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17 Kislev 5781

December 3, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

It’s happened before – I’ve sat down to write my daily update, but things are just “normal,” and so it’s hard to think of something to highlight. But then, just in the nick of time, a teacher or a student shares something with me that reminds me what a great school we have.

This is what happened today when Kayla Kupietzky wrote to me on behalf of the student council. In previous years a regular assignment of the student council was to distribute the tzedakah we collect during davening to worthy causes. This process has led to some great conversations in the student council about priorities of need.

But what can they do this year? Most of our students aren’t at ICJA for shacharit (but we would like them to come!!), which was when we would collect tzedakah. But even if they came, we don’t want people walking around with a pushke, which would violate our social distancing protocols. The student council has been trying to find a solution, and Kayla wrote to me to propose placing tzedakah cans in classrooms so that students can give on their way in or out. 

It was a simple idea, and we’re going to try it. But what I liked the most about it is that our students want to give tzedakah and want to help others by distributing tzedakah.

And then, a little later, I received a note from Rabbi Gross. He wrote that they were studying the second of the Ten Commandments in class, “you shall not have other gods before me.” Rabbi Gross was explaining to them that because the word “god” (elohim) was referencing idols, it is not a sacred word and should be pronounced “elohim” and not “elokim.” But his students noticed that in the software they were using – Mercava – both in the translation of the verse and Rashi’s comment, the “g” was capitalized – something we reserve for a sacred reference. 

He told the students that this was a disturbing mistake on their part and that something would need to be done. Rami Ripstein and Jacob Pick got on the case and contacted the software company and got them to correct it. Yaasher koach to the two boys for performing a great public service!

Just a few more items…

1. Please remember that if you plan to travel over Winter Vacation, to share your plans with us (email me at so that our medical committee can review them. 

2. Please continue to be vigilant in our battle against the COVID-19 virus. Remember, if you choose to take a risk and then come to school, you can also risk our entire community’s safety.

3. Tomorrow, school is out at 1:58 pm. We will skip 2nd period, and in the afternoon, periods 7, 8, and 9 will meet.

4. Details of the exciting ICGC Chanukah Roller Skating program are now available. See the attached flyer.

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

16 Kislev 5781

December 2, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

I know it’s not the end of the day, and I’m sure that there are a lot of great things to report on – but I have just received the final results for our in-school COVID tests. Baruch Hashem, everyone – students, teachers, and staff tested negative!

This is great news and a testament to the families of ICJA. But it doesn’t mean that we can lower our guard or take other liberties in school or at home. In fact, just today, two parents tested positive, and as a result, their children are now in quarantine because of that exposure. Of course, we wish them a refuah shlaima and thank them for keeping us informed and safe!

Please continue to be vigilant, wear masks when with others not in your immediate household, avoid places that may pose additional risks, and keep the school informed of travel plans and other behaviors that may require a student to learn from home.

If you plan to travel over Winter Vacation, please share your plans with us (email me at so that our medical committee can review them. As they have explained to me, the real risks are often more about behaviors than locations. We understand that this is an imposition, but what you do when on vacation can have a real impact, and chas v’shalom, pose a real danger to our school community.

Tomorrow school is out at 5:39 pm, and all periods meet.

And as I mentioned yesterday, picture retakes are tomorrow. (Luckily the forecast looks good for an outdoor picture session.) Any student can take a retake (but to do so he/she will need to return the pictures received from the first sitting). In addition, students who missed taking a photo on the original photo day can do so tomorrow. By the way, to order additional photos, please be in touch with Mr. Olson (, and he will give you the necessary code for the order.

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

15 Kislev 5781

December 1, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

In August, when we were finally able to hold an in-person graduation, I began my speech with a farewell tribute to Dr. Kahan who has been part of the ICJA administrative team since 2005. In the intervening years, Dr. Kahan has been  an integral part of the ICJA family and contributed so much to the culture and success of our school. 

By the summer, we knew that he was going on aliyah, but we weren’t exactly sure when. But now we know. Next week will be Dr. Kahan’s final full week at ICJA, and he will be leaving during Chanukah for Israel and his daughter Eliana’s wedding. 

We will miss Dr. Kahan, and we thank him for his dedicated and inspired service to our teachers and our school. As I said at graduation, “You are the role model we sought to bring to our school, you are the educator who brought us to new heights, and you are a colleague and a friend who will be missed.”

But, Dr. Kahan’s service to our school is not finished. Because for the remainder of the school year, he will be working remotely from Israel, visiting classes, planning schedules, teaching one math section, and even having regular office hours for students and teachers. 

We are also adding the services of Rabbi Moshe Simkovich (ICJA ’70) on an interim basis to help fill some of the administrative void, while also hoping to complete the search for the new ICJA Assistant Dean in the coming weeks. More information on all of that will be soon forthcoming.

While some things inevitably change, many things at ICJA continue as in the past. 

Rabbi Yoni Fox and Mrs. Zeffren are all geared up for next Wednesday’s (December 9th) Ann Rita Schwartz z”l All-School Chesed Day (see attached). On that day, our students will be packing special Chanukah boxes on behalf of the Chicago Mitzvah Campaign, enjoy a special lunch and entertainment. Students – please fill out this order form – click here to place your lunch order. Your order must be submitted by Thursday. (see attached)

Finally, I want to share a little of what Rabbi Myers’ Modern JH class has been doing with you. They’ve been studying about the Shoah, which of necessity, focuses upon the most depraved and sadistic aspects of humanity. 

But Rabbi Myers is making sure that his students also celebrate the noblest of human beings, who, at great personal risk, resisted the cruelty around them to rescue those who had nowhere else to go. That’s why he also studied with them about the lives of famous rescuers like Raul Wallenberg, Oskar Schindler, and Chiune Sugihara, and some lesser-known heroes, like Irena Sendler and Sergeant Roddie Edmonds. When that was finished, each student had to research two people from Yad Vashem’s list of “Righteous Among the Nations,” create a 5-minute PowerPoint presentation and describe the type and degree of risk they willing to take to save another human being. It’s a way that his students learn to appreciate what a single person can do to make a difference in the world!

Tomorrow is an early dismissal day. School is out at 4:58 pm, and we skip 8th period.

Picture retakes will be this Thursday. Luckily the forecast looks good for an outdoor picture session! More information will be coming tomorrow.

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

14 Kislev 5781

November 30, 2020

Dear ICJA Family:

Today, with the help of LifeScan, we tested all of our students, faculty, and staff (over 280 people) in just about an hour! I thank everyone for helping out in the effort, especially the president of LifeScan, Dr. Sam Lipshitz, who came to be one of the “swabbers,” and our parent volunteers, Mrs. Rebecca Gorenstein, Mrs. Liz Geifman, and Mrs. Sarah Cohen. 

As I have written before, this testing effort is an added layer to all of the safety precautions we have implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. If G-d forbid someone tests positive, we will be in touch with him/her ASAP and communicate to our entire community the necessary next steps.

Our next all-school COVID test is scheduled for December 16th. 

But enough about the pandemic, let’s talk about school!

Today, I visited the physics lab and watched part of a great lesson on velocity. Mr. Sears used a model car that was wirelessly connected to a software program to graphed position vs. time. Using that data, the students had to graph the force and motion. 

But what made it even better was another piece of software that his classes use called “Classkick” – which allows him to see all of the screens on students’ laptops and ipads. As a result, each student was doing their work at their desks, and he was able to bring their work onto the large screen at the front of the room. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, after doing three different problems, Mr. Sears said: “OK, now let’s look at the three problems and let’s synthesize the information we’ve learned to something more.” Wow! The technology was great, but the higher-order learning was even better!

A second thing happened today when one of our ICJA team told me that a software program he had written for a local needed to be modified. He didn’t have time to do it. But he was able to search out one of our students from last year’s AP Computer Science class who is now hired to make the needed fixes. It’s an example of how our courses prepare students for college and yeshiva while imparting important skills.

Tomorrow is an early dismissal day. School is out at 4:58 pm, and we skip 4th period.

Also, tomorrow night at 7:30 pm is the Tabachim Club!(See the attached flyer.)

Stay safe, stay connected, and be inspired!


Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

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