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28 Adar 5781

March 12, 2021

Dear ICJA Family

Shabbat is coming, yet so much is still happening that I don’t know where to begin.

So let’s just start with today – with the opportunity I had to drop into Rabbi Stromer’s Gemara class, where he was teaching his class about the laws of basar b’chalav (milk and meat). It’s a highly complex topic, and the boys were throwing out questions and facts that he was fielding with aplomb, which showed how much they had already learned—Kol haKavod to them and especially to Rabbi Stromer.

Back to my office, I had a chance to meet with Perel Jacobson and Aiden Eisenstein. They are spearheading an outdoor senior class-only viewing event for tomorrow night’s Yeshiva/ICJA game. I think that the setup and all of the tech will be in place, and I hope the weather won’t be too cold because I’m going to be outside with them, cheering our team on. Go Aces!

Sunday is our very first boys’ soccer game. It’s at 4:15 in Northbrook, and we are excited about this, our newest team joining all of the rest of the sports at ICJA.

Next week is the final week of 3rd quarter. Students – please make sure that any outstanding assignments are completed before next Friday. If not, your teachers may have to give you an “incomplete,” which generally means that you will have six weeks to submit the missing material and receive a corrected grade.

This Shabbat is Parshat HaChodesh and on Sunday is Rosh Chodesh Nisan – which means that Pesach is just around the corner. Some of you have already reached out to share your vacation plans. For those who have not, please be in touch. Remember, our rule is that it is not so much an issue of where you will be, but what you will be doing. Please avoid gatherings where people are unmasked and not distanced. And if you find yourself in such a situation, please let us know – a student may need to go onto zoom, but our community’s health is most important.

If you have time – here is my dvar Torah for this week – it’s about the year that was and the year to come. Click here.

Candle Lighting tonight is at 5:34 pm.

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


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

27 Adar 5781

March 11, 2021

Dear ICJA Family

While I try my best to keep everyone abreast of all of the exciting things at ICJA, sometimes they happen so quickly that it’s hard to keep track.

For example, this week, I forgot to tell you about three exciting projects – another edition of “Strings for Sammy,” an important presentation by Student to Student, and finally, the school-wide “chess tournament.”

“Strings for Sammy” is an initiative that the Bernstein family created for ICJA boys to learn how to make tzitzit. It is named in memory of their son, Sammy Bernstein, z”l, who passed away nearly three years ago. Sammy was a kind and generous soul, an ICJA alum, who loved music and cherished his tzitzit. As a zechut for his precious neshama, his family not only endowed our music program but created an opportunity for all of the boys in ICJA to learn (or practice) making tzitzit. And this week, they did again, and it was great watching boys winding the strings to complete their tzitzit.

I’ve written a lot about Student to Student, which continues to grow. This week, over 200 students at Intrinsic High School (a Chicago charter school) participated. As we have all year, the presentations were online – but very well done. To understand the importance of this program, just consider that over 60% of the students reported that they had never met a Jew before this presentation! 

Special thanks to our STS coordinator Mrs. A. Zeffren and our new community mentor program, ICJA alums, Mrs. Alison Molotsky, and Mrs. Miki Schreiber, who chaperoned the afternoon presentations.

Nearly two months ago, senior Noah Brody announced the formation of a chess tournament. More than 40 students participated, and today was the final round, pitting senior Enon Gurvich against faculty advisor and chess player extraordinaire Rabbi Rosenbaum. Enon defeated Rabbi Rosenbaum, not once but twice, and is the ICJA chess champion of 5781!

By the way, at maariv this evening, Enon stopped me to ask about promoting the new Aces wrestling sweatshirt. They cost $35, and the buyer can put any (appropriate) phrase/name they would like on the sweatshirt’s back. If you are interested, please email Enon at

And lest you think that we only “do extracurriculars,” today I had a chance to drop into Mrs. Stopek’s Ivrit class. They had read the famous parable of a blind person who encounters an elephant and tries to determine what it is by touch. As a follow-up, the girls had to create a “news report” describing the scene. Of course, the report had to be all in Hebrew, and because it is 2021 – it was an iMovie. I watched a couple of the presentations – and they were great – Kol haKavod to Dahlia Matanky and Yael Appel, and Dini Robinson and Talia Jacobs, and to all of the girls in the class!

Motzaei Shabbat is the last ICJA-FYHS basketball game. And before the game, the parents of our graduating seniors and their coaches will celebrate the seniors on our team with a special COVID-edition senior night. It will be at 7:45 pm and open to the seniors and their parents. AND it will conclude in enough time for the boys to warm up for the game and the parents to make it home to watch the game online.

Finally, Mrs. Goldstein wanted to ensure that all students know that applications for next year’s Crown Prints Staff are now available. For more information, please see editor-in-chief, Simone Miller or Mrs. Goldstein.

Tomorrow is erev Shabbat, and we skip 3rd period in the morning and periods 7, 8, and 9 meet in the afternoon. Dismissal is at 1:58 pm.

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

26 Adar 5781

March 10, 2021

Dear ICJA Family

Today was another inspiring day at ICJA. I had a chance to visit several classrooms where the students were learning with real intensity; to meet with lay leaders who are committed to helping us grow and attract new students; and to speak with students who were excited to meet their teacher, who finally has returned to teach in person.

This afternoon, I had a chance to visit Mrs. Gottlieb’s Chemistry class. Believe it or not, I still remembered enough chemistry to follow along (something I can’t do as well in physics because when I was a junior and studying motion, I was preoccupied with writing the shpiel – shhh!). But back to chemistry. The question at hand was calculating the mass of a component in a compound. Mrs. Gottlieb was teaching it using an app called nearpod, viewing all of the student devices via Apple Classroom, working with the whiteboard, and making sure that even the students who were remoting-in were engaged. It was a great balancing act, and it worked.

I was sitting behind Charlie Singer, and it was fun to watch how he could take notes on his computer, respond to group questions posed on nearpod and listen and process the information Mrs. Gottlieb was teaching. And he was not alone – because that’s what all of the students were doing.

Later, we had a faculty meeting which, of course, we conducted over zoom. We talked about service points (if you have any questions, see Mrs. Wasserstrom), the upcoming SAT and SAT 9/10 to be administered in April, and the student survey on March 22. 

But the bulk of the meeting was a conversation the faculty had about what ICJA will be like in the future, something I called “ICJA Next.” Because I believe that very soon, when masks and distancing will no longer be needed, that we shouldn’t think about going back to “the way it was.” Rather, we need to see what were the lessons we’ve learned and think about what the “next can be.”

I wonder if you’ve thought about it? What are the lessons we have learned and that we can bring forward? What are the things we have done in response to the pandemic that has made ICJA better and should be continued?

When you have a chance, please let me know what you think. We are on the cusp of a very exciting time – and let’s make the most of this opportunity!

Finally, Nikki Frank – here is your “shout out”! 

Tomorrow is a regular day! Dismissal is at 5:39.

As always, stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

24 Adar 5781

March 8, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

With just a couple of weeks until Pesach vacation, you might think that things are slowing down at ICJA. But they are not. In fact, there are more extra-curricular activities taking place than any other two-week period this year, and as we near the end of the quarter, classes are moving full-steam ahead!

Here is just a partial list of upcoming events:

Tonight is the first Yeshiva-Academy game of the season 7:00 pm at ICJA (see below for live streaming information). Yeshiva-Academy games have been the highlight of our basketball season ever since the Yeshiva became a separate school from ICJA (yes, for those who don’t know – the Yeshiva used to be the “boys division of the Academy”!). Tonight will be the first of two games, and it’s sure to be a lot of fun – Go Aces!

Tomorrow is the official tryout for our new boys’ soccer team – 5:00 pm on the ICJA Soccer Field. And yes, the goals are in place, and the field is ready for both the boys’ and girls’ teams.

Thursday, during 4th period, is a 10th-grade girls Town Hall meeting.

Next week, Thursday, March 18, the mechanchim are hosting an after-school boys’ Bubble Soccer Tournament! The flyer is attached, and boys can sign-up to participate here – or speak with Rabbi Stromer or Rabbi Fox for more information. 

Sunday, March 21 at 9:30 will be an in-person (socially distanced and masked) parent and child learning program for Pesach sponsored by our mechanchim and mechanchot, with follow-up shiurim online Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings!

And, because we need feedback from our students, on March 22, there will be an in-school survey of our students conducted by Measuring Success. More information to follow!

Today’s Town Hall meeting with the 10th-grade boys focused on two issues, the current COVID safety measures and a moral/halachic dilemma that I posed to the students – when is it important to report on the bad behavior of another student. It was a fascinating conversation – as we looked at the line that needs to be crossed for someone to take action. It’s not a simple issue, and as I mentioned to the students, it’s a dilemma that we all face throughout our lives. 

For the parents reading this note – I would encourage you to explore this issue with your children. Listening to them and helping them try to find the right balance between preserving friendships and doing the right thing is a critical discussion to be had. If you are interested, there is a wonderful book on this topic that I mentioned to the boys – “False Facts and True Rumors” by Rabbi Daniel Feldman.

Towards the end of the day, I had a chance to pop into the AP Physics class. When I stepped in, Mr. Sears was just about to work on a problem with his class. But unlike his typical strategy of using whiteboards, he was going to do a full class lecture/discussion (which he bemoaned when he saw me walking in). But it wasn’t at all the kind of physics lecture I had when I was a student at ICJA. Instead, he engaged the students, making them think through each step of the problem. It was a joy to observe and watch the students think along with him each step of the way.

Finally, have I mentioned that we are getting a ping-pong table for school? If not, we are – just to give everyone one more thing to do during free periods. We’re not sure yet, where it will be stationed, but I am sure that it will add one more measure of fun to the day!

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

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