Making History by Building Our Future Annual report 2015-2016

Reflections from 2015-16

Dear Academy Family,

This has been a banner year for the Academy. Not only because of our move to our magnificent new Esformes Campus, and not only because of the extraordinary support of our community for our capital and annual campaigns, but because of the exceptional achievements of our students.

Our students are what make our school so very special. Because our students do so many very special things – from excelling at learning Torah and performing acts of chesed, to matriculating into the finest universities and leading communal organizations such as Bnei Akiva, CTeen, NCSY and Keshet. They are the young men and women who we work so very hard to inspire and to prepare to thrive in the modern world.

This is the reason I invite you to visit our school: to see our outstanding faculty as they interact with the current and future leaders of the Jewish community – the young men and women of Ida Crown Jewish Academy.

While you are here, see how our school continues to evolve into a 21C school, which treasures tradition while engaging with technology and the latest methods of instruction. Visit our STEM classes, our state-of-the-art science labs or our YU Torah MiTzion Kollel. Have a cup of coffee at our espresso bar (fondly known as “Chaap-achino”) and relax with the students in the learning commons. Or just come to an Aces basketball game, fencing match, baseball game, wrestling match, soccer match or cross country event.

Visit us and you will understand why my colleagues and I are so honored to be part of this 74-year tradition. Because the Academy is the finest Modern Orthodox, Religious Zionist college-prep school in the nation! With your constant support we will continue to grow and shine!


Rabbi Dr. Leonard A. Matanky

ICJA students dance the Torah scrolls into our new building at our December dedication ceremony

This school year 5776 was unlike any other with our move mid-year to the new building in Skokie. We said goodbye to our previous building of five decades with a full house of alumni and their families at our November homecoming event and then joyfully moved to our new, state-of-the-art home in December.

Our Chanukah Chanukat HaBayit

In the quiet morning hours before nearly 1,000 community members descended on the new Ida Crown Jewish Academy in December 2015, a small group of committed donors gathered in the Beit Midrash to form the first minyan on the new Esformes Family Campus. Among the prayers of Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh, the group sang Hallel, “This is the day the Lord made, rejoice and be glad in it.” It was a powerful service; a spectacular day. At the long-awaited dedication of the new building, all spoke amid the light of the menorah, focusing on a similar message: the importance of Jewish education and the Academy’s integral contribution to the entire Jewish community. Referring to the dedication’s coincidence with Chanukah, Rabbi Leonard Matanky, dean of ICJA, said:
“As much as we celebrate the Academy today, as much as we regale in this new, magnificent structure and the dream of all that it will make possible, we need to celebrate each and every day. Because every day at the Academy, miracles happen as we touch the hearts and the minds of men and women, and as we offer opportunities for growth and achievement that were unimaginable a generation ago.”
Our community’s kindness will not remain on Pratt. This building will only enhance the already ideal life at ICJA. This building will allow our school to expand its capabilities from within. This building will soon be home to an environment that has no boundaries to its warmth and inclusion. No school deserves this new building more than Ida Crown does. -Senior Shoham Benmelech, speaking at the dedication

Senior Salute

As always, this year included tremendous growth for our students on individual levels and our school on a communal level. In addition to our move to Skokie and our transition to learning and living in our new building, this report highlights many of the most noteworthy accomplishments over this past school year, including students’ accomplishments that rival or exceed those of any top-tier college-preparatory school in the nation.

5% of seniors were recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Program: 3 Finalist, 1 Commended

33% of seniors were Illinois State Scholars

100% of seniors who took the Jerusalem Exam, an advanced test of Hebrew and Jewish knowledge, passed

55% of seniors were inducted into the National Honor Society, Torah Chapter

38% of seniors devoted over 250 hours of chesed to be inducted into the Deborah Katzin z”l Chesed Society

80% of seniors are spending a gap year in Israel

Top 5 Out of nearly 400 schools, Charlotte’s Web, ICJA’s Literary Magazine was recognized by the National Council of Teachers of English as one of the top high school literary magazines

17 juniors were either finalists or semi finalists in the state-wide writing contest, Letters About Literature, sponsored by the Library of Congress Center for the Book

Our seniors were accepted to top universities in the U.S. and to top programs in Israel

GIRLS ISRAEL PROGRAMS: Hevruta Gap Year • Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim • Migdal Oz • Midreshet Amit • Midreshet Harova • Midreshet Lindenbaum • Midreshet Moriah • Midreshet Torah Chesed • Nishmat • Sha’alvim for Women • Sharfman’s/Bnot Torah • Tiferet

BOYS ISRAEL PROGRAMS: Netiv Aryeh • Mevaseret Tzion • Yeshivat Hakotel • Mechinat Keshet Yehuda • Aish Gesher • Orayta • Har Etzion (Gush) • Bar Ilan Israel Experience • Lev Hatorah • Ashreinu • Torat Shraga

Preparing Students for 21C

Through strategic planning, consultants and data-driven decision making, we work to make the ICJA experience more meaningful and impactful. Our graduates and alumni are proof. Anecdotally and in surveys in past years, our alumni have overwhelmingly expressed their exceptional level of college readiness after four years at the Academy. Whether it is the juggling of classes, the depth of learning and reasoning in Judaic studies or the breadth of information covered in general studies – our alumni report that they are more than ready for their next stage of life.

We go to great lengths in and out of the classroom to ensure our juniors and seniors present their best possible selves to college admissions departments. Academy students place well above national averages in all four areas of academic testing, according to the ACT measure of all four major academic areas: English composition, reading, math and science (73% compared to the national average of 28%). That’s why Academy students are recruited by and accepted to the nation’s top universities and top programs in Israel. Whether it’s through our Decisions college guidance course, one-on-one meetings with our guidance counselors, guidance trips to universities nation wide, the wide variety of universities that meet our students on site or even our workshops on college essay writing with college admissions directors, we take extensive steps to ensure our students are admitted to the right school for each of them. Furthermore, we actively work with students to encourage attendance at institutions with a strong Jewish life, per our custom Jewish Life on Campus matrix. And, of course, once they get to college, we are confident that they are ready for the challenges ahead.

In addition to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiatives throughout Judaic and general studies courses, this year we offered three courses dedicated entirely to STEM skills. In the spring, one of our new STEM courses, Computational Thinking (CT) taught by the talented and prolific Rabbi Barry Robinson, became one of our most popular classes.

CT is considered one of the essential skills for today’s students in the same way that reading, writing and arithmetic have always been an essential educational skill. These courses are all an outcome of our partnership with Northwestern University – widely considered the “thought leader” on CT.

The students in the senior elective class learn how to do computer coding and programming in Python. Python is among the most popular languages for teaching introductory computer science courses at top-ranked U.S. universities.

The course offers a tremendous experience for students who wish to study science outside of the more common areas of biology, chemistry and physics. It is also a fresh experience for students who never before engaged with the subject. Computer programming is a valued skill in the professional sphere, and ICJA students are getting a head start by beginning to code before finishing high school.

Electronics & Communication, taught by Mr. David Newman, launched first semester with 24 students. The class of seniors and a few underclassmen was so popular, we had to cap the enrollment. Students in Electronics & Communication are able to obtain a fourth science credit without taking an Advanced Placement course. Prior to this year, students who didn’t want to take AP science took only three years of high school science. The goals of the class are multifaceted, says Mr. Newman. “Living in the technological age that we do, it is incumbent upon us to teach our students the basics of how certain technologies work.”

Through this course students learn:

• A background in basic electronics, such as how electronic components work and how they interact within a circuit

• Basic radio theory, such as how radio antennas, radio wave propagation and much more work. Students will gain enough knowledge to earn a technician class license

• U.S. and world geography

We also continued our STEM Research & Design course with Dr. Rochelle Green, our director of 21st Century Teaching and Learning, this year.

Additionally, one of the primary ways we are incorporating STEM education into the classroom is by empowering teachers with training, support and teaching materials that are easily implemented in various topics of their current curricula. We are one of only approximately 100 schools in the Chicagoland area to work closely with Northwestern University’s Office of STEM Education Partnerships, providing us with access to their breadth of knowledge and online tools.

Through our partnership with Northwestern, professional development, new technology and new STEM courses, our faculty is ensuring that our students are prepared to succeed in the future.

Becoming a 1:1 School

Technology use will continue to expand at ICJA next year. At this time last school year, ICJA faculty and students could only imagine ways that the 1:1 School initiative, where every freshman and sophomore has a school-issued iPad, would work. This year, with iPads in hand in our state-of-the-art building, it’s hard to imagine what our school day would be like without 21C technology. Thanks to a new George Shay z”l Endowment for Excellence in Academic Arts and Sciences, the program will continue to expand next year to include the incoming class of freshmen, so that all freshmen through juniors will have iPads.

The school-issued iPads are loaded with apps, digital textbooks and software to enhance learning opportunities and collaboration. Students in all grades and in all classes use a learning management system (LMS), Haiku, to keep up with classwork and syllabi online. Group projects, final reports and lessons are created using video and even gaming apps in many classes.

Next year, these programs will all expand, not just by issuing iPads to another grade, but also by expanding training for teachers across disciplines. This summer, 10 teachers across grades and disciplines joined a Summer Teachers’ Institute in June to work together and with outside consultants on exploring all that the technology infrastructure can do for learning. These teachers planned multidisciplinary projects that focus on problem-based learning for grades, nine through eleven. Teachers who participated in the summer project will become technology leaders for the school, and specifically for their departments. The summer institute was also thanks to the George Shay z”l Endowment for Excellence in Academic Arts and Sciences.

Our decision to become a 1:1 School is in line with educational research and trends that show that students today learn better using the same technology in the classroom that they are using in their daily lives.

Raising the Next Generation of Zionists

As students in Chicago’s leading Zionist high school, news from Israel affected our entire 5776 school year. Our students and staff sought ways to follow the latest news from Israel, connect to the Jewish people and our Israeli brethren and make a difference in the community through Torah learning and mitzvot.

Thanks to the Yeshiva University Torah Mitzion Kollel of Chicago, learning every week during second semester was dedicated in memory of victims of terror. This reminded students and staff of the sanctity of life and the importance of our Torah learning.

Our students, through their own initiative and with the help of ICJA staff, reached meaningful milestones in their commitment to Israel and the Jewish people.

Since moving to our new building, the Israel Advocacy Club had been meeting weekly in the “fishbowl,” the glass-walled student conference room near the cafeteria. The group then became too big and was forced to relocate to the open spaces in our commons. Students packed in to hear from peers who worked with JUF’s Write On For Israel and StandWithUs. This initiative is in addition to our second semester senior course on Israel advocacy taught by Rabbi Michael Myers and supported by the Gorenstein family in memory of Sam Gorenstein a”h. One of our top priorities at the Academy is to instill in our students both love and passion for Israel as well as education and advocacy skills for their future on college campuses. Instrumental in this mission is the student-led Israel Advocacy Club.

Just prior to our move, ICJA students joined hundreds of high school students in a siyum of Mishnayot in memory of Ezra Schwartz Hy”d. Representatives from six of the schools, including ICJA, read the end of a seder to complete all the Mishnayot. Juniors, seniors and staff all learned Seder Zeraim to take part in the siyum. Students also sent a letter to the parents of Ezra Schwartz, saying, “We aren’t big rabbis or incredibly important people, but we care. Because of this, we have individually taken upon ourselves to work on a specific middah, chesed or mitzvah as an aliyah for Ezra’s neshama and a zechut to protect all of klal yisrael.” Our students also raised money for the Ezra Schwartz Memorial Fund and Hatzalah.

Our students in the local chapter of Bnei Akiva, under the direction of Chicago Shaliach Dvir Dimri, reached out to the residents of Otniel, a city in Israel. Amidst the nightmare of the murder of Dafna Meir Hy”d last winter, our students brought a measure of comfort by collecting money for Shabbat flowers. Bnei Akiva members of Otniel delivered these flowers to all the residents and, together, the teens produced a beautiful video and message of hope.

ICJA students headed to Washington, D.C. to join the AIPAC policy conference and the AIPAC Schusterman High School summit. Locally many students joined JUF’s Write On For Israel program and our own Israel advocacy class. Together, these programs ensure that our students are ready to thrive on college campuses that can often be hostile to Israel.

Sports & Extracurricular Highlights

Our student athletes traditionally excel on and off the field, court or mat, and this year was no different. Athletes added a number of trophies to our new school’s trophy case, and we proudly display conference champion banners on our new gym’s walls.

Congratulations to three students for being three-sport athletes in the same 2015-16 year: Nechama Braun, Adina Trubnick and Noah Jaffe.

Noah Jaffe is the first student athlete in ICJA history to compete in three sports (cross country, basketball and baseball) in each of his four years at ICJA - 12 seasons of sports, plus ICJA’s rigorous curriculum.

Nechama Braun was the first ICJA student athlete ever to be named All Conference in three sports in the same year. She competed at the highest level in three varsity sports: cross country, basketball and soccer during her sophomore year.

Aces baseball had a strong season and then finished in third place at the Columbus Baseball Invitational.

The Lady Aces had a strong soccer season, despite the terrible weather. Congratulations to Marnina Daniels, All Conference 1st Team and Nechama Braun, All Conference 2nd Team. Coach Tim Green was named Coach of the Year.

The Aces wrestling team took second place at the IHSA Class A Individual Regional Wrestling Tournament, staying over Shabbat in Melrose Park in order to compete immediately after. The tournament is held specifically on Saturday evening so that the Aces can compete.

ICJA cross country teams had a great fall season, finishing strong at the conference meet, hosted by ICJA. The boys team, made up of some young runners, took third place, with Ezra Perlow finishing second place in the varsity run and setting a new school record for the 3-mile run at 16:28 (an astounding 5:29 average per mile). The girls varsity team just missed defending their 4-year winning streak of the Conference title by placing second. ICJA finished second in the boys open race and first in the girls open race.

Our students displayed incredible talent and dedication in this year’s publication of Charlotte’s Web, The Literary Magazine of ICJA, The Crown Prints newspaper and the Keter Yearbook.

The National Council of Teachers of English Program to Recognize Excellence in Literary Magazines in Illinois for the 2014-15 school year ranked Charlotte’s Web “Superior,” the highest award. Among more than 450 schools in the state, ICJA’s magazine was ranked in the top 5. Peruse through the magazine, and you’ll have no doubt that the honor was deserved. Congratulations to last year’s editors: Haia B’chiri, Machol Benmelech, Sarah Otis, Sophie Gordon and Frannie Miller. Congrats to faculty advisor, Mrs. Arons. Many thanks to the Susan and Joseph Ament Endowment Foundation that annually supports the Charlotte’s Web publication.

What’s perhaps most astounding about the high rank of our literary magazine is that the contest is not divided by school size, so that our small student body competed with some of the largest schools in the nation. Congrats to everyone involved, including the writers, poets, artists, photographers and graphic designers. No doubt this year’s issue of Charlotte’s Web will be ranked in the competition as well.

Student talent was able to shine this year in advanced art, including a team effort to create a pomegranate that was on display at the Greater Chicago Jewish Festival. No longer relegated to the lower level of the school building, art students are thriving with modern equipment and bright lights conducive to intricate work.

Senior Shoham Benmelech, advanced to the third round of Michlalah’s Ulpaniada math competition, where she would have no doubt done well if she had attended in Israel. The international problem-solving competition based on math skills and logical reasoning for Orthodox high school girls took place during ICJA’s graduation. Shoham is pictured here in a self portrait she made for advanced art, because yes, she excels in both arts and math and sciences.

Senior Josh Polster was one of six winners of this year’s Jerusalem Science Contest. Some 35 students from across the country participated in the prestigious contest. Josh visited Israel with the other winners in May as part of the program. In conjunction with the UNESCO International Year of Light, the topic for the 2015-2016 school year was the science and technology of Light, Optics and the Human Eye.

Ms. Sheri Goldstein, longtime ICJA English teacher, was selected as a finalist for the Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award by the Northwestern University and the Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award Committee. Teachers from across the country are nominated by graduating seniors from Northwestern University for this tremendous honor. Ms. Goldstein was nominated by Yair Sakols (‘11), who was a senior at Northwestern.

Mrs. Marsha Arons published an article in the prestigious professional journal of the National Council of Teachers of English called: “Knowing When to Shut Up: Suggestions for Creating a Collaborative Learning Environment.” The article demonstrates a step-by-step teaching method using a poem, a play and a short essay to help students support each other and take responsibility for learning. Her method is used by high school teachers across the country. We are so proud to call these teachers our own.

ICJA girls showed an audience of nearly 400 women and girls from across the community that modesty can be approachable, empowering and fun in a professionally-run women’s fashion show.

A few students and staff in 2014 initially launched ICJA Takes the Runway as a creative way to showcase students’ talents and to encourage girls to be proud of modesty.

The fashion show was an opportunity for girls to embrace the Jewish ideas on modesty while still showing personality and teenage style. Outside consultants from Nordstrom, Stella & Dot and LulaRoe all worked with teams of students to create outfits, makeup, jewelry and hairstyles that showcase teen fashion trends. The show for women only, included a dance and music demonstration, a professional-quality fashion magazine, runway modeling and a fashion boutique. The vast majority of the school’s female students worked tirelessly for months to create the professional-quality show.

Proceeds went to Yad Eliezer Adopt a Wedding Fund, assisting poor Israeli brides to fund their weddings. The students raised $5,400 to “adopt” one bride’s complete wedding in Israel.

Alumni Spotlight

Many of our alumni joined the IDFand Sheirut Leumi this year. Daniel Gottesman wrote the following to us on Yom HaAtzmaut: Rami Pinchot, Elazar Kolom and I (all class of ’14) enlisted in March 2016 with Yeshivat HaKotel to the Givati brigade. All of us look back to our time at the Academy and thank you for the inspiration you’ve given us to allow us to get to this point through experiential and academic teaching of the values of Zionism and importance of the State of Israel. Hannah Dimbert (’12) finished her second year in the IDF this spring, where she was part of an all female combat Hummer unit. She signed on for another year in the IDF driving border patrol. Two of our alumni were together this year in an IDF combat unit that works with military dogs. Josephine Gendler (‘14) was together with Naomi Greenberg (‘13-pictured).

We were blown away by the incredible turnout at our Goodbye Pratt alumni reunion on Thanksgiving weekend. Hundreds of alumni, their spouses and community members joined us to tour the building, see old friends and teachers and enjoy dinner and music from Rogers Park Band.

We Surpassed Our Fundraising Goal

The development team and lay leadership set out to achieve an unprecedented campaign goal in the same year as our capital campaign dedication. Thanks to a dedicated group’s effort, we are thrilled to have surpassed that goal, just prior to the annual campaign close on June 30. In total, the Academy family raised $1,053,830 for the ICJA Scholarship Fund – the second time the campaign has ever topped $1 million.

Scholarship Funds assist more than 66 percent of our student body, ensuring the continuation of our founders’ mission that no Jewish child should be denied a Jewish education. As we work tirelessly to prepare our students to thrive in the modern world, both as Jews and as contributing members of society, we are so grateful to so many donors who enable us to accomplish that mission.

This year as part of our continued efforts to improve our fundraising strategy, we continued our work with the Yeshiva University Benchmarking and Financial Reengineering Project, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

The highlight of our fundraising efforts was, of course, our annual dinner in March, where nearly 400 Academy supporters joined us to pay tribute to our esteemed honorees.

We depend on the participation and support of parents, alumni and friends in our effort to provide the best possible opportunities for our students.

We thank all those contributors who helped us reach our annual campaign goal.

Thank You Society of Patrons

It was a great zechut to welcome Rabbi Dr. Lord Jonathan Sacks, motzaei Shabbat, November 7, 2015 to speak for the community in an event sponsored by the Academy.

Prior to the lecture, over 100 Society of Patrons (SOP) Members joined a special reception featuring Rabbi Sacks. SOP members had a chance to meet him personally and received a signed copy of his new book, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence.

Jews survived and flourished under all circumstances, benign or adverse, because we made our citadels as our schools. Our heroes were our teachers, and our passion education and the life of the mind. So, congratulations on a great school, may it be in its new building renewed and ever strengthened and may you continue to send out as builders of the Jewish future, the young people of this community, of whom you can be proud. --Rabbi Lord Dr. Jonathan Sacks

Following the reception, SOP members joined over 1,100 community members who attended the public lecture with Rabbi Sacks at Congregation KINS where he spoke about his newest book.

Jewish Day School Guaranty Trust

Thank you to the JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and the generous donors to the Jewish Day School Guaranty Trust Fund. In Fiscal Year 2016, the Trust distributed $109,769 to ICJA and $999,340.25 in total since the fund started. The Ida Crown Endowment Foundation was created in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago’s Day School Endowment Program and the Associated Talmud Torahs to ensure that ICJA and our sister day schools have the necessary resources to meet growing and evolving community needs. All commitments to the Day School Endowment Foundation are recognized as gifts to the Jewish Federation’s Centennial Campaign. Thomas and Leslie Silverstein

Heerey Scholarships

Middle class families with multiple children in day school in some ways feel the “financial squeeze” of day school tuition more than any other group. These families often do not qualify for tuition scholarships yet struggle to meet their financial obligation. The Bernard Heerey Family Foundation Scholarship was established to meet the needs of these middle income families. Scholarships can finance as much as full tuition for families who meet these requirements.

The Heerey Foundation was over 5 percent of our revenue for the 2015 fiscal year. We gratefully acknowledge the Heerey Family for their generosity and their commitment to day school education.

Grandparents Giving Circle

There is no doubt that the lessons our grandparents teach their children and grandchildren form the foundation of their lives as Jewish teenagers. It is thanks to their dedication to their families that our students are able to thrive as committed Jewish young adults. We pay tribute to our grandparents annually at our Grandparents Day, when we invite them to join us at the Academy for one morning that includes a student and staff presentation, a panel discussion, a tour and refreshments. We are so grateful to the grandparents who joined us for this year’s event and are especially grateful to those who contributed to our Grandparents Giving Circle by making a gift to our annual campaign.

Financial Summary

2015-2016 Board of Directors

Dr. David Dobkin, president

Yarona Ben-David

Nathan Bloch

Jacques Gliksberg

Manuel Gliksberg

Steve Grant

Beth Greenberg

Ahuva Horowitz

Debbie Jacoby

Dr. Amy Kaissar

Dr. Tammy Kaplan a"h

Cheryl Karp

Dr. Kevin Kirshenbaum

Amy Lowenstein

Richard Magid

Ronnie Masliansky

Stuart Muller

Dov Pinchot

David Polster

Paul Quintas

Sherwin Schneiderman

Miki Schreiber

Noam Stadlan

Building photos by © David Seide/

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