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7 Adar 5781

February 19, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Shabbat is coming in just a few hours (candle lighting is at 5:09 pm) and with it is the close of yet another successful week at ICJA.

Of course, it all started with a day off for Presidents’ Day and the ATT Teacher Conference, a “little bit” of snow (gevalt!) and then back to school, a chesed day, and finally today, erev Shabbat. Which means that this week, our teachers had an opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills, our students had a chance to help make someone else’s life brighter, we all learned, and had fun! Now that’s a successful week.

But just wait until next week when all of the pre-Purim, Purim and post-Purim festivities will be in full swing.

This morning, I popped into Mrs. Kraft’s 9th-grade Chumash class. Unfortunately, she wasn’t delivering a traditional lesson. Instead, her students were immersed in chevruta learning (while socially distanced, of course). But what I found so impressive was how ubiquitous technology has become in our school and our learning. Each of the girls had their ipads or laptops open as they were learning and using online tools – the level of engagement was amazing. And it was all so flawless – as if this has been a part of education forever. 

A few minutes later, I saw a group of sophomore boys in the humanities commons. They too had laptops and ipads open, but I wasn’t sure what was happening – until Mrs. Friedman explained that they were filming a project for class. I saw Ilan Blumenthal, Andrew Bersson, and Ben Boyarskiy and asked them about their project and why they were holding a bright orange wig. “Rabbi, we’re working on a project about the ‘isha sotah.'” I guess I should have known! But even more, we should be proud of all the exciting things that happen in the classrooms (and sometimes the commons) of ICJA.

Monday is the first day of Student Council’s “Spirit Week,” Everyone is encouraged to wear their favorite sports jersey over their ICJA uniform!

If you have time, here is my Dvar Torah for this week – a thought I share about the importance of the partnership between schools, shuls, home, and community – click here.  

Please remember, tomorrow is Shabbat Zachor, and there is a mitzvah d’oraita (a Biblical obligation) to listen to this special Torah reading.

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


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

6 Adar 5781

February 18, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Today was a great day at ICJA, filled with chesed, fun, and even some food! Thanks to the Schwartz family for their continued support of our Ann Rita Schwartz z”l Chesed Days. Today we were able to pack more than 1000 packages of mishloach manot! These packages will be going to four different chesed organizations – Chai Lifeline, Park Plaza, Sharsheret, and Yachad, and we hope that they will brighten someone’s Purim celebrations.

But that’s not all that happened today. Because students also had a shiur from members of our YU Kollel, had time outside on a synthetic ice skating rink (Kol hakavod to Noah Ripstein who was the first senior boy willing to try!), a giant pool table, soccer darts (don’t even ask), and a basketball shootout. Then, topping it all off was a great “Let’s Make a Deal” game – run four times by Senior Class President Zeke Zwelling. Zeke did a great job entertaining the crowd and keeping them engaged. One of the prizes was a “shout out” in my daily email – and Aharon Bauman won! 

On behalf of all of our students, I want to thank Rabbi Fox and Mrs. Zeffren for putting together the program and all of our teachers who made sure everything went smoothly.

The afternoon was a regular day, but most of our students were in costume, so it didn’t look too regular. In fact, when I went to visit Rabbi Drutman’s geometry class, Avi Zeller had green hair, Moshe Osgood had long silver hair, and Charli Ernstein was wearing a 50’s-style poodle skirt. But despite it all, there was great learning going on, as the students were using the Pythagorean theory to solve for the lengths of the sides of a triangle. (It’s been a long time since I learned it – but fortunately, I still remembered what Mrs. Polsky taught us way back when and was able to follow along). 

Tomorrow is erev Shabbat, and while Shabbat is getting later (5:09 pm), we still get out of school at 1:58 pm. We will be skipping 2nd period, and periods 10, 11, and 12 will meet in the afternoon.

Next week is the big lead-up to Purim, and Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday will be spirit week, with special outfits each day (see the attached flyer).

On Purim night is the ICGC Chagiga (girls, have you signed up?) and after Shabbat, the special 12th-grade post-Purim program and premiere of the Purim Shpiel (seniors have you signed up?).

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

5 Adar 5781

February 17, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Despite the mountains of snow outside, it was good to be back in school after yesterday’s “snow day.” 

Coming into school today, a number of our students asked why we didn’t have “zoom classes”? (Before I could answer, they assured me that they were happy that they didn’t, but thought that we would.) My answer was simple – “sometimes taking a day off is not such a bad thing!” 

And it wasn’t – especially for the more than 110 students and parents who also participated in yesterday’s assembly with Dr. David Luchins. As always, Dr. Luchins was insightful despite the brevity of his presentation and the expansiveness of his topic. If you missed it and want to watch it – here is the link

This morning, several teachers had to be out. Some had planned absences, and some woke up not feeling well. Fortunately, all of their classes were covered, and thanks to zoom, all of the students continued to learn.

But it might not have happened if it was not for Mrs. Carol Nylund, the first member of our office staff on duty every morning, and our fantastic faculty. As soon as she heard about the challenge, Mrs. Nylund was on the phone and the computer getting in touch with TA’s and making sure that everything worked. And where TA’s weren’t available, our faculty gave their free periods to cover classes and make sure things moved along smoothly. Thank you all!

One faculty member who came in early was Mrs. Arons, who sat in Rabbi Stromer’s class Junior girls’ Talmud class. It was a fortuitous assignment – because Rabbi Stromer’s students were assigned to read an essay by HaRav Lichtenstein, ztz”l, and write a reflection on this reading. Having learned literary analysis from Mrs. Arons, she guided them in this assignment and remind them that what a Judaic Studies teacher might call a close reading of the text is what they had also learned about while studying Shakespeare and other great works. If you are interested, here is Rav Lichtenstein’s essay – If you have time to read it, ask yourself the questions he poses – “Like Esther, we will all have to ask ourselves the question when the time comes: We could have saved; did we? What will be our answer then? More importantly, what is our answer today?”

Tomorrow is a very big day at ICJA. It’s the second Ann Rita Schwartz z”l Chesed Day at ICJA! Our students will be packing mishloach manot for several chesed organizations, and as always, having fun inside and outside (please make sure to dress warmly!!). In addition, and to add a bit of Chodesh Adar joy, we invite everyone to come in Purim costumes (dress code appropriate). Lunch will be provided as part of the program.

Finally, and it’s a long story that will be better understood after our senior class Purim shpiel – every day at ICJA is an adventure. Today, that adventure included a live chicken… (as I said, it’s a long story for a later update).

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

3 Adar 5781

February 15, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

I wasn’t planning on writing an update today – but circumstances and a major snowstorm have a way of changing plans.

So let me get right into it – tomorrow will be a “snow day,” i.e., classes will not meet because of the projected hazardous traffic conditions.

BUT two important events that will happen:

1. The assembly that we planned with Dr. David Luchins, the chair of the political science department at Touro College and a former staff member (for more than 20 years!) of Senator Patrick Moynihan, will still happen at 1:30pm tomorrow. Dr. Luchins will speak about “THE ELECTION, THE IMPEACHMENT and AMERICAN JEWRY.” It’s an important topic, and he will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to his presentation.  I hope that all of our students and parents will join us at 1:30 pm for a 30-minute presentation, followed by a brief question and answer session. The link for the zoom room is here

2. Rabbi Fliegelman’s Decisions class for tomorrow will be meeting at 7:30 pm in his zoom room. This is an essential continuing seminar regarding college choices – and we expect all of the students who are scheduled for tomorrow will be in attendance.

Finally, today was an amazing ATT Teacher Conference Day. More than 600 day school teachers were in attendance! Of course, unlike other years, these presentations took place over zoom, but the content and the breadth of topics were fantastic. Special thanks to Mrs. Chani Friedman of the ATT for coordinating this event. Yaasher kochachem, to our own, Mrs. Olivia Friedman, Mrs. Shelley Stopek, and Rabbi Yitzi Sprung, who served on the committee, created a special track for ICJA teachers with Torah teachers from Israel.

And yesterday, our own Hugo’s Heroes met in a unique two-part program. The first was a zoom call where student heroes from eight schools in South Africa (where this program was created), along with their program director and Hugo’s father, joined our team of “heroes” to learn from each other and foster a sense of worldwide community. Later that afternoon, our students met at Hatzalah to receive advanced life-saving training. Kol Hakavod to all of them, and thank you to their advisor, Mrs. Chavee Gottlieb.

Please remember to daven on time – the latest time to fulfill the mitzvah of saying Shema in the morning is 9:25 am, and the latest time for saying Shemona Esrei is 10:18 am.

Stay safe, stay warm, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

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