Month: December 2019

Israel Scholarships

ATT Israel Scholarships are intended to assist graduating seniors who have attended ATT schools to continue their Torah education in Israel. Scholarships are provided by many families in memory of or in honor of family members who value(d) Jewish education and are/were committed to the State of Israel. Graduating day school seniors attending ATT schools fill out one application for this program and are eligible to receive one of the listed scholarships. 2020 submission deadline is Tuesday,  February 18, 2020 by 5:00pm.

Deadline for for Israel Scholarship applications is Thursday, February 18, 2020.

To download an Israel Scholarship application, click here.

To apply online for an Israel Scholarship, click here.

Pogrund Family Essay/Judaic Artwork Contests 2020

The ATT proudly announces this year’s Pogrund Family Essay and Judaic Artwork Contests for students, grades 3-12, of its affiliated schools. Funded through the generosity of the Pogrund Family, the contests provide students the opportunity to demonstrate their creativity, ability to research Jewish topics, and to express themselves through writing/art.

Deadline for art/essay submission is Thursday, January 30, 2020.

Essay Contest Rules

See Pogrund Family Essay Contest Rules – click here.

Print Pogrund Family Essay Contest Rules – click here.

For Teachers Only: Print Pogrund Family Essay Class Cover Sheet – click here.

Judaic Artwork Contest Rules

See Pogrund Family Judaic Artwork Contest Rules – click here.

Print Pogrund Family Judaic Artwork Contest Rules – click here.

Print Pogund Family Judaic Artwork contest Student Checklist/Explanaion Form – click here.

A Taste of Torah – Chanukah

Just a Moment

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

During Chanukah, the special prayer, Al Hanisim, is added to our tefillos (prayers). This tefilla thanks Hashem for the miracles He performed for the small Jewish army during the battle against the more formidable Greek one. When one looks closely at this prayer, there seems to be a glaring omission. There is no mention during the prayer of the miracle of the small jug of oil that was found allowing the candles to remain lit for eight days. In fact, there is no mention of the candles until the last line which states, Afterwards (referring to the battle) they lit candles and this line seems almost an afterthought. However, if one understands the true focus of the prayer, this line becomes the most powerful one.

After the war, what was the first thing our ancestors did? They did not sit back and enjoy the moment or run a ticker-tape parade to celebrate. Instead, they immediately returned to the Bais Hamikdosh (Temple) to re-establish the Avodah (Daily Services) there. They were inspired by the miracles they witnessed during the war and acted on that inspiration right away. These actions, in turn, brought about the miracle of finding the jug of oil.

This series of events is what we need to keep in mind and to teach our children.  When moments of inspirations are acted upon at once, good things will follow. A famous quote states, “Moments can be momentary or momentous; it all depends on how you use it.” Remember, a moment of better concentration in tefillah or a moment of doing an act of kindness with more thought or a moment of thanking Hashem for all that He gives us can make a monumental change in our lives.

Reaching Students of All Learning Levels

As a whole, the ATT’s REACH program ensures that all Jewish students can attend the Jewish day school of their choice. It’s impact, though, can be best understood on the individual level, by the students, families and teachers this program affects. For teachers, REACH staff offer training, resources and additional support so that students with different learning needs can succeed in their classrooms. All of the students as a whole benefit when their classmates can keep up with the classroom material. And most importantly, the individual students enrolled in REACH have the resources they need to thrive in a Jewish day school.

Watch one story of a Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi student, Nechemia Marder, to understand the impact of REACH on one student’s education. His father, Rabbi Josh Marder, says, “When we heard that YTT was incorporating this new program, the REACH program, we were apprehensively excited! And we were very hopeful. And we were still worried. As the academics and the educational experiences become more serious, more rigorous, we watched the school adapt. We watched REACH adapt. We watched our son adapt and to shine in the ways that he does.”

And as our community has grown and educational standards have shifted, the ATT has evolved as well. Today, our leaders in Jewish education have risen to the challenge to create an educational environment that meets all children’s learning needs. It’s a vision that requires dedication, educational best practices and resources. Thanks to the generosity and leadership of this city, Chicago is rising to the challenge with REACH.

REACH is the first strategic and coordinated effort to address a system-wide need to be more inclusive, building the capacity of the Jewish day school system to teach and care for students with a wide range of needs. REACH gives Jewish day schools the tools to meet the needs of the whole student, including their academic, social- emotional, and physical health needs, so that students with a wide range of learning styles, abilities, challenges, and special needs can access a meaningful Jewish education that is reflective of their families’ values. REACH does this by weaving together existing resources and services, establishing new systems and protocols, and delivering a range of assessment and consultation services.

REACH partners with day schools in greater Chicago around four main service areas:

  • Direct services
  • Consultation
  • Professional development
  • Community collaboration.


REACH services fall into four main categories: Direct Services, Consultation, Professional Development, and Community Collaboration.  Specific audiences and activities are in the table on the following page.


REACH frames its approach as addressing neurodiversity in the classroom using a strengths-focused approach to the practice of differentiating instruction for the neuro-diverse brain. This approach can be used when working with all students but is especially useful for helping teachers and administrators approach students who have challenges. REACH’s philosophy is also influenced by the thoughts of Collaborative Problem Solving and the idea that students do well if they can and that success is based on skill, rather than will. Using research based methods, REACH delivers Professional Development founded on models of best practice and data driven information.

As a community with REACH, we are changing Jewish day schools, one child and one classroom at a time. Nechemia Marder says, “I’ve been in REACH since I was in first grade. I feel like my REACH teachers really care a lot about me so does my Rebbe. I really feel like I can walk from it and I can’t wait until I am an adult and you never know, I might be a REACH teacher myself.”

For more information about REACH, contact the ATT at

Parenting Program to Inspire Our Children

Close to 200 parents of school-age children joined the Associated Talmud Torahs on Motzaei Shabbos, December 14, 2019 to attend the Thirty-third Annual Rabbi Isaac Mayefsky Memorial Lecture. This annual parenting program featured the captivating speaker, educator and coach in New York and throughout the United States, Rabbi Levi Feldman.

The presentation, entitled “Inspiring Our Children in 2020,” focused on strategies for effective parenting. Rabbi Feldman addressed how to enhance relationships with children, how to teach values, make these values stick, increase cooperation, and inspire children to go the extra mile. He presented the following ideas that can help parents accomplish this:

Parents should remind themselves that each child is a gift and diamond to whom one must connect with mind and heart. This is a daily endeavor.

Using the acronym “CLAP” one can be reminded of these important constructs when relating to children:

a. CONNECT – seek to understand before being understood.
i.Children want our quality TIME.
ii.Face your children when you speak and listen to them – they need undivided attention with active listening.
iii. Dignity – they are Hashem’s children, be positive in your remarks to them even when admonishing them.
iv.Validate – our children don’t necessarily look for our solutions. They want to be validated whenever possible.

b. LEAD – with a blend of kindness/caring, accountability/responsibility.
i. Set clear and realistic expectations.
ii. In positive ways, let children know what options are currently available.
iii. Confident – find short positive words said with confidence.
iv.Remind them what they will gain from this.

i. Give them a taste of success.
ii. “Catch them doing good” – create the moment to celebrate, transform the moment.
iii. Praise – focus on the specific act, not the person. Don’t use generalities when praising.
iv. Celebrate whenever possible – “I noticed that you…”
v. Create an emotional bank account in which you make a minimal of five positive deposits to one negative withdrawal.

i. Show your pride in having a gift from Hashem – the Neshama of your child/children. Children will see and feel your pride and joy.
ii. Opportunity to connect with Hashem every moment should be part of your life.
iii. Children see our passion more than any lecture.
iv. Joy – if we do out commandments with joy, then your home will be a place where yiddishkeit is exciting – show your pride to be a Jew.

This lecture is part of the ATT’s expanded program designed to address the challenges of creative teaching and rewarding parenting. Over the years, it has become an excellent resource for parents of children of all ages. 

Rabbi Isaac Mayefsky was a gifted educator who, in the course of more than 40 years of communal service, developed many key programs within the Associated Talmud Torahs, including the Russian Transitional Program and the Oscar & Bernice Novick P’TACH Learning Disabled Program.

For more information, contact the Associated Talmud Torahs of Chicago at

A Taste of Torah – Parshas VaYeshev

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

Parshas VaYeshev is the first of four parshiyos that discuss Yosef HaTzaddik’s travails when he was sold into slavery by his brothers and the repercussions it had on the family and indeed on the course of world history. The possuk seems to attribute the brothers’ resentment toward Yosef to Yaakov Avinu’s favoritism that he showed Yosef and also to Yosef’s own conduct toward his brothers, i.e., relating bad information to their father and telling them of his dreams of grandeur. Indeed, the Gemara (Shabbos 10b) says that a person should be careful not to show favoritism to one child over the other since “…for two selahs weight of fine wool which Yaakov gave Yosef more than his brothers, they were jealous and ultimately this led to our ancestors being enslaved in Egypt.”

This Gemara seems to blame Yaakov Avinu’s choice to favor as the catalyst for the entire Galus Mitzraim, the terrible suffering and enslavement in Egypt. The question is why did Yaakov overlook such a seemingly obvious dictum in raising children?

The Chassam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe Sofer of Pressburg, Slovakia 1762-1839) explains that Yaakov’s error was that he had a very different perspective of Yosef and of his position in the family. He saw Yosef as the scholar and Torah leader in the family. The Torah says that the reason Yaakov loved Yosef was because he was a “ben zekunim.” The Targum’s translation is that he was the wise son, the one to whom Yaakov transmitted all his lifetime learning. Since Yaakov saw Yosef this way, he thought that his other children saw this as well and that they recognized Yosef as a leader deserving of special status.

What Yaakov did not realize is that Yosef had a different relationship with his brothers. He acted like a “typical” brother even displaying an immaturity and perhaps a frivolity which did not make them feel that he was worthy of the leadership position to which he clearly aspired. The posssuk says he acted as a lad with the sons of Bilha and Zilpa. This created the rift between Yosef and his brothers since they believed that he wasn’t more worthy than they were of their father’s affection and attention.

As parents and as people of influence, we need to consider that other people may have a different perspective of an issue or of a person and that they may be very passionate about that perspective. If we are unaware or indifferent of this disparity, we might end up with a very damaging situation. We need to stay aware of feelings and attitudes of those whom we seek to influence, or we might be creating some very negative unforeseen consequences.

ATT Honors NWHA/Park Plaza for Ensuring Future of REACH

Nearly a century ago, visionaries of Chicago’s Jewish community came together to meet our community’s Jewish educational needs by forming the Associated Talmud Torahs. And as our community has grown and educational standards have shifted, the ATT has evolved as well. Today, our leaders in Jewish education have risen to the challenge to create an educational environment that meets all children’s learning needs. It’s a vision that requires dedication, educational best practices and resources. Thanks to the generosity and leadership of this city, Chicago is rising to the challenge with REACH.

REACH is built upon nearly four decades of educational programming to support day school students with different learning needs. The Oscar A. & Bernice Novick Ptach program was founded nearly 40 years ago to help children who learn differently. The Broner and Sheinfeld families stepped in as the parent body advocating for more services for our students. They were the pioneers that began this journey. They were followed by the Elan Diagnostic center program, thanks to the Mermelstein and Kahn families. Then came the JUF, who was instrumental in starting REACH in a partnership with ATT, initially administered by JCFS to bring all these services under one banner. The JUF brought others to the table as well including the Crown family and MRHT to broaden the support of REACH. A few communal leaders stepped up as well, including the lead gifts of the Esformes and Walder families, along with the Rothners, Hartmans, Robinsons, Davis and Meystels, who all gave us the jump start we needed. Hundreds of other community donors allowed us to expand and grow. We are grateful to those families, individuals and organizations in our Jewish community who laid the foundations for REACH that brings us to today. Thank you for investing and believing in our children.

This leads to today and the future of REACH. Thanks to NWHA/Park Plaza, the future of REACH is more secure than ever. ATT was selected among Chicago-area education organizations to receive multi-year grants from NWHA and Park Plaza, whose board has embarked on a groundbreaking, cross generational effort totaling $11 million to support and sustain Jewish day school education across the Chicago Jewish community. This unprecedented multi-year gift builds on NWHA’s ethos of service to the Chicago Jewish community for more than 75 years and its mission of providing high quality housing for Jewish seniors. NWHA’s flagship facility is Park Plaza, an independent living community located on the far north side of Chicago.

The members of this committee stepped forward and approached the ATT because their goal was to impact as many children in the Jewish community as possible. Rabbi Mordechai Raizman, ATT’s Executive Director of Operations, tells the following story: “We were asked initially to put in a proposal for a 3.5 million dollar endowment. After much preparation and a highly anticipated meeting with the REACH leadership team led by Julie Gordon, we felt relieved and hopeful for a positive outcome.

That evening just a few hours after we met, I received a phone call. We got the grant, but it isn’t $3.5 million. Okay, I am thinking at least we got something. I was told that they were so impressed with the dedicated professionals of the REACH team, they pledged $5 million.

These are a special group of people that truly exhibit the middos of our forefather Avrohom, the paragon of chesed. In the end of shemoneh esrei we ask Hashem to bless us because He has given us Toras Chaim and Ahavas Chesed. What is the connection between the two? They seem to be two separate ideas, Torah as the guide for life and the love of chesed – yet they are lumped together?

The truth is they go hand in hand. Many people can give dollars, but most of the time it is after they are asked. I may add sometimes multiple times being asked until they come forward with a gift. To keep our values alive and have a Toras Chaim we need more than that. It needs to come with Ahavas Chesed. The love of chesed demands of us to come forward and give before even being asked. Stepping forward and recognizing the need and then going ahead to fill that need.

Not only did they look for us, asked us to aim high, they went even higher. I have asked other professionals in the field of fundraising and rarely have they heard a story like this. ‘They told you to ask for an amount and then gave you more?’ This is Ahavas chesed that keeps the Jewish people alive.”

Presenting the leadership of NWHA/Park Plaza with the Crain Maling Pillar of Education Award at the ATT dinner on December 8, Rabbi Raizman said, “We are forever grateful for this incredible generosity to impact the lives of hundreds and thousands of students for years to come. On behalf of the schools, administrations, educators, parents and students I thank you and applaud this committee for teaching us this valuable lesson.”

The ATT is one of three recipients to receive the NWHA board’s $11 million in funding over a five-year period. Solomon Schechter Day School of Metropolitan Chicago (SSDS) and Chicago Jewish Day School (CJDS) also received endowment gifts. This funding will maximize each institution’s impact and ensure their long-term sustainability. It will also enable each institution to build further capacity from their respective base of supporters. Like Park Plaza itself, these institutions serve Jewish families across the broad spectrum of the Chicago Jewish community.

“The Hebrew words l’dor v’dor are literally inscribed into the doors at Park Plaza,” says Alan Caplan, president of Northwest Home for the Aged. “From generation to generation; that’s what we believe in, as individuals and as part of the Jewish community, and that’s exactly what this gift is: a gift that gives from one generation to the next, and the next after that. We at NWHA/Park Plaza are thrilled to make these gifts to support Jewish education in and around our communities.”

The NWHA/Park Plaza grant will have a far-reaching impact on ATT’s REACH program. Rusi Sukenik, REACH’s director of student services, says, “This endowment enables us to provide support to schools and teachers to teach struggling learners in a manner that best fits the student and addresses the needs and learning styles and needs of each student.”

Rabbi Raizman adds, “An endowment of this magnitude impacts our day school community in a profound manner. It ensures that no parent will worry that their child is falling through the cracks. This grant gives everyone a chance to succeed. Programs such as REACH are very costly to sustain. This grant is visionary in its nature and will allow us to provide for children for many years to come.”

The cross-generational aspects of Park Plaza are obvious the moment one enters. “Local schoolkids, grandkids, great-grandkids … they’re here all the time,” said Elly Bauman, Executive Director of Park Plaza. “Kids are here to celebrate Shabbat and holidays, to visit relatives, and to volunteer. It’s part of what helps us fulfill our mission of providing Jewish seniors with a life that’s not just comfortable, but which has dignity and meaning.”

“It’s just really what Park Plaza and Northwest Home for the Aged are all about,” says Alan Caplan. “We put l’dor v’dor front and center, the first thing you see when you enter the building, whether you’re a resident or a first-time visitor. It’s what grounds the Jewish community. Northwest Home for the Aged couldn’t be more pleased to put our primary principle into action with these gifts. They are investments in the future of our community.”

Thank you, NWHA/Park Plaza for invest in all of the future – in our children and the next generations to come.

Inspiring Evening Celebrating Jewish Education

Some 325 educators, community members, friends and lay leaders gathered on Sunday, December 8 to make this year’s 90th ATT celebration in inspiring evening celebrating Jewish education in Chicago.

The dinner came on the heels of planning a new, three-year strategic plan and an unprecedented new endowment to the ATT. Rabbi Mordechai Raizman, Executive Director of Operations, says, “This is an exciting time as we concluded an extensive and thorough look to where we are as an organization and where we are going into the future. Led by our Consultant Debra Nathashon over the last 18 months, we have created and started the implementation of a strategic plan for the next few years to better serve the day school community.”

The ATT was humbled and grateful to recognize Northwest Home for the Aged (NWHA) and Park Plaza with the Crain Maling Pillar of Education Award. ATT was selected among Chicago-area education organizations to receive multi-year grants from NWHA and Park Plaza, whose board has embarked on a groundbreaking, cross generational effort totaling $11 million to support and sustain Jewish day school education across the Chicago Jewish community. This unprecedented multi-year gift builds on NWHA’s ethos of service to the Chicago Jewish community for more than 75 years and its mission of providing high quality housing for Jewish seniors. NWHA’s flagship facility is Park Plaza, an independent living community located on the far north side of Chicago.

After deep consideration, the NWHA board devised a plan to allocate $11 million in funding over a five-year period to three recipients: The Associated Talmud Torahs’ REACH program, Solomon Schechter Day School of Metropolitan Chicago (SSDS) and Chicago Jewish Day School (CJDS). This funding, structured as endowments, will maximize each institution’s impact and ensure their long-term sustainability.

A highlight of the evening’s program was honoring three winners of the the ATT’s 10th Annual Hartman Family Foundation Educator of the Year Awards: Mrs. Sari Kravitt (Hillel Torah North Suburban Day School) whose top award was sponsored in memory of Mrs. Gayle Anne Herwitz, Mrs. Betty Hainsfurther (Arie Crown Hebrew Day School), and Miss Breindy Miller (Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov Elementary School).

Rabbi Avrohom Moller introduced the awards saying, “Robert and Debbie Hartman’s noble intention is to express gratitude to those teachers who dedicate themselves with heart and soul to the most meaningful career one can choose; the passing of our heritage to the next generation and the building of young students into successful people.”

Mrs. Kravitt describes in the video how she once attended the dinner to support a colleague who won the award in a past year and was inspired to become the kind of educator who would one day win the same award. This was extraordinary proof of the importance of the power of this generous Hartman Award that inspires our community’s educators to strive for higher goals and to reward them when they do.

The award and selection process are designed to highlight the superlative and innovative efforts of our educators. The ATT and Hartman Family Foundation hope that through the awarding of this prize not only three of the most outstanding teachers in Chicago are recognized, but the award also further elevates and ennobles the entire profession in the eyes of our community.

Awards are selected by a committee of educational consultants and community members. Selection criteria for the Educator Award include exceptional instructional skills in a nurturing environment, commitment to one’s students’ success, superior communication skills with parents, students, and peers, commitment to continued professional development, and contributions to one’s school’s learning community.

Thank you to the ATT staff and lay leadership who made this year’s annual dinner such a success.