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21 Adar 5781

March 5, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Just a few minutes ago, we completed another very successful week at ICJA. How do I define success? It’s when a week of learning includes a week of community and of students finding ways to grow and achieve.

I’ve already shared with you news about some of the classes I visited this week. But I haven’t told you about my class – the 12th-grade girls Talmud class who today took their 3rd test as part of the national Talmud competition. I’m pretty sure that at least one of my students is ranked in the top three in the nation – a tribute to her skills and hard work (I’m not yet at liberty to share her name), and the others are doing very nicely as well.

After the test was over, I had a few minutes to study a rabbinic responsum authored just today in Israel by HaRav Yosef Zvi Rimon about Play-Doh and Pesach. It was a fascinating responsum. It touched on issues of the definition of edible vs. inedible food, chametz, and even the status of shampoos, lotions, and soaps for Pesach. And the best part was that girls understood it, using the knowledge they have gained over the years to apply its principles to other situations.

Last night was the girls’ Basketball game versus Rochelle Zell. I hope you were able to watch it despite some technical difficulties. Our Lady Aces outperformed their opponents three to one! Kol hakavod. 

After the game, one of the parents reached out to me about scheduling more games for the girls. We tried to – in fact, we had hoped to schedule a few more. But between one school’s outbreak of COVID the limited availability of the other school, and IHSA’s limits of our team’s calendar of games, we weren’t able to do so. But I guess the consolation is that our Lady Aces ended their season undefeated – and even if they had played more, they were so good last night that I have a feeling that they would have done the same!

By the way, on the topic of sports, I need to give a shout-out to our wrestlers. For those who don’t know, our wrestling team is one of a kind. Every practice is either followed or preceded by a minyan and sometimes a dvar Torah. The joie de vivre among the players and their coaches is exceptional, and Coach Klein, our longest-serving coach, has created a standard of excellence that is an example to all.

While I don’t believe that they will even have a single competitive game this year, they are still conditioning, and hopefully soon, having inter-squad matches. But what truly stands out in my mind was an event that Coach Klein hosted this year – his annual BYOF (Bring Your Own Fleshigs) Purim Seudah. It usually is at his house. But this year, to keep the tradition going, the boys met outside at Central Park in Skokie in 30-degree weather to have their seudah. Wow! I can’t wait to see what they will do for their annual Shavuot Mishmar that Coach Klein traditionally hosts.

Candle Lighting tonight is at 5:26 pm. Tomorrow is Parshat Parah, which according to some halachic authorities, is a mitzvah d’orayta no different than Parshat Zachor.

If you have time, here is the link to this week’s Dvar Torah.

See you next week!!

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


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

20 Adar 5781

March 4, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Today was and is a very busy day at ICJA. Not only are all of the classes in full-swing, but this morning the YU Kollel held the second of a two-session on Emunah (it went very well – and thank you Rabbi Zucker for coordinating); a second-period kick-off of this month’s theme of tefillah featuring Rabbi Danishefsky (he was great); a new WhatsApp group to support the tefillah theme (so far, 30 sign-ups); and a fourth period Town Hall meeting with the 11th-grade girls (it was an excellent conversation – if I do say so myself!).

On top of that, our yearbook editors are scrambling to finish the final edits to the yearbook. Which is not new – every year at this time, they scramble. Except for the fact that one of the steps in the process involves my reviewing every page – and today, they gave me over 100 pages… if only the yearbook was the size of the 1946 CJA classic yearbook – about 40 pages, and they were done! But it’s going to be a beautiful product, and the editors, Maya Wasserman, Simone Miller, and Asher Pressburger, deserve a tremendous amount of credit for making this happen.

A few minutes ago, I left Mrs. Arons’ 10th grade English class. It was her class, but Rabbi Myers was teaching. He was, as usual, a font of stories and knowledge, moving effortlessly from Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai to Martin Buber, Immanuel Kant, Rav Soloveitchik and ending with an episode that took place at New York Kosher (let’s see who remembers that!).

The lesson’s point was the obligation we have to create a relationship of respect and value with others, to greet others, pay attention to others, and make others feel part of our lives. It was a great class. But why was it part of Mrs. Aron’s English program? Because her students were charged with writing an evaluative essay of Rabbi Myers’ presentation.

I look forward to reading some examples. But this class was also an example of how our teachers work together and use opportunities to bring Torah u’maddah together.

In less than an hour is our first basketball game of the season – I hope you will tune in to watch our Lady Aces!

Tomorrow, we skip 2nd period, and periods 10, 11, and 12 meet.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

19 Adar 5781

March 3, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

I need your assistance.

In just a couple of weeks, we will be reaching the first anniversary of when we had to close school due to COVID. A lot has happened in the past year – terrible tragedies and stunning victories. And throughout it all and with your help and G-d’s protection, our ICJA community has stayed strong and proven our commitment to Torah uMaddah, by continuing to teach and learn.

But now, with the good news that continues to appear in the media, the approval of yet another vaccine, and the gradual reopening of our community, I have seen a greater laxity among students and parents. And while our masking protocol is still firmly in place, the other pillars of protection are not as assiduously observed.

Why? Because things are better. Many have been vaccinated, and everyone is tired of the restrictions. But the pandemic is not over, and the concerns for everyone’s safety, especially our students, are real.

Just today, one of our sister schools in Chicago had to place two grades in quarantine. Last week, a prominent high school out of town had a significant outbreak due to an out-of-school gathering. And the list goes on.

Please, we have done so well for so long – let’s get to the finish line safely! Students – please continue to watch your distance, both in and out of school, and use the hand sanitizer frequently. And parents – please do not plan family travel without letting us know (sometimes you will be able to come right back, but sometimes you might have to quarantine). And please do not take risks with gatherings – especially those indoors.

If you or any member of your immediate family have any flu-like symptoms, please stay home and call us. We will take the information and check with our medical committee. And if you were exposed to a person who had COVID, and it is before the two-week period following a second vaccine, please stay home as well.

Together, we will succeed, and we will get past this difficult time.

And now, back to today and tomorrow.

I had the opportunity to visit some more classes today, Rabbi Rosen’s senior boys Talmud class, Rabbi Rosenbaum’s junior boys Talmud class, and Mrs. Aron’s sophomore English class.

Rabbi Rosen was teaching his class about an unusual scenario of betrothal. With his permission, I had a good time jumping in and taking his class in a bit of a different direction, comparing that form of betrothal to a normal betrothal. The boys were very good – and thanks to Dov Applebaum’s willingness to serve as my guarantor (that was the case), I think I was successful in making my point.

Rabbi Rosenbaum’s class was in the middle of an oral test – his students were in the middle of a long comment Rashi about a “tennai kaful” – a two-sided condition. It was impressive how well the boys knew the information and how well they were reading and explaining the text. 

Finally, at the end of the day, I had a chance to step into Mrs. Aron’s class. Her students were in the middle of a writing assignment, imagining a character from a story they had read ten years into the future. I didn’t stay long because they were writing – or should I say typing, since everyone was on their devices working diligently. But what I could tell was how focused they were and how natural it was for them to be writing (I mean typing) in class.

Tomorrow during 1st period is the second session on Emunah for 10th-grade girls led by the Kollel. During 2nd period, the JUMP committee will be hosting a special program featuring former ICJA teacher Rabbi Yaakov Danishefsky. We’re looking forward to him introducing the new theme of these coming weeks. And 4th period tomorrow will be an 11th-grade girls town hall meeting in the gym.

And of course, in the evening is the first of our basketball games – don’t miss it, live at 6:45 pm on our “Zaidy Robert Berezin Court Cam.” (Log in info is below).

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

18 Adar 5781

March 2, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

First, the really good news – all of the COVID test results are in, and again, everyone tested negative. And while I realize that this has become the “expected” result, please don’t take it for granted. We have accomplished so much this year, but we still need to be vigilant to keep our community safe.

By the way, with Pesach not too far away, I want to remind you to please maintain all of our regular COVID protocols, especially for our students who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. If you plan to travel, please wear masks, maintain distance, don’t eat in indoor restaurants, and be careful with handwashing.

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to visit Mrs. Marmels’ 9th grade Hebrew class. The boys presented short movies that they had created around an article that they had read as a class. The subject was what the brain does while we sleep, and the article was about research conducted on birds. I couldn’t be there for the whole period, but I did get to see three of the movies – by Jacob Friedman and Milo Benmelech, Jed Marcus and Netanel Barsky, and Adam Katz and Sam Gorenstein. All three were impressive – not only because of the technology that has become so natural and normal, but also because of the Hebrew narration that the boys provided as the key to their assignment. 

Finally, with the upcoming basketball games just around the corner, I want to remind everyone that, unfortunately, to minimize risk, the games are closed to spectators. However, we will be broadcasting all of the games on the web. Due to the Schwartz family’s generosity and their endowment of our “Zaidy Robert Berezin Court Cam,” all ICJA home games are available for free. However, when we play away games, we depend on the host schools for their equipment. To watch the RZ games, there is a $10.99 charge per game. If you plan to watch games online, there is a brief online registration necessary – so log on a little before the start times. See below for weblinks and times.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

17 Adar 5781

March 1, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

A lot has happened since my last update. ICGC’s Purim Chagiga was a big success, with most girls in attendance, and they had a great time! Thank you, ICGC board and Mrs. Kraft and Mrs. Gold!

And the senior class’s special Purim event was also a lot of fun! Almost the entire class came, as did many of the senior teachers. Ax throwing (it was actually hatchet-throwing) and archery were a big hit, and the costumes were fantastic – including Ezra Landsman’s elf costume, Mia Herman’s “yeshivisha levush,” and of course – Big Bird (I wonder who dressed up like that!?). 

Which brings us to today – to 2:00 pm today and one of the quietest moments I have ever walked through our building’s common areas. Why was it so quiet? Because everyone was in class glued to their screens as the senior boys presented a special highlight version of their Purim Shpiel, starring Isaac Geifman and Zeke Zwelling and the senior boys. 

To see the full version of this year’s Purim Shpiel, click here – “Two thumbs up” for this production – and especially some of the teacher impressions – which were spot-on!

After the shpiel was over and classes went back to normal, I had a chance to drop into Mrs. Kahan’s 10th grade English class. They were studying grammar – which not everyone enjoys. But to Mrs. Kahan’s credit – she had some assignments. The one I got to see was about the placement of commas. Everyone had to take the same sentence and demonstrate how a comma can change a sentence’s meaning. One I got to see was from Avi Zeller, who took the sentence “Do you want a pet, kid” and removed the comma to write “Do you want a pet kid,” illustrated by a picture of a toddler on a leash. 

Finally, today we welcomed back Mr. Zbaraz for his first full day on campus! It was great to see him and have him back in person. Over the next week, we hope to see more of our faculty who have had to be remote this year. Things are improving – but please let’s remain vigilant about the three W’s – wear masks, wash your hands and watch your distance!!

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

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