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6 Nisan 5781

March 19, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Late last night, I received an exciting email from one of our seniors, Ezra Landman-Feigelson. Several weeks back, we had made arrangements for him to participate in a TV show via videoconference. The show is WTTW’s “The Great Chicago Quiz Show” and is hosted by Geoffrey Baer. Last night Ezra found out that the show will air next Friday night (oh well, I guess we won’t be watching it live…), which is exciting news!

I look forward to sharing the link when it is posted.

This morning’s YU Torah MiTzion Kollel Pesach seminar was brief – 30 minutes per grade – but fascinating, as it touched on areas of halacha and Jewish thought (i.e., how the Jewish revolution of Egypt was so very different from most other revolutions). By the way, did you know that the potential problem with pop on Pesach is not only the sweetener (typically corn/kitniyot based) but even the CO2, which can be derived from grains! Thank you to Rabbi Brand, Rabbi Zucker, Rabbi Goldstein, and Rabbi Katz for great presentations!

Sunday morning is a unique pre-Pesach learning program for parents and students. It is from 9:30 am – 11:00 am in-person and at ICJA and will feature shiurim with Rabbis Fox and Stromer and Mmes. Gold and Kraft. We hope you can take a break from the Pesach work to prepare for Pesach! Then, on Monday – Wednesday at 8:00 pm, there will be online shiurim with Rabbi Rosenbaum (3/22), Mrs. Friedman (3/23), and Rabbi Sprung (3/24). You can link to those online shiurim by clicking on their names above. 

On the topic of Pesach, there are many resources available online for families to enrich your seder experience. One of particular note is a special Pesach reader, prepared by Koren, featuring the writing of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, z”l. To download a copy, click here.

Monday is going to be a very busy day. In the morning, all of our students will be completing an online student survey. This confidential survey was created by Measuring Success, a firm we have used for many years to collect data for us. It will survey the students about their classes and teachers and the entire ICJA experience. This survey was initially scheduled for last year, at this time, but then everything closed, and but it on hold. Baruch Hashem, we have been back, and now is a good time to check-in and see what our students think.

After school, there will be the first girls’ soccer (voluntary) practice and the other postponed event – the Mechanchim’s Bubble Soccer Tournament. Both are scheduled for 5:45 pm. The boys will be on the soccer field and the girls on the west lawn of the campus.

By the way, for those who have ordered wrestling sweatshirts please make sure to bring your payment on Monday!

Finally, this morning, as I was greeting students, Joseph Rothner handed me a Nike “golf shirt” from his father’s company and asked if I’d give him a shout-out (which I just did!). In the future – no presents are necessary – I’m always happy to find ways to highlight our students, in both small and big ways.

To listen to my dvar Torah on this week’s parsha, click here.

Candle lighting tonight is at 6:42 pm.

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


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

5 Nisan 5781

March 18, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Last night, our students who are part of our JUMP team, a national leadership program sponsored by NCSY, presented their project online to a panel of judges. Their project is called COPO – which stands for מן הכוח אל הפועל and is an effort to enhance spirituality and tefillah. To their great credit, their work was recognized as one of the top four projects nationally and awarded $1500 to invest in programming. Kol haKavod to committee members Laura Bellows, Sarah Friedman, David Gaffen, Shiri Kolom, Attar Benmelech, and Jonathan Thomas, and their advisors are Rabbi Fox and Mrs. Zeffren. 

Today, our incoming Assistant Dean, Rabbi Dr. Gavi Brown, visited ICJA to prepare for his move to our community and school. He had a chance to meet with teachers, department chairs and sit in on several classes. He even sat in our 12th-grade girls’ Town Hall meeting. It was great having him on campus, and we look forward to when he and his wife, Bec, will become full members of our ICJA community!

At the Town Hall meeting, I had a chance to speak to our senior girls about our tentative plans for Senior Retreat (yes – I hope it will happen), Graduation (I am sure it will happen), and to remind them that “it ain’t over til it’s over” – which means that even though there are not that many days left, their class needs to keep plugging away, learning and studying until the year is complete. 

After answering some of their questions (“When are senior finals?” May 12-14 and May 19-20) we had a chance to talk about the lessons we should learn from this past year. As other groups have said, they found the fun “pop-up days” to add spirit to the school, and they liked the outside seating for when the weather is nice, appreciated teachers’ added level of understanding, and having more space in classes. They also advocated for a late start to the day, but B”H that will end after Pesach when mandatory minyan resumes at ICJA.

Tomorrow, our YU Torah MiTzion Kollel members will be running a pre-Pesach workshop for all of our students. Thank you in advance to them for this initiative – I know it will be important and informative.

Just a few minutes ago, Bentzi Osgood dropped in and asked that I remind everyone that the wrestling sweatshirts need to be ordered by Monday, and people should bring in their payment – $35 by Monday.

Also, I was asked to announce that Or Torah will have a 9:00 am Chol HaMoed minyan for high school students and invites all ICJA students to attend. 

Finally, tonight’s Bubble Soccer Tournament had to be postponed until Monday because the field was too wet and slippery. Rabbi Fox and Rabbi Stromer will just have to wait a little longer for that fun event!

Tomorrow, erev Shabbat dismissal will be at 1:58, and we skip 1st 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 

4 Nisan 5781

March 17, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

This afternoon I had the chance to drop into two classes, Mr. Keller’s 9th-grade Algebra class and Mrs. Goldstein’s 12th-grade public speaking class. Both classes were memorable for very different reasons.

Mrs. Goldstein’s students were in the middle of demonstrative speeches. I watched Zeke Zwelling’s explanation of how to put on tefillin and Alyssa Amrami’s speech on how to make dumplings. Both students were poised, and both did a great job. It was also interesting how Mrs. Goldstein asked the class for their feedback and then offered very specific feedback of her own.

Mr. Keller’s class, I’m sure, was also fantastic – but when I walked in, I saw a group of girls emptying a “kiddie pool” – bailing water out into the sink. As Mr. Keller said, “this is probably not the best day to visit,” but I was intrigued. What had happened was that his 7th period STEM class had built remote control boats and needed a way to test them. That’s why there was a kiddie pool in the room. The only problem was that unbeknownst to Mr. Keller – the pool had a hole in it, therefore the need to empty it.

Which would have worked because his students were faithfully helping, but then I came in with a “better idea.” First, I suggested that we create a siphon – which I tried to do, but the water in the pool was too low (the students had bailed out a lot already!). Next, I called all of the kids to help me lift the pool and pour the water into the sink. It seemed like a good idea at the time but did you ever try lifting one of those plastic kiddie pools? Suffice it to say that next, I called our cleaning crew and asked them to bring mops to clean up the flood. 

To Mr. Keller’s credit, he wasn’t flustered and went back to teaching algebra, while I quickly and quietly left the room, wet shoes and all.

Unfortunately, tonight’s boys’ soccer game is canceled due to a scheduling conflict. But, girls’ soccer voluntary practices begin this Monday, March 22, after school, starting at 5:45 pm. Please contact Coach Leo at if you have any questions. 

Tomorrow is a regular day! There will be a 12th-grade girls Town Hall meeting during 4th period, and dismissal is at 5:39. After dismissal is the ICJA Mechanchim Bubble Soccer Tournament!

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

2 Nisan 5781

March 15, 2021

Dear ICJA Family

One year ago, I sent my first daily update describing the plan we developed to deliver an ICJA education online. It was two days after the Governor’s surprise announcement that closed schools in Illinois and two days before we would be entirely online for all of our classes. To read that email, click here.

Yesterday was our very first boys’ soccer game. I would like to report that we won – but we didn’t. But Gabe Klein has the distinction of scoring the very first goal with an assist by Noah Brody! We’re going to get better – and I look forward to also announcing our very first win.

Today was our first day with our new mincha schedule. (Because of the time change, we had to move mincha to a later time – 3:22 pm.) Everything went smoothly, except for the boys who daven in the gym and use the outside doors to enter (it’s all about traffic flow…). Who would have ever imagined that in mid-May that they would have to make their way through snow!

By the way, on the subject of the time change – our late Friday schedule does not begin until after Pesach. This week, erev Shabbat dismissal will still be at 1:58 pm.

This Friday, March 19th will be having a pre-Pesach seminar with the Kollel. Each grade will spend one period with our Kollel members (2nd period: Sophomores; 3rd period- Seniors; 4th period- Juniors; 5th period- Freshmen; 6th period all Freshmen will have lunch).

Sunday is an ICJA Pre-Pesach Learning program for students and parents. There will be shiurim with Rabbis Fox and Stromer and Mmes. Gold and Kraft. The program on Sunday will be in-person, socially distanced at ICJA from 9:30-11:00 am. And then, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 8:00 pm there will be online shiurim. See the attached flyer for more information.

On the education front, I had a chance to drop into Mrs. Pederson’s 12th-period math class. The students were about to study logarithms, and in preparation, they were solving some problems on the board. What was remarkable about the class was the easy manner that the students took to the subject. They knew it, and the interactions demonstration just “old fashioned” learning – nothing fancy, but great to watch!

Finally, tomorrow is the last day to donate canned and packaged foods for the Student Council Food Drive. Please help to stock our community’s food pantries!

Stay safe, stay in contact, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

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