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25 Tishrei 5782

October 1, 2021

Dear ICJA Family,

It’s the first short Friday of the school year, but a lot was happening today at ICJA!

Rabbi Gutstein’s class competed in a “Yamim Noraim Bingo” review session that included all of the halachot they learned since the start of the year. The reports I’ve received are that it was impressive, with Shaindy Berkovits winning the first round and the exciting final round going to Ella Perlman!

This afternoon Mr. Keller invited Dr. Brown, Mr. Harris, and me to his STEM class to see his students’ first project – a light show which incorporated programming, wiring, and their Arduino boards. I missed a few of the presentations, but the ones I saw were great – each leading up to a “dazzling display of LEDs.” Congratulations to the winner, Adam Schwartz and to runners up Cobi Berkowitz, Tal Damelin. 

Talking about Science, yesterday, the conceptual physics class made pinhole cameras (also known as a camera obscura) to take pictures with their cell phones. The students are learning about how the ray model of light can be used to predict the images formed by pinholes. A tiny hole lets light through, so an image forms on the inside of the cardboard box. We added another small hole so a cell phone camera could take a picture of that image. Some of the photos were really great – and a “shout-out” to Zoe Matanky, who used her group’s camera to take the class picture. 

And let’s not forget about Student to Student that over Chol Hamoed, gave five presentations to over 100 students at Resurrection College Prep High School in Chicago. 

The presentations received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both the teachers and students and they were impressed by our presenters’ love of Judaism, their faith, and their connection to Israel. They were also shocked to hear that our presenters still experience antisemitism today. Students who still want to apply to be part of Student to Student – don’t forget the deadline is next week, October 7th, and the Orientation is October 10th from 6–8 pm over zoom. Click Here for the link to the application!

This Sunday, the wrestling team will have a conditioning practice at ICJA, starting with Shacharit at 7:30 am. 

And on Tuesday, we will have Club-Hub – a chance for students to sign-up to participate in one (or more) of the ICJA clubs – see the attached flyer. The program will take place during lunch – outside in the tents. Don’t miss this important opportunity to get involved in ICJA student life!

Finally, Rabbi Segal reminded me yesterday that for those who use a google calendar, you can add the ICJA calendar with all of our events, period skips, and special programs. Simply paste “” into the “Other Calendar” box on the web interface.

Shabbat Shalom, stay safe, stay connected, and stay inspired!



Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

Hoshana Rabbah 5782

September 27, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

I hope your Sukkot break has been meaningful and reinvigorating! I look forward to welcoming everyone back to school on Thursday and hope that everyone has been inscribed in the “Book of Life” for a wonderful new year.

Thursday, when we return to school, there will be two things that will be different.

1. Mincha will now be after the 6th period at 1:15 pm. Attached is an updated schedule of class times. (By the way, Friday will also be the first “early Friday,” and school will be dismissed at 1:58 pm).

2. For student-athletes competing in indoor sports and those who are not fully vaccinated, we will finally begin to offer the saliva-based PCR test. The test will be administered in the gym at the beginning of your lunch period (you will no longer be called out of class). Please remember that for 60 minutes before taking the test you are not supposed to drink or eat anything. This COVID test will be given every Monday and Thursday until further notice.

Now that we are restarting school, many exciting things are planned, including Chesed Days, Pop-Ups, and Fridaytons. But I’ll wait until you get back to share all of that information with you.

In the meantime, I wish everyone a פיתקא טבא and חג שמח!

Stay safe, stay connected, and stay inspired!



Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

11 Tishrei 5781

September 17, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Gmar chatima tova!

Shabbat is coming, and so is our Sukkot break, so just a few things to know:

1. Have a great Sukkot break! To help you enjoy Yom Tov, we have asked teachers not to assign homework over the break and not have any major projects or exams until October 4.

2. School will resume on the day after Sukkot (September 30).

3. While we don’t have school during chol hamoed, we urge all of our students to attend minyan at the local shuls. Many shuls schedule a special later minyan for students who are on vacation.

Today was a short school day (after Sukkot, Friday dismissals will be at 1:58 pm), but I had the pleasure to visit Ms. Sennett’s West Civ class and Mrs. Gottlieb’s Chemistry class.

Ms. Sennett’s class was reviewing the details of the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars. After giving the intro, the students broke up into groups to review the ten events between these wars. What was so impressive was the level of engagement of our students. They shifted effortlessly from full-group instruction to small group work and then back again. Kudos to Ms. Sennett for teaching a great class and to Rachel Freed for being the first student to volunteer to share the information with everyone else.

Mrs. Gottlieb’s class was doing an exercise to prepare them for “dimensional analysis,” which is critical for Chemistry. The way they did this was via a challenge to learn how to “barter” various goods. Kol hakavod to Julia Bellows, who was the first to finish and became the “class assistant.”

And know to a few more things:

1. The Purple Task Force program is open for both 11th and 12th graders. Shalom Task Force’s mission is to create safe relationships, healthy families, and a supportive community. To learn more about Shalom Task Force, see David Gaffen or click here. And to learn more about the program and apply for the Fellowship, click here-

2. After a long delay – I am pleased to announce that the new COVID testing procedure – the saliva PCR test is now ready to be implemented. Just a reminder – all students who are either not fully vaccinated or who are participating in an indoor sports program (e.g., “Fall Ball”) will need to be tested every Monday and Thursday. The test will take place in the gym at the beginning of students’ lunch period (5th or 6th period). Before the test, students cannot eat or drink for 60 minutes. Thanks to Academy Associates’ co-president Rebecca Gorenstein and ICJA office manager Eve Partouche for coordinating this effort!

3. A few years back, ICJA was part of an effort to create programming for Orthodox college students in the Chicago area. Spearheaded by the indefatigable Mrs. Patty Ray, The Chicago Orthodox Student Union is gearing up for its kick-off event – a “Meat and Greet” BBQ on October 10 (see attached flyer). If you know local Orthodox college students looking to get together for Jewish learning and social events – spread the word!

Candle lighting tonight is at 6:36 pm.

Shabbat Shalom, stay safe, stay connected, and stay inspired!



Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

8 Tishrei 5781

September 14, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

It’s been a great day so far… but there are still 3 hours to go!

Ever since we arrived, our students have been having fun (boating, sports, and ropes courses), learning Torah, and getting to know one another. And it’s been great. But they (and even some of our super faculty) are “fading fast” – because it is a long day! Of course, on the positive side, I have a feeling that by the time we return to ICJA, everyone will be ready for a good night’s sleep until tomorrow morning’s final round of pre-Yom Kippur selichot.

So what can I tell you about today?

First of all, we have the best faculty in the world – teachers who volunteered to join us, spending many hours well beyond their regular teaching day to be with the students and make sure that they have a great time.

And second – there are a lot of great stories from the day. There’s the fact that thanks to Mr. Zbaraz’s amazing kayak – I didn’t fall in this time, but Liba Mott and Bracha Tova Litwack did (and had a very good swim back to shore). Charli Ernstein made it to the top of the climbing wall, and Adina Margolin “climbed up this thing and then jumped off” (her words – not mine!).

Thanks to Julie Avner, we had an arts and crafts program, and kids had an option to help create a mural. And Maya Wasserman and Kayla Kupietzky were very proud of their contributions to the artwork. And of course, let’s not forget Cobi Berkowitz and Joey Cohen’s fierce final competition in “knock-out” (don’t worry, it’s a basketball game). Joey won, but Cobi was not far behind.

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of Mrs. Zeffren and Rabbi Yoni Fox and the ICJA alum Rabbi Ari Strulowitz (’05), who is the director of Camp Nageela!

And that’s just a snippet of all that was going on today – which still has dinner, maariv, and bonfires in the offing. 

And it’s also a great lesson in what we studied in the shiurim today with the students – an explanation of Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner as to why the Hebrew word “l’hodot” means both to give thanks and to admit.

Because when we give thanks to another, we admit to the fact that we need one another. And therefore giving thanks leads to creating bonds between people and a bond with G-d.

Bli ayin hara – today is a day of thanks. It is a day that highlights this year’s theme of #gratitude, and it is a day that has created stronger bonds, bringing our school community closer together.

Thank you to Leslie and Tom Silverstein for sponsoring this annual event and for all of our ICJA community that continues to find ways to inspire our students as they become Bnei and Bnot Torah ready to thrive in the Modern world.

We will be back at school at about 9:40 pm tonight. Friday will be the last “long Friday” (dismissal at 3:34 pm) and periods 7, 8 and 9 will meet in the afternoon.

Gmar chatima tova – have a meaningful fast and stay safe, stay connected, and stay inspired!



Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

7 Tishrei 5781

September 13, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

The Retreat is only one day away, and Rabbi Fox and Mrs. Zeffren have been working around the clock to make sure everything is set for a meaningful and fun program.

But while they are planning and preparing, school is moving forward despite only have one more regular day (i.e., Friday) until Sukkot vacation! 

Just a couple of many great examples – in Dr. Brown’s 12th grade English class, the students have just finished studying Ibsen’s play, “A Doll’s House,” in which women’s roles in society 100 years ago is a significant theme. And today, they were working on essays trying to imagine if the play was staged in Afghanistan of today, how would the roles change based on the current situation.

While in Mrs. Kahan’s 11th-grade class, after reading Jonathan Edward’s speech “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry G-d,” her students had to present a Yom Kippur sermon about teshuva. She shared a few of those sermons with me, and they were excellent! Kol haKavod to Moshe Drutman, Jordyn Baker, Dena Simon, Chaya Laber Dalia Wolper, Adi Seruya, Zack Miller and Yitzi Schlessinger!

On a very different note, our Yearbook Staff is already working on this year’s Keter Yearbook. It is a massive undertaking every year, but with this year’s editors in chief – Hadassah Bernstein, Attar Benmelech, and Chuck Moscovitch I’m sure it will be great!

But they need volunteers to join the staff – click here if you are interested in joining this great project 

11th-grade students are invited to apply for a unique leadership program, The Purple Fellowship, sponsored by the Shalom Task Force. This Fellowship includes an 8-week curriculum that will be taught once a week over zoom. Based out of New York, Shalom Task Force’s mission is to create safe relationships, healthy families, and a supportive community. To learn more about Shalom Task Force, click here. And to learn more about the program and apply for the Fellowship, click here-

Finally, there are still a few students who have not submitted waivers for tomorrow’s rope course. I have attached the form as well as the “packing list.”

Stay safe, stay connected, and stay inspired!



Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

4 Tishrei 5781

September 10, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

There are only three more days until Sukkot vacation – and there is a lot of information to share. So I’m going to start with these three days and then share a little nachas from today.

Monday 9/13

Monday is a regular day! But during breakfast (at 9:15 am), we will be taking a 9th-grade class picture. 

Tuesday 9/14

Retreat! You’ve already received all of the information. School starts at 8:05 am, and we will return by 9:40 pm. When on the buses and indoors, masks are required.

Unfortunately, some of you have not yet returned the signed waiver to be able to go on the ropes course and zipline. I have attached a copy that can be complete and either scanned and sent to or brought to school on Monday.

Don’t forget to bring a siddur for mincha and maariv. 

Also, several students approached Rabbi Fox and Mrs. Zeffren and asked if we could go to the “relaxed dress code” for the retreat – the answer is “yes.” 

What is relaxed dress code? 

For the boys – full-length slacks or sweatpants, and “appropriate” shirts or sweaters or sweatshirts or t-shirts (all with sleeves) – which means there can have writing or designs, but the designs and writing must be appropriate for a Torah school. (If you are not sure – don’t wear it!).

For the girls – skirts that cover the knees, but pants can be worn underneath. And “appropriate” tops – same rules as above but also the sleeves must be elbow length.

And, don’t forget close-toed shoes for the ropes course!

Friday – 09/17

This will be our final “long Friday” until after Pesach. Dismissal is at 3:34, and periods 7, 8, and 9 will meet.

And now to some nachas…

Today, I had the chance to visit Mrs. Kraft’s 11th-grade girls Navi class. They were learning about Shlomo haMelech, and the level of conversation was exceptional. But what I enjoyed the most was a simple activity Mrs. Kraft had them do – to consider what they wished for if any wish they made could come true. There was a cute graphic from Aladdin on the Smartboard to introduce the activity. But what I thought was the best thing was that she asked all the girls to write down their wish – but not share it with others. It was a way to get them thinking without the pressure of others judging their ideas.

On my way out, I saw a group of 10th boys from Mrs. Friedman’s Chumash class in the Humanities Commons. They were grouped around the two tables, and with a couple of exceptions, they were working on preparing Rashi’s for class. Their ipads were out, and they were using either,, or It was great to see them using their technology to access resources online (next time, they should also check out, another great resource) and to see the cooperative learning taking place in the common areas, as was the plan when we designed the building.

One last point of nachas – when I returned to my office, I opened a letter from JUF to learn that two of our students, Gavriel Engel (’22) and Ayelet Dallal (’21), had recently received the Israel Experience Merit Scholarship from JUF. These scholarships go to students who demonstrate significant leadership skills and serve as role models to others. Kol HaKavod!

Candle lighting tonight is at 6:48 – and of course, this Shabbat is Shabbat Shuva. Please make the extra effort to attend a Shabbat Shuva drasha at your local shul!

Finally, this Shabbat is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It is hard to believe that it has been 20 years, because the events of that day are seared into my memory. At ICJA we went into immediate lock-down, and gathered the entire school into the gym to share the news and try to help them feel safe. 

Following that terrorist attack the RCA published a memorial prayer for the victims. I have attached it this email, and this Shabbat I will be saying it in my shul. 

May the families who lost loved ones on that terrible day find comfort and may our beloved nation continue to have the strength not only to fight terror, but to be beacon of goodness for the entire world. 

Shabbat Shalom, Gmar Tov, and stay safe, stay connected, and stay inspired!



Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

3 Tishrei 5781

September 9, 2021

Dear ICJA Family:

Gmar chatima tova!

Today was a short school day because it is a fast day. But we still managed to pack many things into that short amount of time – not the least of which is the planning for next week’s one-day all-school retreat.

We have a lot of fun activities planned, including sports, art, boating, ropes course, class bonfires, and lunch, dinner, and s’mores. We also have a meaningful learning program planned, connecting to the school theme this year of gratitude.

The retreat begins at 8:05 am with davening at ICJA, and we will return to ICJA for pickup at the end of the retreat at 9:40 pm. 

And I know this may sound a bit unusual, but for those who want to know what to bring – here is the “packing list”: Backpack to carry your – siddur, water bottle, close-toed shoes for the Ropes Course, bug repellant, hat, sunscreen, and snacks.

And just a reminder:

1. Students who are not attending retreat will be marked absent on the day (i.e., it will count as one of their four absences for the quarter)

2. Students must wear their uniform clothing for retreat. However, girls may wear pants under their skirts for sports.

3. Students who are not fully vaccinated will need to arrange alternative transportation to and from Camp Nageela. Vaccinated students riding the buses will need to be masked for the entire ride. Everyone will need to be masked when indoor at the retreat.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Rabbi Fox ( or Mrs. Zeffren ( 


Over Yom Tov, there were a few cases of COVID in our community. Fortunately, and bli ayin ha’ra, there were no cases among ICJA students. There were, however, some students who were possibly exposed to COVID-positive siblings. Fortunately, because those students were fully vaccinated and have no symptoms, our protocols allow them to attend school (while fully masked and maintaining social distance).

Baruch Hashem 95% of our school is fully vaccinated. And while some students are waiting for the full FDA approval of the vaccine for 12-15-year-olds before they get vaccinated, those students are being tested in school twice per week.

In addition, beginning next week, student-athletes who participate in “Fall Ball” (a fall non-ICJA basketball league), will also need to be regularly tested.

One final note – Rabbi Broner passed me in the hall today as he was leaving class, and I was headed to my class. He told me that before Yom Tov, he had a zoom class with all of his Talmud students of last year- both those studying in yeshiva in Israel and those in University in the States. What nachas! Especially because I know that many other teachers were in touch with former students before Yom Tov. 

It’s one of those extraordinary things that so often happens at ICJA. The bonds between students and their teachers that last well beyond high school.

I also saw this last Saturday night at the reunion of the Class of 2010 at our building. The stories they shared were tremendous, and memories of ICJA were so heart-warming. (Thank you, Mrs. Zwelling and Mrs. Soffer, for putting that program together, and special thanks to class coordinator Rebecca Gordon ’10! )

Stay safe, stay connected, and stay inspired!



Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.

Dean, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

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