Inspiring bnei & bnot Torah to thrive in the modern world.
REFLECTIONS FROM 2017-18
EVERY YEAR AT ICJA IS EXCITING, AND THIS ONE WAS NO EXCEPTION. EVERY YEAR THERE ARE COUNTLESS OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS TO LEARN, GROW AND LEAD IN WAYS THAT ALLOW THEM TO PURSUE THEIR PASSIONS AND INTERESTS. And every year there are quieter moments of greatness that may not be featured in this annual report – times when students achieve more than they thought they could because of sheer determination, times when a student reaches out to a classmate in need and times when a staff member goes out of his or her way to ensure that students excel.
Some highlights from this year include the following:
5% of seniors were recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Program
21% of seniors were Illinois State Scholars
36% of seniors were inducted into the National Honor Society, Torah Chapter
20% 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 23 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
14 juniors were either finalists or semifinalists in the state-wide writing contest, Letters About Literature, sponsored by The Library of Congress Center for the Book
75 This year we celebrated 75 years of ICJA. We celebrated the over 4,000 alumni who continue to make us proud. And we celebrated the achievements–big and small–that occurred each and every year at Ida Crown Jewish Academy.
MESSAGE FROM THE DEAN
Dear Academy Family:
Seventy-five years ago Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president, the British held a mandate over Palestine, the tragedies of the Shoah were unfolding, and the future of American Orthodoxy was in peril. But 75 years ago, a courageous group of men and women dared to dream of a dynamic future, creating a Jewish high school in Chicago committed to Torah, to academic excellence, to community and to Religious Zionism.
Today, 75 years later, Ida Crown Jewish Academy remains true to their vision, providing the finest Jewish and general education, offering unimaginable opportunities for our students in Torah learning, the sciences and arts, and fostering community involvement through chesed, teen leadership and Israel advocacy training. But even more, today the Academy continues to grow and evolve, finding new ways to engage our students’ hearts and minds, offering STEM courses, advanced Talmud learning, 11 interscholastic sports teams, Shabbatonim and special programs as never before.
Three times a day we recite the sh’ma and recite the commandment to teach our children - v’shinantem l’vanecha. Interestingly, this command appears in the midst of a series of other commands directed at parents and adults, specifically following the charge that “these words which I command you, should be on your heart.”
Why is the mitzvah of education found in the middle of sh’ma? The answer is found every day at the Academy as teachers bring their heartfelt love of Jewish life to the fore and share their passion for knowledge with their students. Come to the Academy and see young men and women engaged and ennobled by their studies of both Torah u’maddah. Come to the Academy and see the future leaders of our community in a setting filled with warmth, led with purpose and open to opportunity.
Come to the Academy and see the future leaders of our community in a setting filled with warmth, led with purpose and open to opportunity.
This year we celebrated 75 years of a rich and distinguished history. Yet every day we celebrate the future – and that future, because of your support, your faith and your heartfelt care is so very bright. Thank you so very much!
B’vracha, Rabbi Dr. Leonard A. Matanky
Celebrating 75 Years
We greeted nearly 400 alumni living in Israel, including our recent grads studying in yeshivot and seminaries, at November’s 75th gala celebration in Jerusalem. The magnificent event, against a backdrop of the Old City walls lit up with our logo, was chaired by two of our alumni who made aliyah, Neeli Axler Engelhart (‘94) and Arica Cohen Saltzman (‘95). What was particularly inspiring was seeing how up to half of several of our graduating classes made aliyah and are raising families in Israel. Many of these alumni expressed deep gratitude to ICJA for the Religious Zionist education they received in high school, and said they still feel connected to ICJA. It is through class lessons, celebrations of Israel’s holidays, visiting speakers and our close connection with Bnei Akiva and Camp Moshava that we have been able to help raise three generations of Chicago’s strongest Zionists.
Nearly 300 alumni and friends of the Academy joined the first gala 75th anniversary celebration at the ICJA campus on November 11 to reminisce and to reflect on Academy history and all that three generations of Academy alumni have accomplished. Rabbi Leonard Matanky (’76), Eric Rothner (’61) and Shael Bellows (’57) all addressed the crowd. Among the attendees was Mrs. Hilda Rapoport, wife of former ICJA principal Rabbi Shlomo Rapoport a"h and ICJA’s “first lady.”
75% OF OUR GRADUATING CLASS IS SPENDING A GAP YEAR IN ISRAEL
GIRLS’ ISRAEL PROGRAMS: Ein Hanatziv, Machon Maayan, Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim, Midreshet Amit, Midreshet Harova, Midreshet Moriah, Midreshet Torat Chessed, Midreshet Torah V’Avodah, Sha’alvim for Women, Tiferet, Tomer Devorah
BOYS’ ISRAEL PROGRAMS: Mechinat Keshet Yehudah, Orayta, Tomchei Temimim, Yeshivat Eretz Hatzvi, Yeshivat Har Etzion, Yeshivat Shaarei Mevaseret Zion, Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh, Yeshivat Reishit, Yeshivat Torat Shraga, Yeshivat Torah V’Avodah
GENERAL ISRAEL PROGRAMS: Bar Ilan Israel Experience, Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu
>> Yom HaAtzmaut this year was epic with a visit from Israel’s Consul General to the Midwest, camel rides, army “training” on inflatables, an Israeli grilled lunch, dancing with a live band and a kumzitz. The entire school was dramatically made over to a shuk that filled our front entryway. Stations included henna art, a juice bar, a money exchange station with the math department, a Bedouin tent, a Dead Sea spa and more. Our enhanced programming was sponsored by the Gertz family in memory of Paul and Doris Rosenberg a"h. We are grateful for their generosity that enabled us to create meaningful programming.
CHESED DAYS >>
Students and staff spent three mornings this year dedicated to community service. This all-school chesed endeavor was in addition to the 20 hours of chesed per year ICJA students complete. Funding for the busing and special programming on these days were thanks to the Ann Rita Schwartz a"h Day of Chesed, which was generously underwritten by her family.
In total, our students volunteered at more than a dozen organizations this year. Mrs. Alissa Zeffren, one of our activities coordinators, says, “We have no doubt that for many of our students, their experience of doing chesed in high school will lead to a lifetime of giving back to the community.”
Chesed days took place in the fall, on Tu B’Shevat and on Lag Baomer. The programming included volunteer work and lunch, followed by fun activities around Chicagoland. The chesed opportunities and special programming were all coordinated by our dedicated activities coordinators: Mrs. Alissa Zeffren, Rabbi Yoni Fox and Mrs. Mimi Fuchs.
Supporting Israel for 70+ Years
When members of the Israeli Knesset make a short visit to Chicago on a JUF mission, it is no surprise that one of their few stops is ICJA. Through AIPAC conferences, Israel Advocacy Club, Israel programming, a senior Israel advocacy elective course and guest speakers–we remain among the most stalwart supporters of the State of Israel in Chicago.
We were proud to send 12 ICJA student delegates to the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. this year. Ms. Susan Sennett led the cohort, and Rabbi Matanky was there as well, along with Academy families and students and, of course, many ICJA alumni.
“The Policy Conference has given the 12 of us a wonderful foundation for understanding the complexity of Israel’s surroundings and journey, and we are all now better prepared to lead our Ida Crown community respectfully, using our voices to our advantage.” >>Junior Ruby Grant
ICJA students annually attend the AIPAC Policy Conference, and last year we were proud to be selected as AIPAC’s high school of the year, chosen out of all high schools across the U.S. This year’s cohort was one of our largest groups yet, thanks to the generosity of the Gorenstein family, who support our Israel advocacy efforts in memory of their father and grandfather, Sam Gorenstein, a"h. Teaching our students to be a passionate and educated Israel advocates is fundamental to our mission.
Earlier in the year, seven students attended the AIPAC Schusterman Summit, along with Ms. Sennett. There, the students learned about the politics in the Middle East, the BDS movement and how to lobby for Israel. All of this led up to the opportunity to lobby for an anti-BDS bill on Capitol Hill.
“Although all seven of us have grown up in Zionist homes, AIPAC has given us a new definition of what it means to be a Zionist. It is no longer enough to just say ‘I love Israel,’ but we must work to advocate for the land we love.” >>Junior Taliah Soleymani
Celebrating Alumni Who Make Aliyah >>
At the time of the establishment of the State of Israel, Chicago Jewish Academy (now ICJA) was still a fledgling school in its fifth year. In the 70 years since Israel was born, Religious Zionist Jews in Chicago–many of whom attended ICJA–have been among the country’s most ardent supporters.
For 70 years, ICJA has seen some of its best and brightest alumni make aliyah. And we couldn’t be prouder.
We asked our alumni in Israel to submit their aliyah stories in honor of this year’s 70th celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut. We are grateful to those who took the time to respond. Each alum shares his or her most rewarding and most challenging aspects of staking their claim in the Jewish State. What’s overwhelmingly clear for all of them, though, is that their decisions to make their home in Israel has repercussions for generations. Generations of children and grandchildren have been born to those alumni who made aliyah in the ’50s and ‘60s. We reconnected with so many of our alumni in Israel this year at our 75th anniversary celebration in Jerusalem. We reached out to those same alumni the week of Yom HaAtzmaut asking them to share their aliyah stories in honor of Israel’s 70th birthday. Their stories of aliyah, ranging from those who left immediately after high school to those who left after retirement, inspired so many readers.
In athletics, our teams excelled locally and nationally as formidable competitors. Most importantly, whether in a local or national interscholastic program, our students were recognized for their talent, character and commitment to the community. Highlights from this year spanned from a varsity girls conference win in cross country to a first-place finish at the Columbus Jewish Baseball Invitational. The months between were filled with myriad individual and team accomplishments, big and small.
Aces Basketball >> The ICJA varsity Aces boys basketball team had an exceptional trip to New York for the Yeshiva University Red Sarachek Basketball Tournament. The highlight, no doubt, was their four overtime thriller with MTA. Despite absorbing a loss, the Aces showed sheer determination, team work and an absolute unwillingness to give up.
The gym was packed to capacity as the battle ensued and our boys showed everyone the pride that is Academy basketball. In addition to playing basketball, the boys enjoyed a trip of fun and bonding with one another. The boys had the opportunity to meet other athletes from around the country and spent a meaningful Shabbat with all the participating schools.
Lady Aces >>The Varsity Lady Aces finished a strong winter season, featuring a second place finish at the Miami tournament for Jewish day schools. The JV Lady Aces won their fifth consecutive Chicago Prep Conference.
Aces Baseball>> The Aces varsity baseball team defeated TABC 8-7 in May to win the Jewish World Series, the Columbus Baseball Invitational Championship. The game was tied at seven with Ida Crown batting in the bottom of the seventh when Ami Greenberg hit a single to bring in Joseph Dimbert for the game winning run. Ida Crown earned the victory despite falling behind 6-0 after two innings.
Following that big win, the Aces returned home to play Rochelle Zell, winning 12-7. The winning pitcher was freshman Daniel Garland-Stern, who gave up only three runs in the game. The night was especially meaningful because of the ceremonial first pitch by David Maeir in honor of ICJA alum Caleb Maeir a"h. An incredible number of alumni, students, parents and staff attended the game to honor Caleb’s memory and love for Aces baseball.
Aces Wrestling>> In this year’s Wittenberg National Invitational Wrestling Tournament, the Aces finished in fifth place out of 15 teams. As the team that has won the most times in the long history of the Wittenberg Tournament, ICJA entered the competition with a strong squad. As always, the Aces made their mark on the tournament and reminded all of the other teams in the field that wrestlers from ICJA can never be taken for granted. The Aces wrestlers took fourth place in the IHSA Class A Regional Wrestling Tournament.
Lady Aces Soccer>> In spite of a cold, rainy spring, the soccer team took second place in the Chicago Prep Conference Tournament, tying Cristo Rey Jesuit High School 2-2, and then losing in the penalty kick shootout. Nechama Braun and Lior Pinchot were named to the 1st All-Conference Team, and Marli Gutman and Tova Oliff were selected for the 2nd All-Conference Team.
Best Year Yet for Fencing>> Sixteen fencers on the boys and girls team competed fiercely and with honor and integrity this past year. ICJA faced some of the top high schools in Illinois, competing well against Merian Catholic, Homewood/Flossmoor, New Trier, Highland Park, Deerfield and Libertyville. Special congratulations go to Captains Gail Schneiderman and Ezra Schur, who demonstrated outstanding leadership in training, competition and personal character.
Aces Cross Country>> The ICJA cross country team–our school’s largest athletic team–enjoyed an incredible fall season, ending with a Conference Championship win for our girls’ squad and a very close second place Conference finish for the boys’ varsity.
The fall cross country season is short, scheduled to accommodate the busy holiday season, which means many meets and runs packed into only two months. In spite of the challenging schedule, our runners remain a competitive force among schools across Chicagoland. Seven schools and 124 runners raced in the conference meet, hosted by ICJA along the McCormick trail in Skokie on October 9, chol hamoed Sukkot. For the Aces, 28 students out of 48 runners achieved a personal best time (PR).
Record-breaking annual campaign >>
The development team and lay leadership set out to achieve an unprecedented campaign goal this year. Thanks to a dedicated group effort, we are grateful to have surpassed that goal, just prior to the annual campaign close on June 30.
In total, the Academy family raised $1.27 million for the ICJA Scholarship Fund – Topping $1 million for the third year in a row.
Scholarship Funds assist more than 66 percent of our student body, ensuring the continuation of our founders’ mission that no Jewish child is 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 the many donors who enable us to accomplish this mission.
The highlight of our fundraising efforts was, of course, our Dr. Edward A. Crown Scholarship Dinner in February, where over 500 Academy supporters joined us celebrate 75 years of the Academy and to honor Rabbi Leonard (‘76) and Margaret Matanky (‘76).
The commons area and gym were elegantly transformed to accommodate the banquet, attended by ICJA alumni, staff, parents and community members. We were honored to have Lester Crown, grandson of our school’s namesake, and Dr. Steven B. Nasatir, president of JUF/JF join our celebration and speak during the program. The over 500 attendees made this the largest dinner in Academy history.
At the dinner Eric Rothner, 75th anniversary chair, along with Shael Bellows, announced a $1 million endowment campaign in honor of Rabbi and Mrs. Matanky and ICJA’s 75th anniversary.
The Matanky adult children presented the Crown Leadership Award to their parents and then building committee chairs, Jacques Glisksberg and David Strulowitz, stepped in to surprise the Matankys with a “Matanky Way” street sign from The Village of Skokie that will be placed in our drive. Everyone left the dinner feeling proud of all that the Academy has accomplished over 75 years and proud to be connected to our special honorees.
We thank all those contributors who helped us reach our annual campaign goal.
The financial summary is based on the audited financial statements for the years ending June 2016 and June 2017, the last two fiscal periods for which statements are available.
Jewish Day School Guaranty Trust Fund
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 helped 42 students attend the Academy. We gratefully acknowledge the Heerey Family for their generosity and their commitment to day school education.