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16 Shevat 5781

January 29, 2021

Dear ICJA Family,

“Short Fridays” are really short. We skip one of the morning periods, and the rest are only 30 minutes long, and even though the afternoon periods are a bit longer than the rest of the week, only half of them meet. But despite it all, just like any other day at ICJA, there is great learning to be seen on Friday.

Today, I had a chance to visit two classes – both 9th-grade girls and both studying Megillat Esther. Rabbi Yehuda Meyers was in the middle of a review – quizzing his students and using the personal whiteboards at their desks to allow for “choral responses” (that educationese for having the girls write their responses then showing them all together to the teacher). The material he was covering was pretty broad and included both the pshat and the midrashim on the text – and it was apparent that the girls had learned well.

The second class I visited was Mrs. Pogonitz’s Navi class. There, the girls were getting ready for chevruta time when they would prepare the next chapter of the text independently. To do so, Mrs. Pogonitz had the girls review the text and identify the words they didn’t know. Just as they were finished and divided into groups, the music began playing, and the period was over. But not before Sari Freimark, who has been learning remotely, was paired with Aviva and Maayan Dallal to learn (it’s become natural to move an iPad to create a hybrid chevruta!). It was great to see the level of engagement – kol hakavod!

And one more note about classes. My 12th grade Talmud class was wondering why I never write about them. The answer is that I don’t like to brag about this class – but they are wonderful students and have learned more than 20 blatt so far this year. And among them – Danni Glass wanted to make sure that she received a “shout-out” – so, Danni, here it is!

Next week, Rabbi Fliegelman will begin a series of meetings with our 11th-grade class about the next phase of the college planning process. This series is called “Decisions” and will teach our students how to access the resources and ask the right questions to select a university to meet their needs. All of the 11th graders should have received information about this and the specific on Tuesday and Thursday period that they are assigned to attend. Decisions will be held in room 418.

In two weeks, the 10th-grade students will begin meeting with Rabbi Fliegelman to review their transcripts and shape their next two years at ICJA. These meetings will be on Monday and Wednesday and will occur during their lunch period (5th or 6th period) in the Wrestling Practice Room.

Tomorrow night after Shabbat is the highly anticipated program with Judge Ruchie Freier. The documentary about her efforts to establish Ezras Nashim – the women’s paramedic corps will be shown from 7-8:30 pm, and then she will join the zoom for a Q & A. The program is for ICJA girls and female family members. Here is the link info – Meeting ID: 230 050 6380 Passcode: jpu0kd


Finally, click here for my Dvar Torah for this week’s parsha of Beshalach. Candle lighting tonight is at 4:42 pm (and you should receive report cards in the next hour or so).

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


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

15 Shevat 5781

January 28, 2021

Dear ICJA Family,

This morning, after our special Tu Bishvat program with Rabbi Judah Mischel (and the Tu Bishvat fruit distributed by our JUMP committee), I had the opportunity to observe Rabbi Broner’s 12th-grade honors Talmud class.

When I came into the class, Rabbi Broner was bringing up something from his google drive onto the large screen. I assumed it would be the Talmud text, a flowchart, or maybe one of the Rishonim that he studies with the class.

Imagine my surprise when he opened a copy of the Kehillat Yaakov, a contemporary commentary written by the Steipler Gaon, the late Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, זצ״ל. Because of its complexity, it’s a commentary that is typically reserved for more advanced study. But listening to the boys interact with the text, it was clear that I was watching an example of “more advanced study!” What nachas! 

A bit later, I met with the 11th-grade girls in a town hall meeting. After the necessary updates/announcements, I also had the opportunity to speak with them about the documentary they watched yesterday – its portrayal of the Chassidic community and the issues it raised. The girls were insightful, and I hope I helped give them some perspective about the differences between our community and a Chassidic community and our responsibility to appreciate and respect the “other” even when we may disagree and follow a “mesorah” that is different than theirs.

Which is my opportunity to remind all of our female students and their mothers that this motzaei Shabbat ICGC and the Feminism Club is hosting another showing of the documentary and a live question and answer session with Judge Ruchie Freier. All of the information is on the flyer that’s attached.

Between the town hall and on the way to teach my class (12th-grade girls honors Talmud), I passed by Mrs. Yitzchak’s class. They were in the middle of baking challah – and learning the halachot of separating challah. It was a sight to behold, and I look forward to tasting some of the challah they baked this Shabbat (- one of the best benefits of being dean at ICJA!).

We are almost finished reviewing the report cards for the second semester and will be sending them tomorrow before Shabbat!

Finally, this Sunday, our director of admissions and I are beginning to interview the candidates for the ICJA class of 2025! If you know someone who you think should be part of our ICJA family -please have them contact Mrs. Nussbaum ( for a conversation, a tour, or simply to apply – the time is NOW! 

Tomorrow, we skip 2nd period in the morning, and periods 7, 8, and 9 will meet in the afternoon. The school will be dismissed at 1:58 pm, and candle lighting is at 4:42 pm.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

14 Shevat 5781

January 27, 2021

Dear ICJA Family,

Once upon a time, second-semester seniors had an easier time at school. Colleges acceptances were in hand, and the concern of getting good grades was significantly reduced. But now, with the proliferation of AP courses for seniors at ICJA (Bio, Stats, English, Calc, Physics, Psych, and Euro), the difference between the first and second semesters has diminished. 

Except there is one significant difference, second-semester seniors can also choose for six different electives: Public Speaking (Mrs. Goldstein), Coding (Rabbi Segal), Economics (Mr. Cooper), STEM 2 (Mr. Keller), American Jewish History (Rabbi Myers), and Women’s Health (Ms. Avner).

While each of these courses offers outstanding learning opportunities for our seniors, the Women’s Health course was designed anew and promises to be a great addition to our course catalog. The girls will explore topics such as motivation and discipline, personal values and beliefs, goal setting, decision-making processes, critical and creative thinking, interpersonal communication, developmental psychology, and learning and personality theories. And they will do all of this, with reading, discussions, project-based learning, and even story-telling and journaling. 

Kudos to Ms. Avner for creating this program together with Mr. Zbaraz and Dr. Green. We look forward to hearing great things, and hopefully, next year, Mr. Zbaraz will be offering a similar program for the boys!

Today all of the girls watched the documentary 93Queen, in preparation for the motzaei Shabbat program with Judge Freier. It is a fascinating film and thought-provoking. But watching it, I realized that many of our students are entirely unfamiliar with Chasidic lifestyles, and therefore may have been puzzled or unnecessarily troubled by parts of the film. ICGC will be showing the film again in Mrs. Kraft’s zoom room from 7-8:30 this motzaei Shabbat (information is forthcoming), and I encourage those who missed it to see, and those who saw it to talk about it with their families and teachers.

Tonight and tomorrow are Tu Bishvat, and tomorrow morning, during 1st period, we will have a guest speaker – Rabbi Judah Mischel. The program will start at 9:05 am – here is the link

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

13 Shevat 5781

January 26, 2021

Dear ICJA Family,

B”H a little bit of snow did not stop our teachers and students from making it to school today! 

This was a good thing, not only because the Junior class took the PSAT today but also because there was great teaching and, more importantly, great learning throughout the day.

I could give a lot of examples, but let me share just two quick ones. 

The first was Mrs. Pederson’s 9th grade accelerated math class. I walked in during a test, which is usually not the best of time to observe a class. But because the students were all engaged, I had the chance to learn from Mrs. Pederson how she uses technology to engage both her in-person and remote students.

Using two or three devices, she can: wirelessly project the images from her iPad on the screen and to the remote students, use the app “notability” to take notes on the problems that the students all received electronically, and then at the end of class email those screens/notes to her students. 

She does a lot more, but when I asked her if this was the way she taught before COVID, she said “no.” This was so very impressive and one of the great things that will come out of these challenging times – the way technology is being used to support learning!

Then, there was Ms. Gleicher’s AP Bio class, which yesterday had a presentation from a professor at U of C who had led the lab that developed one of the saliva COVID tests. During his presentation, Dr. Izumchenko had to change gears midstream when he realized how much our students knew. And today, they were graphing fetal hemoglobin gene development (I think I got it right).

It was a regular class, but the nachas I had was watching the level of engagement and enthusiasm the students had while learning. Aron Gottlieb was at the board graphing (yes, old school whiteboard and marker) while all of the students had their laptops open, trying to guide him on how to draw the data. 

It was a great example of a teacher guiding the students as they learned, challenging them, and making it look so effortless and natural!

As I mentioned yesterday, tomorrow – 4th and 5th periods ICGC will be running the first part of a special program for all of our students. In school, they will be watching the documentary 93 Queen. And then, after Shabbat, there will be an online Q & A with the subject of the documentary, Judge Ruchie Freier. Here is some more background on her and the movie

And for the boys, the mechanchim have created a 3-point competition – see the attached flyer, or click here to sign up.

Since yesterday, more than 25 people have signed up for the Chess Tournament – click here if you haven’t signed up yet.

Tomorrow is an early dismissal day (4:58 pm), and we skip 8th period.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

12 Shevat 5781

January 25, 2021

Dear ICJA Family,

Welcome back to the 2nd semester!

After davening, we began the day with another fun pop-up activity – “Human Foosball.” I know pictures have been posted on social media, and most everyone took the hint from last week’s updates and dressed warmly for the outside program.

It was a lot of fun, it was safe, and it was a great way for all of the students to do something a little different. Thank you to Mrs. Zeffren and Rabbi Fox for planning another great program.

Speaking of programs, on Thursday, we will have a special presentation for Tu BiShvat, featuring Rabbi Judah Mischel – more information to come.

And now to some BIG news!

Because of the improvement in COVID cases in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) revised its guidelines for school sports over the weekend. As a result, we have met with our building staff, our athletic staff, and of course, our medical committee and created a plan to slowly and safely reopen our sports programming.

BASKETBALL is now permitted to have practices & intra-team scrimmages. However, no interscholastic sports are allowed at this time. 

FENCING, SOCCER, and BASEBALL will also be allowed to prepare for their new seasons (practice and scrimmage), and if things remain stable (or please G-d, better) will be allowed to compete against other schools. 

WRESTLING will continue with their conditioning program.

Athletes and coaches will be required to be masked or wear a gaiter at all times. Social distancing must continue to be observed when not on the court/field.

The sports program will begin next week, and our athletic director Brittany Peters will be coordinating the gym schedule with our coaches. At this time, all sports will be open to all students, and tryouts will be scheduled when more information is available from the IDPH and IHSA.


On the subject of teams… one of the most popular teams is CHESS – and they are having a tournament! Here is what I just received from Noah Brody, who is organizing this event – 

        Greetings Chess players of ICJA:

        Below is a google form to sign up for the first-ever school-wide online

        rapid chess tournament. The Tournament will start on February 8th. 

        The rest of the details are listed in the form. The deadline to sign up is 

        February 5th.

        Good Luck, 

        The Chess Team Captains

Tomorrow is the PSAT for all Juniors. This test is mandatory for all of our students and is not only a good practice for future standardized tests but will identify next year’s Merit Scholars and yield important academic data for students and our school.

The test will begin at 9:00 am. For those who do not have extended time, the test will conclude at 12:20, at which time there will be lunch, and then they will start with 8th period. Those with extended time will have a lunch break at 12:00noon and conclude the test at 2:20, followed by periods 10-12.

Juniors, please make sure to be on time for school, and bring your #2 pencils!

Finally, there has been an update to an exciting ICGC program – this Wednesday, during 4th and 5th periods, the girls will be seeing the documentary 93 Queen – about Judge Ruchie Frieier’s efforts to create a women’s hatzalah. Then after Shabbat, Judge Freier will be on a live zoom for a Q&A. The flyer is attached.

Tomorrow is an early dismissal, and we skip 4th period.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

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