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13 Adar 5781

February 25, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Purim is just a few hours away, so I will keep this update brief, even though today was another great day at ICJA.

Even though it is Taanit Esther and we are all fasting, I had the chance to drop in on two classes – Mrs. Kraft’s Chumash Junior Chumash class and Mr. Sears Physics class.

In Mrs. Kraft’s class, they were comparing two pesukim, which seem to deliver similar messages about not “adding to Torah.” Why two pesukim and not just one – that was the point of the lesson. And the discussion included references to Rav S. R. Hirsch, Alan Dershowitz, Rav Schachter – all to bring the lesson home to the girls. 

And Mr. Sears’ class -they were in the middle of an experiment, socially distanced and therefore, in the Math/Science commons. This made me smile because that was one reason that space was created – to allow teachers to take their classes outside the classroom, use different spaces, and different configurations for learning. Of course, we never thought of social distancing – but it was remarkable how he had them working together while apart.

Which by the way, is one of the great lessons of Purim – how we came together as a people to respond to a crisis, and yet, when creating the holiday, created two different days to celebrate – Purim and Shushan Purim. It’s the only holiday like that- and it suggests so many different ideas. From a theme of “unity in diversity” to “exile and redemption.” But today, it was the way we have learned to be together, despite being apart.

Tonight and tomorrow, we will be celebrating Purim. Please be safe and please avoid the dangers of drinking. As I shared with you yesterday – drinking is a clear and present danger in our community. Tragically, we now know that our Orthodox Jewish teenagers drink more than the general population of teenagers in America!

Tonight is the ICGC event, Saturday night the Senior event, and on Monday, there will be the all-school screening of this year’s Purim Shpiel.

Finally, unfortunately, Monday night’s basketball game against Northshore Country Day School has been canceled due to a COVID outbreak at their school. We wish them well and look forward to next week’s games against Rochelle Zell (Lady Aces) and FYHS (Aces).

Have a terrific Purim!

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

12 Adar 5781

February 24, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Earlier today, I received a school update from the Skokie Health Department. As we know, the COVID numbers have improved, and despite the horrific toll that COVID has had on our world, there is light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Part of the light was evident in the update, where they wrote that “vaccinated persons with an exposure or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria

 – Are fully vaccinated (i.e., more than two weeks following the second dose in a series)

 – Are within three months following the last dose in the series

 – Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID 19 exposure

 – Are NOT patients or residents in healthcare settings.”

This means that the vaccines are working, and fewer teachers will need to be out if exposed to COVID. It’s good news for our community and our school. But it’s not time to lessen our overall level of concern for ourselves and our school. 

Please continue to follow our COVID guidelines both in and out of school. Stay masked when outside your family pod. Wash your hands often. And maintain your distance. And please avoid risks – because the risks you take impact everyone! 

Today in school was the final day of Spirit Week, and our students came out in full ICJA swag! Thank you to student council for adding a special note of simcha to our week. 

Also, today Mrs. Pogonitz’s Navi classes finished learning Megillat Esther and began reviewing it b’chevruta to be ready for tomorrow night!

Tomorrow is Taanit Esther – a fast day. The fast begins at 5:18 am and continues until megillah reading. Because of the fast, school will be dismissed at 2:30 pm, and we will skip periods 10, 11, and 12.

Next week, on Tuesday, the boys’ soccer practices will begin outdoor training after school, weather permitting. Boys who want to be on the soccer teams should be in touch with Coach Leo at if you plan to play. Depending on the field and weather conditions for Tuesday, Coach Leo is prepared to get creative as he prepares the team for the season. 

Have a meaningful fast, and let’s get ready for Purim. 

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

11 Adar 5781

February 23, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

We are in the middle of spirit week, which in normal years would lead up to a pep rally. But unfortunately, not this year. Nevertheless, it’s been spirited – especially today as students dressed up as their favorite teacher. Some of the outfits were creative – all of Rabbi Sprung’s Talmud girls class sported his ever-present sweater, and Rachel Adar was Mr. Olson. And some were spot-on – Pelah Cohen’s imitation of Mrs. Partouche (pregnancy and all), Jonah Matanky’s Mr. Cooper, Avi Zeller’s Mrs. Zeffren, and Shira David’s Mrs. Pogonitz. And there were a lot more. Thank you to all who participated. Tomorrow is ICJA Swag Day – which should be easy since we “publish” a lot of swag!

Yesterday I shared with you the big news about sports. Today, the big news is that our music program, which has been online and in the evenings, is finally returning to ICJA live! Starting tomorrow, the band will have their lessons and practice in the gym during 5th and 6th periods. Kol hakavod to our student musicians, especially Noah Brody and Noah Fensterheim, who got the ball rolling, and our music teacher Tommy Veronesi. 

One of the new clubs this year that has garnered a lot of interest is our Investment Club. Some of you may remember their kick-off event with ICJA Board member Max Wasserman. Since then, the club has been meeting regularly, and as of today, thanks to Isaac Zipperstein, they have their own webpage on the ICJA site –

Purim is coming, and in the newest edition of YU’s Purim-to-Go, Rabbi Stromer has a beautiful dvar Torah (click here) that he wrote as a representative of ICJA faculty. And he represented us so very well with an important educational lesson from the megillah!

Thursday night, after the megilla, is the ICGC Chagiga beginning at 9:30 pm. Most of the girls are already signed up. If you haven’t signed up – please do so ASAP! The theme is Throwback Thursday – so plan to dress up in your favorite decade (make sure to follow the dress code). And please fill out this form so we can order enough headsets for the Silent Disco!

Motzaei Shabbat at 8:00 pm is the Senior Night Post-Purim event featuring ax throwing, archery, and the world premiere of the Purim Shpiel. I got an advance look at the shpiel, and it is good! (The rest of the school will get to see the shpiel on Monday.)

Finally, on the topic of Purim, in most years, I send a letter to everyone about the dangers of drinking on Purim. It is truly a tragic reality that some people celebrate in this way – which for teenagers is illegal, and for everyone dangerous, and often leads to a chilul Hashem. This year because of the restrictions of COVID, I didn’t feel the letter was necessary. But today, an important article was released about a study that ICJA and 18 other yeshiva high schools conducted over the past two years. Please take a few minutes to read this article because it discusses the clear and present danger of alcohol in our teenage community. Here is the link.

Tomorrow we skip 12th period, and dismissal is at 4:58 pm.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

10 Adar 5781

February 22, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

With Purim preparation in full swing, a lot is going on at ICJA, some Purim-related, and some not. 

This morning the 10th-grade boys began the day with the first of a two-part workshop on “Emunah.” Our YU Torah MiTzion Kollel developed the program, and to allow for the optimal level of interaction, the boys were divided into small groups of 5-6 students for learning and conversation with a Kollel member. Next week, on Tuesday and Thursday, the Kollel will offer the same program for the 10th-grade girls.

And while they were learning about faith, I received the final approval from our medical committee for a limited series of basketball games for our senior varsity teams. It was a long process that began with our withdrawing from the season when our medical committee was uncomfortable with the guidelines of IDPH. But over the past few weeks, as the numbers in Illinois have significantly improved, the possibility of offering our seniors some competitive play began to emerge. 

I was in touch with the heads of school of several private schools, and ultimately it was determined that our teams could play against Rochelle Zell, Fasman Yeshiva High School, and Northshore Country Day School. Each of these schools has COVID policies similar to ours, and their safety records during this pandemic are also similar to ours. 

The first two games are scheduled for next week. Monday the Aces SV will compete against Northshore Country Day School, and Thursday the Lady Aces SV will compete against Rochelle Zell. Both games will be at ICJA and closed to fans, but they will be broadcast online – more information to follow.

In the coming weeks, the outdoor sports (soccer and baseball) can begin to practice, and baseball tryouts are taking place this Wednesday, February 24, at 8:30 pm at the Dugout (1885 Holste Rd, Northbrook). Please contact Coach Steven Greenberg at with any questions. 

Of course, as with everything we do during these trying times, we will continue to consult with our medical team and assiduously follow their guidance. 

On that note, I must remind everyone to please help us with our COVID protocols. If you are planning to travel or planning to have visitors, please check with us in advance. Some cases may require students to isolate and study remotely, while others may not. But the only way we can continue our success this year is if we keep the lines of communication open.

Today, we also received a copy of NCSY’s Megillah Project. The project brought together schools around the country to create a special Megillah for this year. I’ve attached a copy of the section our students prepared – it’s really excellent! Kol hakavod to Rachel Margolin, Sarah Friedman, and Yinon Gurvich.

Tomorrow we continue Spirit Week and ask students to “Dress Like a Teacher.” We also skip 4th period, and dismissal will be at 4:58.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

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