Toggle Menu

1 Adar 5781

February 12, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

It’s Friday, it’s Rosh Chodesh Adar, and it’s another great day at ICJA.

But it was a different kind of day – because, in the past, Rosh Chodesh Adar was a time when our seniors would dress up in costume and add ruach to the school, dancing and singing in honor of this month of great joy.

However, this year, due to COVID restrictions, costumes were okay but not singing and dancing, which was very disappointing for them, and didn’t feel like Rosh Chodesh Adar at ICJA. To their credit, the seniors understood, and school remained a safe place. But we owe them something.

That something will happen on the Motzaei Shabbat after Purim when we will have a special night for them, a fun program with outside activities (please get a little warmer!), and the premiere of their Purim Shpiel (see the attached flyer). And that’s not all, because if the COVID numbers remain low, we hope to have even more things in store for the senior class. 

So seniors – thank you for understanding! And hang in there. We’re going to make things work in ways that no one ever imagined!!

Last night, Rabbi Fox and Rabbi Stromer hosted another Mishmar for the boys. More than 40 boys came, not only to learn Torah but to have some of Rabbi Fox’s famous cholent on their way out of the building!

Today, Mrs. Olivia Friedman sent me a video that Mr. Zbaraz recorded. It’s the introduction to an exciting project of our Erika’s Lighthouse club. Established a few years ago, this club is led by Shira David, Ilan Blumenthal, Gabi Rosenzweig, Audrey Perlman, and Zack Miller. It works to address the social-emotional challenges of the high school years. They’ve done great things in the past, created informational programs, and helped educate our students, teachers, and families. This year they will be producing in-house informational videos. To learn more,

click here.

Monday will be a day off for all of our students, but our teachers will participate in the ATT Teacher Conference Day. More than 600 teachers from all of the day schools in Chicago will be participating, and our teachers will also have a special track of workshops live from some of the top educators in Israel. 

One more item – Tuesday afternoon, we will have a special online assembly at the beginning of 8th period. Our guest speaker will be Dr. David Luchins, the Chair of the Political Science Department at Touro College, and for more than 20 years, our guest speaker was on the Senate staff of the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Dr. Luchins will be addressing the elections, the impeachment, and the impact on the Jewish community.

Finally, if you still have some time, I invite you to watch my Dvar Torah for this week –

Candle lighting tonight is at 5:00 pm

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


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

29 Shevat 5781

February 11, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

This morning, during my Town Hall meeting with the 9th-grade girls, I had a chance to ask them what advice they would give to incoming 9th graders. Their advice was insightful, and I’ll probably include it in next summer’s new student orientation.

Here is their list:

1. Don’t procrastinate.

2. Make sure to reach out to teachers for help.

3. Be organized.

4. Plan ahead; you will have more assignments than in middle school.

5. Don’t think that if you don’t understand something, the teacher will repeat it the next day. Ask questions.

What I also found interesting was regarding their homework. With just one exception, the girls said they have two hours or less of homework each night. That’s about the amount that we expect! And to the one student who said she has more – I asked her to see me so we can find ways to make things more manageable.

Student Council has been busy planning chesed opportunities and spirit programs. Today Student Council president Aharon Falk let me know that they will be starting a canned food drive for the Ark. Please help them help the Ark by bringing in some canned foods to donate. Also, Student Council will be using their tzedakah funds to contribute to the Ark.

And last, senior class representative, Hannah Stein let me know that in addition to all of the Purim events we have announced (the pre-Purim Chesed Day, the ICGC Purim Chagiga, the post-Purim Senior Class event, and the Purim Guidelines), Student Council will be running a “Spirit Week” on the days leading up to Purim. Each day, students (and faculty) will be encouraged to dress up in different outfits, just for fun! Remember, as of tonight, we are in the month of Adar! 

This brings me to the final point for tonight – tonight is Rosh Chodesh, and tomorrow, as we do every month, our shacharit minyan will be having donuts and hot chocolate, sponsored by the Gendler Family. Why not make an extra effort to join us for our minyan tomorrow??? (Mandatory school minyan will resume after Pesach).

Don’t forget, tonight there is a boys’ mishmar at 8:00pm.

Tomorrow, we skip 4th period, and periods 7, 8, and 9 meet. Dismissal is at 1:58 pm, and candle lighting is at 5:00 pm.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

28 Shevat 5781

February 10, 2021

Dear ICJA Family,

This morning, I had a chance to visit Rabbi Fliegelman’s 9th grade Talmud class. When I walked in, he was mapping a Mishna, explaining how one piece flowed into the next and how you can derive halachic ruling from the language of that Mishna. But what was even better was how he uses the online app – Mercava to help understand the text. 

Mercava is an excellent piece of software that includes phrase by phrase translations of the Gemara, the ability to punctuate the text, and even add comments. Over the past few years, Rabbi Fliegelman has become an expert in using it – so much so that the non-profit behind Mercava has sought his feedback.

Back to his class – using Mercava on the smartboard, Rabbi Fliegelman was able to review the Gemara quickly, and then the boys were able to work on their own to understand the sections of the text they were learning. 

Kol hakavod to Rabbi Fliegelman and all of his students!

Currently, about two-thirds of our staff have received their first vaccine shot, and today, we were working on coordinating shots for the rest. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, all of our faculty and staff will be vaccinated. I hope that before Pesach, the few remaining members of our ICJA team will be able to return for in-person teaching and services.

This is the perfect segue to share some vital information that I have received from our medical committee. Everyone eligible to receive the vaccine should do so as soon as possible, even if they have antibodies from having had COVID. The reason is that studies show that previous COVID infection does not cover the South Africa and Brazil variants, but vaccination does seem to help!

Also, please remember that now is not the time to relax our COVID standards. As I wrote yesterday, if you plan on hosting a Purim seudah (or any get together for Purim), please do not invite others beyond your family, and even then, only if those family members are careful in adhering to our COVID guidelines. Any student who attends a non-compliant gathering will need to quarantine for 14 days before returning to school or return on day 11 with a negative PCR taken on day 7 or 8.

Finally, yesterday I made a mistake in my update and referred to Chana Friedman by her sister’s name, Chaya. My apologies Chana! (And while I’m at it, Mrs. Goldstein told me that both Sarah and Chana did a great job with their speeches.)

Tomorrow, dismissal is at 5:39.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

27 Shevat 5781

February 9, 2021

Dear ICJA Family,

A funny thing happened to me on the way to visit a class. As I walked through the commons, I saw Rabbi Stromer and Enon Gurvich learning b’chevruta and other students studying for a test. Two sophomores were just “hanging out” at a safe distance, and then, from the corner of my eye, I spotted two seniors, Sarah Rosenblum and Chaya Friedman, talking somewhat loudly. 

Chaya and Sarah were standing opposite each other at one end of the cafeteria, and it looked like they were making speeches. So I walked over to see – and they were making speeches, or more accurately, practicing for Ms. Goldstein’s public speaking class. They asked me if I wanted to hear their speeches, and I said “yes.”

Not to give away their topics – but Chaya’s was about a lesson her grandfather taught her (and I remember him well), and Sarah’s was about a lesson we can learn from a business scandal of several years ago. Both were very good, researched well, and it was impressive what they’ve learned in class. Of course, I couldn’t help but give a couple of pointers – but we should all be proud of how our students learn and grow over their four years, and Sarah and Chaya are simply two examples of many!

On the co-curricular front, things continue to move forward. The week before Purim, we are planning a unique chesed day program thanks to the support of Ann Rita Schwartz, z”l Chesed Program. There will be food, games, Ice Skating and packing Chesed Purim packages – all at ICJA. 

Purim night is a great ICGC Event. “Purim Chagiga”
a throwback Thursday event with a silent disco!

Then after Purim, we are hosting a special senior class event – Motzaei Shabbat, February 27th. There will be axe throwing and archery, pizza, and the premiere of this year’s Purim Shpiel! (And yes, I really mean axe throwing and archery – all outside and all supervised and safe.)

But while I’m on the topic of Purim – let me share with you a few guidelines for a safe Purim.

1. If you plan on hosting a Purim seudah (or any get-together for Purim), please do not invite others beyond your family, and even then, only if those family members are careful in adhering to our COVID guidelines. Any student who attends a non-compliant gathering will need to quarantine for 14 days before returning to school or return on day 11 with a negative PCR taken on day 7 or 8.

2. Remember that Mishloach Manot is an important mitzvah, but this year is not the time to deliver packages to many homes. The mitzvah can be fulfilled with just one package of two prepared foods fit for a meal. Please be safe, and consider following the Rambam’s advice of giving more Matanot l’Evyonim and fewer food packages.

3. Finally, while we believe that much of the dangerous drinking that unfortunately happens around Purim will not happen this year – remember that the mitzvah of “ad d’lo yadah” does not supersede the requirement to act with dignity and avoid a chillul Hashem, nor the dangers associated with substance abuse, nor even the requirements to daven with kavanah. 

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

26 Shevat 5781

February 8, 2021

Dear ICJA Family,

Today began with the very sad news that Mr. Harris’ brother, Benji, z”l passed away. Benji was a kind soul, always upbeat, even during these past months as he was battling cancer, and his passing was a real shock. 

Benji was a student of mine when he was senior at ICJA, and later I was also privileged to serve as his mesader kiddushin when he married Debbie. I have so many fond memories of him. But I am not alone because his life touched so many.

On behalf of us all, we extend to the entire Harris family our deepest condolences. May his memory be for a blessing, and may his entire family find comfort in the many wonderful memories that will continue to inspire them and all who knew him. 

Shiva will be held via Zoom during the following hours: Monday, 2/8: 7:00pm to 8:00pm; Tuesday-Thursday , 2/9: 11:00am to 12:00pm and 7:00pm to 8:00pm; Friday, 2/12: 11:00am to 12:00pm and Saturday night, 2/13: 7:00pm to 8:00pm (Meeting ID: 873 1008 7816 passcode 613).

On a very different note, this morning, I had the chance to meet with the 9th-grade boys in their Town Hall meeting. We discussed several topics, from current events to ICJA sports, planning for next year, and even when our morning minyan for all students will resume ( – it will resume after Pesach!).  

The boys were great, their questions were right on target, and their concerns about how will be next year were real. And while I hope that things will return to normal by the Fall, the reality is that things will never return to what once was. But that’s not a bad thing, because this is an opportunity for all of us to find the lessons we can learn from this past year. So instead of what was, I look forward to creating what will be next! 

Talking about next, today, all of our senior girls received their acceptances to seminary in Israel. We are very proud that all of our students were accepted to either their 1st or 2nd choice school – some to both! The 5th year is just around the corner!!

This coming Thursday, the mechanchim will be sponsoring another Mishmar for all of the ICJA boys. 8:00 pm at the school and cholent will be served!

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

Sign up for our Newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.