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24 Tevet 5781

January 8, 2020

Dear ICJA Family,

Shabbat is just a few hours away, and today has been another successful and busy day. In addition to classes and learning, we are also preparing for Motzaei Shabbat’s Society of Patrons event (the long-awaited Shtisel season three premiere!) and the first round of socially distanced ICJA tours for prospective parents and students happening this Sunday.

And yes, even though we haven’t even entered into our second semester, we are already hard at work preparing for next year! The department chairs are determining which classes need to be offered. Dr. Kahan and Dr. Green are working on creating the schedule of classes. Mrs. Nussbaum is working on recruiting a new class of ICJA students. And Mrs. Zwelling is making sure that we have the funds in place to provide scholarships for all who need them!

This is the time of year to remember that we need the “Three F’s” – Friendship, Freshman, and Funds!

But we also need great teaching and learning, which happens every day at ICJA. This afternoon I saw it in Ms. Sennett’s AP Euro class. When I walked in, they were a bit “off-topic,” still discussing the riot in DC and the legal consequences of the criminal acts committed. (After all, Ms. Sennett is also an attorney – so she was able to shed some light on the law!) Next, she distributed a copy of an 18th-century painting, Boizot’s “Liberty Armed with the Scepter of Reason Striking down Ignorance and Fanatacism” together with three short answer questions. The questions required her students to analyze the image in light of their knowledge of the Enlightenment, the radical phase of the French Revolution, and political thought. 

It was evident that they had worked on this skill before, and their knowledge of the late 18th century was impressive. But what I truly enjoyed was the give and take between them and Ms. Sennett. Despite masks and distance – there was a great connection between teacher and student. 

A couple of days ago, I shared with you the announcement of our incoming Assistant Dean, Rabbi Gavriel Brown. He and Dr. Kahan are already working on next year. Together with master educator Rabbi Moshe Simkovitch (ICJA ’70), who is helping us “man the fort” with office hours in Dr. Kahan’s former office M 1:30-4p; W 12-2:30p Th 1:30-3:30p), and visiting classes, we are in a great place in the interim, and for the long term!

If you have time – I hope you enjoy my pre-Shabbat drasha on this week’s parsha – click here

Candle lighting this week is at 4:17 pm.

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


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

23 Tevet 5781

January 7, 2020

Dear ICJA Family,

Today began the next round of “Town Hall Meetings.” For the next three weeks, I will be meeting with all of the ICJA students, allowing them to share concerns, pose questions and, as happened today, enter into a conversation that addresses a current issue or a moral dilemma.

What was the issue? It was yesterday’s riot in Washington DC, and we talked about the lessons that we can learn. Their perspectives were interesting and on target. We talked about the importance of standing up for your beliefs but doing so with respect. And we spoke of the fragility of our democracy and the power of truth versus the power of lies.  

I encourage all of our students and families to continue the conversation and spend some time tonight or over Shabbat trying to understand what happened and what needs to happen. Our nation experienced a moment of crisis, and while we may not solve the more significant problems we face, we can use this opportunity to teach our families.

Today our students who are part of the Student-to-Student program met online with over 50 students from Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville. It was always a great opportunity for them to explain what being Jewish means to them and teach these students about some of the basics of Jewish belief and observance. Kol HaKavod to presenters Simone Miller, Rachel Schwartz, Carly Sorscher, and Carmel Schreiber.

By the way, there is a new club just getting started – ICJA’s IdaCraft gaming club! Led by students Caleb Gutstein, Charlie Singer, and Yehoshua Zagorin, this club will provide a safe environment for the creative world of gaming. Students will build explore and worlds with Minecraft, learning to work as a team and as friends.

Back to our classes, Ms. Goldstein’s 12th-grade journalism class has just completed a fascinating project. Entitled “Embrace the Ace,” students were asked to select one aspect of ICJA that they especially enjoy and write a letter to an incoming student about it. We will be featuring these essays on our website in the coming weeks, but I got a sneak peek, and they are great!

Talk about “Embracing the Ace” – every Wednesday I do a 30-minute online interview for my shul. This week, I had a chance to interview my former ICJA classmate Rabbi Menachem Goldberger of Baltimore. He was a star basketball player on the Aces and had a chance to play college ball, but instead took a different path in life. You might find the interview of interest – here is the link 

Tomorrow, we skip 4th period, and periods 7, 8, and 9 will meet. Candle lighting is at 4:17 pm.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

22 Tevet 5781

January 6, 2020

Dear ICJA Family,

As I prepare this email it is hard to think of anything else than what is happening in our nation’s capitol. I am sure you join with me in praying for an evening of quiet and calm, and ultimately for the peaceful transition of power that is the hallmark of our nation’s democracy.

Yesterday my update was brief – but not today. Because I had a chance to see some great teaching that I want to brag about, but also we have some important news about the future of the school and even some details about the next couple of weeks of academic testing.

This morning, after welcoming the students and staff to school (and checking their temperature and wellness certificates), I had a chance to pop into two classes, Mrs. Marmel’s 10th grade Hebrew class and Rabbi Sprung’s 9th-10th grade Talmud class.

There was some great teaching in both classes, and the students were engaged and participating. But what struck me about both classes was how technology has become a regular part of our learning environment. 

In the Hebrew class, the girls were working on an assignment b’chevruta, with Mrs. Marmel helping them along the way. But one of the chevrutot was Charli Einstein and Toibeh Sarah Gersten. Toibeh Sarah hasn’t been able to be in-person this year, but she was “in class,” working with Charli – all Mrs. Marmel had to do was bring the iPad stand over, and there they were working no differently than any other chevruta!

Rabbi Sprung’s class is the accelerated Talmud class, and they were in the middle of studying a dispute between the Baal HaMaor and the Rif. It was impressive to listen to the boys read from the text and the understanding they displayed with that text. But it was also great to see their ipads open, and the group notes that the class shares via google docs. It’s a simple technique, but it’s powerful, and for the boys, it was “no big deal” – just something that’s a regular part of the class. 

By the way, on my way out, some of Mrs. Friedman’s students were working in the commons creating an online project for their Navi class. They weren’t on my “itinerary” this a.m. – but they have been in the past, and they reinforced what I saw in the other classes – creative teaching, great learning, and technology that has become part of our regular learning routine. Kol HaKavod!

And now to an exciting announcement: 

Ida Crown Jewish Academy is pleased to announce that Rabbi Gavriel Brown has been selected as the next Assistant Dean of our school. Over the next several months, Rabbi Brown will be working with Dr. Jeremy Kahan to understand the role and the school better to prepare for his arrival in July 2021.

Rabbi Brown’s background and academic pursuits reflect his passion for leadership, professional development, and organizational growth.

Currently completing a Ph.D. in education from Johns Hopkins University, Rabbi Brown is a graduate of Yeshiva University. Rabbi Brown also received his certificate in School Management and Leadership from Harvard University and participates in the Jewish New Teacher Project’s Administrator Support Program. 

Rabbi Brown started his teaching career with Teach for America at a charter school in Newark, New Jersey. He then taught at Success Academy High School for the Liberal Arts in Manhattan. After moving to Baltimore, Rabbi Brown became the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Talmudical Academy.

Rabbi Brown is married to Rebecca, and they have a two-year-old daughter, Adi. Rebecca, a former fashion journalist, now works for The Associated, Baltimore’s Federation. Rabbi Brown is excited to join the Ida Crown Jewish Academy family and meet and work with students and faculty. He has a passion for architecture and is excited to explore Chicago beyond “The Bean.”

ICJA is thrilled to have Rabbi Brown on board and we look forward to him building on the strong foundations of his predecessor Dr. Kahan as he helps us to further inspire our bnei and bnot Torah to thrive in the modern world!

Finally, an important housekeeping note: 

As we approach the end of the quarter/semester, some of our classes have scheduled exams. To help our students manage their time, we have assigned specific testing dates when these exams may be given – and here they are: 

Quarter 2 Week 9: 1/11/21-1/14/21

Monday – English; Tuesday – Math; Wednesday – Science; Thursday – History 

Quarter 2 Week 10: 1/18/21-1/21/21

Monday – Bible; Tuesday – Talmud/AJSP; Wednesday – Prophets; Thursday – Hebrew 

Finally, a reminder that tonight at 7:00p, there will be the first in a three-part series on Time Management – given by Mrs. Julie Avner (in her “zoom room”).


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

21 Tevet 5781

January 5, 2020

Dear ICJA Family,

Thanks to the dedicated and talented efforts of the LifeScan team, headed by Dr. Sam Lipshitz, we have just received all of the test results.

Baruch Hashem, all of our students, staff and faculty that were tested yesterday were negative for the COVID-19 virus!

Thank you to all of our students and their families for helping us maintain the safety of our community.

For those students who have not returned to school, either due to self-quarantine or COVID concerns, please remember that before you can return to ICJA you must take a PCR COVID test and submit a negative result.

For those who are self-quarantined, the test should be taken after your seventh day in quarantine, and then if symptom free, you can return on day eleven. urn.

Have a wonderful day!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

20 Tevet 5781

January 4, 2020

Dear ICJA Family,

Welcome back!

Today was a very busy day. Not only did we have the typical post-vacation excitement, but we had COVID tests for the entire school, and we welcomed our new Director of Communications, Joel Lewison (ICJA ’04). 

This week he is working alongside (virtually of course) our outgoing Director of Communications, Avigail Bass, who we will miss! Mrs. Bass was responsible for our new website and managed our weekly newsletters and pr materials. We wish her the best and look forward to working with Mr. Lewison – welcome aboard!

Because of all of the things happening today, I didn’t have a chance to visit any classes, and frankly, I was concerned that this email would not be “up to snuff.” But then, Rabbi Fox came into my office to show me a just-published book on Pirkei Avot.

Titled “The NCSY Pirkei Avot Project,” this book contains the commentary, artwork, and essays by students from thirty-two high schools in the United States. Of course, ICJA is represented well by last year’s seniors Noah Brody, Jacob Miller, Yaakov Rosenberg, Sarah Shiner, and current students Shira David and Liat Mott!

Copies of this book will be available for reading in our library, and NCSY and the OU have already begun their next project – collecting divrei Torah, essays, and artwork for a new book on Megillat Esther. And we will be part of that project as well. If any students want to volunteer to contribute, please see Rabbi Yoni Fox.

Now that school is back up and running, I want to remind students about ordering lunches in advance from Starr Catering. Doing so will guarantee that the food you want is waiting at the kiosk, and also it gives you even more options. Please remember that orders must be submitted 48 hours in advance – here is the link.

Tomorrow we skip 2nd period, and dismissal is at 4:58 pm. 


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

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