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9 Shevat 5781

January 22, 2020

Dear ICJA Family,

I realize that because classes aren’t meeting today, you probably aren’t expecting an update – but there are a few things to share.

The first is the wonderful news that with the exception of one test that needs to re-run because of a sampling problem (we hope to have the results by Sunday), all of the rest of our students, staff, and faculty tested negative for COVID-19! While this may sound too fantastic to believe, it is not only true, but a testament to all of you, students, families, faculty, and staff. Your commitment to ICJA, our in-person and remote learning, and the safety of all is amazing! Thank you.

The second is that while classes aren’t in session, the school is busy at work, collecting grades and preparing for interviews with our incoming freshmen. And the senior boys are here filming this year’s Purim Shpiel, which will be the centerpiece of our Purim program!

On the subject of thanks, this year’s ICJA Edward A. Crown Scholarship Dinner will be a tribute to three exceptional people who have made a difference through their years of dedicated service to our community and our school, and especially for what they have done this year. Long-time ICJA teacher Rabbi Dr. Binyomin Segal, who since the beginning of this pandemic has guided ICJA’s technology shift, will be recognized as the Educator of the Year. Dr. Ben Katz, a proud parent of alumnae and one of the leading experts in infectious diseases, has been guiding us, and so many institutions in creating policies and responding to the challenges of the pandemic will receive the Crown Distinguished Service Award. And ICJA’s past president and parent, Dr. Amy Kaissar, a member of our medical team and a cherished lay leader, will receive the Crown Distinguished Leadership Award. Stay tuned for more information on this event, June 9, 2021.

This Shabbat, in many of our shuls, we will be reciting, as we do every week, the prayer for governments of the U.S. and Israel. In the prayer for the U.S., there is a specific reference to the president and vice-president, which in the past has read את הנשיא ואת משנהו. But this week is different because for the first time, there is a female vice president, and the noun form we’ve been using is masculine! So what do you do? 

What I did was reach out to our long-standing Hebrew consultant Mrs. Rachel Moscowitz who works closely with our entire Hebrew Department but especially Mrs. Marmel. And she reached out to Hebrew grammarians in Israel who reported that there is a raging debate on this issue!

Some have proposed saying משנתו (mishnato), which is the feminine equivalent. The only problem is that it can be translated as “his Mishna” (as in the base text of Talmud!). As such, it is a לשון תפוס, an already assigned alternate meaning. Therefore, listen carefully this week for what will be said – suggestions include – והמשנה לנשיא (v’ha’mishnah la’nasi), וסגנת הנשיא (u’sganat hanasi), וסגניתו (u’sganito). 

Finally, I invite you to watch my dvar Torah on this week’s parsha – it’s about leadership and the public’s role. Click here.

Candle Lighting tonight is at 4:33 pm. See you on Monday – and remember to dress warmly (hint, hint…).

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


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

8 Shevat 5781

January 21, 2020

Dear ICJA Family,

Today is the last day of the first semester, and grades will be due by Monday next week. And while this sounds like school as usual, given all of the restrictions of COVID, it’s more like school as exceptional! I know that there are still some naysayers out there, people who feel that we should not have opened our doors to in-person instruction, but we did. And I am so grateful for everyone who made this first-semester work – teachers, students, parents, and the broader ICJA community. Because of the success in keeping everyone healthy and safe and the vaccinations that have begun, Ms. Gleicher and Mrs. Arons are returning to teaching in-person next week, and three of the long-term remote students have returned as well.

We know that “normal” is still months away – but we are on our way!

This morning as I was leaving my Gemara class, I bumped into a few of the boys from Rabbi Broner’s senior Talmud class – Benny Grey, Benzti Osgood, and Asher Pressburger. I asked them what they were doing in class (I had seen them earlier in the day learning b’chevruta in the gym – 6+ feet apart, of course!). They told me that this morning they were working on summaries of the latest sugya (topic) they had learned – the question of what would happen if a woman would pronounce the formula for betrothal and the man would give the ring (Kiddushin 5b). And then, they listed some of the commentaries they had studied – Rashi, Tosafot, Rashba Rambam, among others. Wow! Kol haKavod to Rabbi Broner and his boys!

On the “Club Front”: 

1. The JUMP team is moving forward on their “spiritual challenges” and next week will be all about Birchot haSachar (see the attached flyer)! Students – please complete your “spiritual wellness check” – click here!

2. Starting next week there will be a new club – led by Julia Bellows, Gabi Rosensweig and Audrey Perlman – it’s called Girls’ Talk. See the attached flyer for more information.

Tomorrow is grading day, and classes will not meet. Enjoy the long weekend.

Finally, before you come back on Monday, make sure that you wear something a little warmer, because in the morning you may be spending a period or so outside… והמבין יבין.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

7 Shevat 5781

January 20, 2021

Dear ICJA Family,

As I mentioned yesterday, today, all of the screens in the common areas were tuned all day long to the inauguration. And it was something to see – not just the inauguration – but the number of students who spent their free periods watching the events or pausing for a few minutes to catch up on the news.

We often wonder how aware our students are of current events, and I know that there is a wide range of knowledge among our students. Yet, the last few weeks, I have been impressed with how much our students have followed the events in Washington. Today was just the capstone to these weeks.

While the inauguration was underway, we also completed our fourth all-school COVID test. Hopefully, the results will be available sometime tomorrow, and bli ayin ha’ra, I hope that we will maintain our “winning streak” of 100% negative results. But if so, we need to continue to be vigilant, in and out of school. Ple us and keep our ICJA family healthy!

Earlier today, I dropped into Mrs. Kahan’s 11th grade English class. They had just finished reading Huckleberry Finn were presenting their thoughts on where Huck would be in 10 years after the end of the book. I listened to a few of the students’ presentations (Hannah Stein, Hannah Rothner, and Attar Benmelech). Their presentations were impressive, they were articulate, and they clearly understood the book’s lessons, and they were very creative in their presentation. Kol Hakavod!

Second semester senior schedules were sent today. If seniors did not receive their schedules, please speak to Mrs. Burson.

Tomorrow is a regular day, and all classes meet. Dismissal is at 5:39 pm. But remember that Friday is a day off of school as our teachers will be calculating their students’ grades (both 2nd quarter and 1st semester.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

6 Shevat 5781

January 19, 2021

Dear ICJA Family,

Today, many of our faculty received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, all of the faculty and staff will be vaccinated. I know that there are still many obstacles and risks ahead, but with G-d’s help and everyone’s commitment to community safety, we’re beginning to see the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Earlier today, Rabbi Yoni Fox’s 12th grade Chumash class began their final presentations on themes from Sefer Breishit. The boys were divided into groups and had to create PowerPoint presentations for the course. Rabbi Fox shared with me Bentzi Osgood, Ezra Landman-Feigelson and Josh Goltz’s comparison of the דור המבול and the דור הפלגה (the generation of the Flood and the generation of the Tower of Babel). It was impressive, kol hakavod!

By the way, this evening, the senior boys have an Israel interview prep-session with Rabbi Fox. It will be 8 pm in his zoom room, and he will review what our students can expect in the interviews with the yeshivot.

Tomorrow is a big day with a lot of things happening:

     1. Inauguration Day! Please G-d everything will be peaceful and safe. At ICJA, all of our flat screens in the common areas will be streaming the inaugural events live.

     2. All-school COVID testing. Once again, all of the students, faculty, and staff will be taking the test, scheduled to begin at 10:30 am. 

     3. Time Management seminar. The third session on time management will be led by Mrs. Julie Avner 7:00-7:45 pm (flyer attached).

     4. We will skip 7th period, and dismissal is at 4:58 pm.

Finally, it has been a long time since I reminded you of our COVID protocols. Here they are once again – 

If you have any COVID-like symptoms, STAY HOME, and household members must also STAY HOME.  Call the school as soon as possible to arrange for you (and your siblings) to attend remotely. It’s also a good idea to reach out directly to your teachers to let them know as well. Please speak with your doctor and follow his/her directions. In addition, our policies are as follows:

     a. If your doctor provides an alternative diagnosis (i.e., it’s just the flu), STAY HOME until you are fever-free for 24 hours, and any respiratory issues are improved. Household members can return immediately. But, you may not return to school without a doctor’s note from your primary care physician. 

     b. If you were tested with a PCR test for COVID and the results were negative – STAY HOME until you are fever-free for 24 hours and any respiratory issues are improved. However, after the negative test results, Household members can return immediately.

     c. If you were tested for COVID and the results were, G-d forbid, positive – immediately contact your local Department of Health for further instructions. Let the school know, and STAY HOME in quarantine until at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms, and 3 days without fever and improved respiratory symptoms. Household members must be in quarantine for 14 days from their last exposure to you.

     d. If you were NOT tested and there is no alternative diagnosis, STAY HOME for at least 10 days from symptom onset and at least 3 days after fever resolution (if present) and improved respiratory symptoms. Household members must also stay home for the same period of time.

If, G-d forbid, you were exposed to someone who is COVID positive, or if you were indoors, unmasked with people other than your family “pod” – i.e., in an indoor restaurant – quarantine at home for 7+3 days (PCR test after 7, return to school on day 11 from the date of exposure). 

Monst importantly, stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

5 Shevat 5781

January 18, 2021

Dear ICJA Family,

Shavua tov and welcome back to another wonderful week at ICJA!

Today was a special day at ICJA, as we commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with an all-school online assembly. Our guest speaker was Rev. Roger Cheeks, the director of outreach for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a former councilman in Terra Haute, Indiana, and assistant dean at Indiana State University. 

Rev. Cheeks spoke with our students about the lessons of Dr. King’s life and his relationship with the Jewish community. He shared many powerful ideas, but the one that I won’t forget is when he told our students that “they are not the future, they are the now,” and therefore, they can make a difference today. On behalf of ICJA, I thank our alum, Yael Eckstein, CEO of IFCJ, and Laurie Simkovitch CFO of IFCJ, who introduced me to Rev. Cheeks.

On another front, our mechanchim have been on a campaign to encourage the boys to wear their tzitzit. This month they are sponsoring a challenge, with prizes for the boys who self-report when they are fulfilling the mitzvah. This week’s winner of an Amazon gift card in Ben-Tzion Rine. Yaasher koach!

On the subject of encouraging mitzvot, I also want to remind everyone that our JUMP initiative, “COPO” (מן הכח אל הפועל) is in the midst of their mitzvah challenge is to be extra mindful of saying Asher Yatzar! Through signs and a great video, they are encouraging everyone to thank Hashem for allowing us to be healthy! Thank you, JUMP students.

Last week, following the riots in DC, some of the public students who have participated in our Student-to-Student program reached out to us concerned about the antisemitism that was visible among some members of that mob. Rachel Schwartz and Simone Miller, the chairs of Student-to-Student, responded to them with the following:

Thank you so much for contacting us; we have been grappling ourselves with the events that took place at the Capitol, and we are glad to know that others are also recognizing the disgusting bigotry and antisemitism that the country witnessed the other day. We felt deeply hurt and scared by everything that transpired, and seeing the sweatshirts with disturbing, anti-Semitic phrases was a shocking reminder that antisemitism is still prevalent and is actively harming Jews around the country. This is only one window into the depths of Jew-hatred. 

At Student to Student orientations, we have found that most presenters have experienced some form of antisemitism throughout their lives; though these encounters are typically microaggressions and not as explicit as a 6MWE or Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt, they leave a long-lasting impact on presenters. Recognizing antisemitism is the first step to overcoming it. Discussions like the one you had in class are crucial to combatting antisemitism: awareness and education are key to achieving a more welcoming world, and you are a vital part of that. It’s also important to remember that America is a complex country: while the Capitol was being stormed, Georgia simultaneously elected its first Jewish senator. There is still much work to do in creating an accepting America, and we hope that you carry with you the events of January 6th as a reminder that we must never relent in our pursuit of progress.

Tomorrow, we skip 4th 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 

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