmar.

The rest of the morning was divided between chesed activities, fun, and learning. We packed over 750 packages – for Yachad, Sharsheret, and Torah v’Chesed. By the way – Kol hakavod to Enon Gurvich, who wrote the Dvar Torah (click here) included in the packages. Two morning classes met, there were activities outside, followed by a BBQ (thank you, Rabbi Segal!) and roasting marshmallows over the firepits.

But the best part (after Eden Levi’s presentation) was just being outside with the students, watching them interact – and finally seeing their faces, as some were unmasked outside following the new CDC guidelines! Once again Rabbi Fox and Mrs. Zeffren and their committees of COPO and activities created a wonderful day.

The all-school COVID test results are now in, and everyone’s results were negative! As a result, our medical committee feels that we will not need another all-school test this year! Hooray!!

Beginning Monday, we will no longer be requiring temperature checks for those entering the building. 

In addition, we will experiment with lockers being available for our students. We are still not ready to go back to “what was,” but lockers will be available on a staggered schedule with only 25% capacity in the locker areas. (Of course, anyone uncomfortable with using their lockers can continue to use the coat racks as before.)

It is a bit complicated – but here is the way we will stagger access to lockers: 

1. All grades will have access to the lockers BEFORE 8 am, but no more than 25 people can be in the bay at a time, and no sitting or lingering in those spaces.

2. From 8 am – and until 1st period, 11th and 12th grades will have access

3. Between 1st and 2nd periods – 9th and 10th grades last names A-L will have access

4. Between 2nd and 3rd periods – 9th and 10th grades last names M-Z will have access

5. Between 5th and 6th periods – 9th and 10th grades last names A-L will have access

6. Between 6th and 7th periods – 9th and 10th grades last names M-Z will have access

7. From 7th period until 9th period, 11th and 12th grades will have access

8. After 9th period, there will be access for all grades, but no more than 25 people can be in the bay at a time, and no sitting or lingering in those spaces

Since our 9th graders were not assigned lockers at the beginning of the year, we just sent an email with their schedules, locker numbers, and combinations. A copy of this email will also be sent to parents on Sunday.

If you have time – here is my Dvar Torah for this Shabbat, click here

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


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy

17 Iyar 5781

April 29, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Lag Ba’Omer starts in just a few hours, and this year the programs at ICJA to celebrate the day are “over the top!” Kudos to our mechanchim and mechanchot, to the student committees, and our activities staff for planning a fantastic set of programs – tonight and tomorrow. I look forward to giving you a full report in tomorrow’s update.

This morning we had the full-school COVID testing. Everything ran like clockwork, thanks to our parent volunteers Rachel Blumenthal, Sarah Cohen, and Rebecca Gorenstein. One of the medical technicians told me – if only every testing event were as well organized and efficient as ours. As soon as I get the results, I will share them with you – but in the meantime, I want to thank everyone for making things go so smoothly, and I hope never to have to do it again!

Earlier this week, Mrs. Zeffren’s 9th grade Nach classes completed their character analysis projects on Megillat Esther. Students had to find direct quotes and examples from the Megillah to describe each figure’s personality, goals, strengths, weaknesses, how they changed throughout the text, and family background and/or lineage. To see how one student, Ben-Tzion Rine, approached this assignment, click here.

Towards the end of the day, I had a chance to visit Mrs. Kahan’s 10th grade English class. When I came in, they were watching a clip from the classic film version of Merchant of Venice starring Laurence Olivier. But what caught my attention was both the questions Mrs. Kahan was asking – comparing the staging of this production versus another one they had watched and how attentive the students were to the film. For example, when I was there, Rina Yahav compared the way Portia was portrayed differently in the two productions. They really got it! 

Just now, one of our custodians brought a lost wallet to my office. If someone lost his/her wallet in school, please send me an email!

Finally, a reminder about Sunday’s special program for students and parents – “It’s Okay to Ask for Help” with Marc Fein. The program is a project of our Erika’s Lighthouse club and will be at 3:00 pm on zoom – here is the link

Tomorrow is a special day, with programming and a barbecue. Periods 10, 11, and 12 will meet in the afternoon. 

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy

16 Iyar 5781

April 28, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Last night, with the release of the new relaxed CDC guidelines, several new protocols began to be possible.

The first two items are lockers and temperature checks.

Beginning Monday, we will no longer conduct temperature checks when students arrive at school. However, the wellness check will remain, and we ask that everyone continue to respond accurately.

Hopefully, lockers will begin to be available on a limited basis to students next week. We still need to resolve some issues, such as how to stagger students’ access so that distance can be preserved and distributing lockers to our 9th-grade class. Nevertheless, this evening our staff has begun moving the furniture out of the locker bays in preparation for the opening.

Senior Retreat will be taking place, and our students will now be able to travel in regular coach busses. We are also looking into offering our seniors a regular post-graduation lock-in and vatikin minyan.

Nevertheless, we must still keep the masking indoor mandate and distancing requirements in place. It is the law, and because one-third of our students cannot yet be vaccinated, it is also how we will keep everyone safe!

On that note – tomorrow morning will be an all-school COVID test. While most of our students have been vaccinated, our medical committee recommended that we perform one more round of tests. The testing will begin during 1st period, and if need be, swabbers will be available until 12:30 pm.

Thursday night and Friday, we will be celebrating Lag Ba’Omer. The mechanchim and mechanchot are planning the evening programs (see attached), and on Friday, we will have a Chesed Day and Lag BaOmer fun! Headlining the event will be a speaker – Eden Levi (the daughter of ’95 ICJA alumna Sunny (Siegal) Levi), who is a high schooler but has written a book on Emunah (faith) entitled “Spiritual Sunshine”!

Tomorrow is the final day of the Taharat HaMispacha seminar for our senior classes. The boys will be meeting with me during the third period, and the girls will be going for a tour of the mikvah with Mrs. Kraft during the 4th and 5th periods. 

Finally, I just had a chance to watch part of the ICJA soccer game against Willows Academy. It’s a home game, and it’s great to have our own soccer field; and as one parent told me, even though it’s a bit chilly outside, it’s great to have sports back at ICJA!

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy

15 Iyar 5781

April 27, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

We are just a few minutes away from one of the great programs of our year – the launch of Charlotte’s Web. It begins at 6:30 tonight, and once again, here is the link. I look forward to hearing our most talented students read their works – and I am sure you will as well. We thank Susan and Joseph Ament for underwriting this project.

By the way, right after Charlotte’s Web at 7:30 pm, the Investment Club will be meeting with Dan Lidawer. The meeting will take place in Mr. Cooper’s Zoom Room.

Today was a beautiful day, and the 10th-grade boys had a great time outside playing baseball and football with their Talmud rebbes. As I mentioned yesterday, it is a special week-long program planned by the mechanchim and leading up to a fantastic Chesed Day this coming Friday. See the attached flyer for more information!

This afternoon I had the chance to drop into Mr. Keller’s STEM class, and I was blown away by the projects that our seniors are working on and plan to enter into an end of the year competition among our area high schools. When I first came in, Dave Holman had just installed the battery into the car he built. It was amazing how he was able to control its movements via an app and bluetooth. Next, Zeke Zwelling showed me the safe he was creating that could only be opened by a sensor and a fob. Then I went over to Noah Brody, who is working on creating a “plant pod,” which could regulate the growth of plants – giving light and water as needed. And finally, there was the drone that Moshe Lodkin was building – wow!

Finally, we still need a few more students to complete the COVID vaccine survey. If you have not yet responded to the survey, please do so this evening –  Please click here to complete this survey.

Tomorrow is an early dismissal day, and we skip 7th period.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy

14 Iyar 5781

April 26, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Today is Pesach Sheini, and in the time of the Beit HaMikdash, those who were impure and could not celebrate on the regular date of Pesach would have a chance to make it up on the 14th of Nisan. Nowadays, the custom is to eat some matzah on this date in commemoration of Pesach Sheini, and we don’t recite tachanun.

Which has nothing to do with what happened in school today but is something to remember.

So what did happen? 

The day started with tefilla as usual, but then the 9th-grade boys went with their Gemara rebbes to play football and baseball in McNally Park. This was part of a pre-Lag BaOmer Mechanchim program for the boys, and each day a different grade will have a chance for some fun with their classmates and rebbes.

By the way, it was great. I walked over to the park and saw how much fun they were having! Rabbi Sprung’s shiur was playing football, and Rabbi Gross’ and Rabbi Fliegelman’s classes were in the midst of a spirited softball game. The weather was perfect, and the camaraderie was fantastic!

Afterward, I sent a survey to all of our students to assemble the data regarding how many of our students are vaccinated. With 75% of our students responding so far, over 60% have been vaccinated. Given that 9th graders and many of the 10th graders are too young to receive the vaccine, this statistic is impressive.

This data will be essential as we move forward and impact the type of end-of-year programs we can have and what precautions need to be in place for Senior Retreat.

If you have not yet responded to the survey, please do so this evening –  Please click here to complete this survey.

Tomorrow, the 12th graders will begin their seminar on Taharat Mishpacha. Mrs. Kraft will teach the girls during 4th and 5th periods on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and I will teach the boys, Wednesday and Thursday during 1st and 2nd periods. The seminar will take place at the south end of the gym.

Tomorrow at lunchtime (5th and 6th periods) Hatzalah CEO, Tzvi Montrose will be meeting with juniors about our EMT Course. This is the third year of the program, and many of our students have gone on for certification, and some are already working as EMTs. The meeting will be in the tents and will include pizza for lunch! Juniors, please don’t miss out on this great opportunity.

Tomorrow night is CHARLOTTE’S WEB at 6:30 pm. It is a great event and celebrates not only the literary skills of our students but also the memory of a beloved teacher, Mrs. Charlotte Rosenwald z”l. The event is online – click here. We thank Susan and Joseph Ament for once again underwriting this project!!

Finally, there is going to be a small change to shacharit locations beginning tomorrow:


    Gym – A-Kl

    Cafeteria – Ko-M

    Beit Midrash – N-S

    Room 401 – T-Z


    Gym – A-K

    Cafeteria – L-R

    Room 401 – S-Z

Stay safe, stay in contact, be inspired, and eat some matzah in honor of Pesach Sheini! 🙂


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy

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