Month: February 2022

ATT’s Annual Teachers Conference Day Inspires Educators and Presenters Alike

Once again ATT adjusted its mirror, pivoted, and surpassed today’s many challenges to hold its usual annual in-person Teachers Conference Day (TCD) for 600+ teachers. With Rabbi Avrohom Shimon Moller and Mrs. Chani Friedman at the helm and a dedicated committee of school representatives, this year’s hybrid or virtual and in-person TCD exceeded everyone’s expectations. 

With 32 sessions and 29 noted national and local presenters, there was something for every grade level, pre-nursery – high school. Sessions focused on a range of topics relevant to today’s educational environment.

This year’s program offered schools virtual session options as well as in-person sessions for those schools who preferred the in-person option. This allowed for presenter-participant engagement and both small group and large group discussion in a safe environment.

ATT’s Teachers Conference Day is an opportunity for teachers to access new ideas and methodologies in teaching, both in Jewish and general studies. Teachers are also able to collaborate with colleagues throughout the ATT system in workshops and teacher-facilitated discussions. While this program is just one of many professional development (PD) opportunities for educators that the ATT offers throughout the year, the sheer number of attendees and speakers makes it the most exciting.

Chicago is the only city in North America with a system-wide umbrella organization like the ATT for all the local Jewish day schools, which makes this PD Day an exciting program that is unique to our city.

Speakers and partners had this to say:

It was a true pleasure learning with the amazing educators of the Chicago area. Kol Hakavod on putting this successful program together. Looking forward to further collaboration in the future.

Rabbi Yaakov Sadigh, Head of School Katz Hillel Day School, Boca Raton, Florida

Thank you so much. The participants were very engaged and participated fully. You seem to have run a fabulous program! Thank you for making me a part of it.

Ashley Charnoff, Consortium of Jewish Day Schools presenter, New York

Thank you so much for the opportunity. From the quality of the questions, I can see that this was a really committed and professional group of teachers. 

Dr. Tzipora Koslowitz, Licensed school and clinical psychologist, New Jersey

Thanks so much for the opportunity to speak this morning. I so enjoyed the ideas and interaction of the participants. 

Beverley Johns, Learning and Behavior Consultant, Illinois

It was a pleasure being able to speak with you today at the ATT professional development day. I hope that the information presented was helpful for you and I look forward to working with many of you in the future.

Meir Hauser, Psy.D, Clinical Psychologist, Assistant Professor, Rush University Medical Center

Thanks again for inviting me to present. Based on the conversation during the workshop, the participants definitely took out new mindsets and skills to use with their students.

Marc Fein, Mental health advocate, New York

Thank you to the ATT and Mrs. Friedman for all their hard work putting together this wonderful education conference.

Daniel Alkhovsky, Director Walder Science


Participants had this to say:

Thank you for this and congrats on this great conference!

Rabbi Dr. Gavriel Brown, Assistant Dean, ICJA

I have heard VERY positive feedback on yesterday’s in-services. THANK YOU!!!!!

Rabbi Menachem Kirshner, Principal, Limudei Kodesh, Arie Crown Hebrew Day School

Today was great!! Thank you so much for putting it together.

Tobie Teller, Principal, Hanna Sacks Bais Yaakov

Thank you for the many great presentations today. Many teachers asked if they will be able to view the recordings of classes that they didn’t choose but heard were amazing?

Rana Wechsler, General Studies Principal, Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov

I know you spend a huge amount of time preparing for the yearly conference days.  While I am not usually a big fan of Zoom classes, they did make it possible for classes of 70-80-90 participants.  All three of my classes were excellent and well attended.  Thank you for all your efforts.

Miriam Schiller, Walder Education

Thank you! Yesterday was wonderful. I truly appreciate your efforts. 

Shelley Stopek, ICJA

Thank you so much for excellent sessions that were presented today by phenomenal speakers. Each one was tremendous!! I miss being together with all the teachers, but there were some nice benefits this way.

Sarah Leah Grinblatt, Arie Crown Hebrew Day School

I just wanted to let you know that the conferences I attended were informative and I enjoyed.  All your coordination of in person and on zoom was tremendous.  Kol hakavod!

Naama Goldstein, JDBY-YTT

I thoroughly enjoyed Beverley Johns presentation and will use much of what she taught.  I especially like the dominoes game for teaching punctuation and the tic tac toe game for getting students to own their own essays. I also loved Ariela Robinson’s Art in Literature presentation. She gave me so many new ideas to use art to get students to loosen up and get into text and connect to it and feel proud of themselves—so many benefits!  This was terrific!  (It)was very valuable for me!

Marsha Arons, ICJA

Beyond excellent, enjoyable, worthwhile, etc.  I could go on and on, but I don’t have my Thesaurus in front of me! Thank you, again, for allowing me to sign up for the Holocaust Resistance presentation.  As much as I think I’m well-educated on the subject (I keep forcing myself to learn more), there was some material which I hadn’t heard/read before

Ahuvah Klein, Arie Crown Hebrew Day School

Thank you so much for all of your hard work, attention to detail and creativity. I really enjoyed and learned from each of the sessions that I chose. I heard the same sentiments from many of my colleagues too. The ” treat” was well received. The remote choice that was offered was really appreciated and preferred.   Thank you for all that you do.

Miriam Prero, Arie Crown Hebrew Day School

Yasher Koach to you! The three lectures that I attended with Rabbi Sadigh, Rabbi Kamin, and Dr. Hauser were all very useful and informative. Each one of them could have gone longer and no one would have minded! I hope everything went well today. I’m sure with all your planning it was a major success.

Margaret Matanky, Arie Crown Hebrew Day School

I really enjoyed the sessions I signed up for today. However, Dr. Nachi Felt’s presentation was over the top valuable and informative. To hear feedback from a frum person who himself is coping with ADHD and to hear the “sad” story of his challenging young life, to learn how he overcame his obstacles, how he grew up to be an advocate for something that affects so many of our children, and how we can help these children is beyond words.

Hedy Wechsler, JDBY


Workshops were on topics as diverse as the speakers and teachers themselves, including topics like:

  • Developing relationships with students
  • Student engagement and motivation
  • Developing critical thinking
  • Language processing and its effects on instruction and classroom behavior
  • Note-taking skills
  • Hebrew language instruction
  • Mathematics and science skill building
  • Anxiety management
  • Social thinking skills

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Vayakhel

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

Coming Together as a People

In this week’s Torah portion Vayakhel, the Bnei Yisroel are gathered together to build the Mishkan. Rashi tells us this happened right after Yom Kippur when Moshe came down from the mountain receiving the second Luchos (tablets). We as a people sinned with the egel hazahav (golden calf), and now it was time to rebuild. The second Luchos were given and the building of the Mishkan would begin. It was time to recognize the goal of serving G-d alone and for the Divine Presence to rest amongst us in this world. It was a time to rededicate ourselves to the values that were given to us at Sinai. It was a time to become united as a people.

A few years ago, I was part of the JUF Shimshon Mission that traveled to Poland and Israel. More than 20 day school leaders participated in this mission as we connected to the past in ways that none of us could have imagined beforehand. Walking through Auschwitz, Birkenau, Majdanek and Treblinka was extremely emotional. One could only grasp a bit of the horrors that our ancestors went through. In Auschwitz and Birkenau, it was a rainy, cold day. All of us were dressed warmly, in coats, gloves, boots, hoods, and after three hours of walking, we were shivering as we got back to the bus. We all asked, “How could they possibly survive such conditions?”

We were trying to relate but couldn’t quite connect to that reality. The enormity of the devastation and destruction hit us as we walked through the death camps. Three million out of 3.3 million Jews in Poland were killed. One participant commented, “In our group of 25 people, two or three would have made it based on those numbers.”

One person asked, “What is our take away from this experience? Communities that were vibrant and alive were destroyed and they are gone. Rabbis, scholars, laymen, religious, secular, parents, grandparents, children – it didn’t make any difference, if you were Jewish, you were persecuted. How do we relate  to this?”

It is a heavy question; there is much to say and many lessons to draw from it. I would like to focus on one take away. The fact that more than 70 years later we are visiting these sites, praying and connecting to our people, reinforces the important lesson of Vayakhel – gathering together for eternity. These 6 million kedoshim are not gone. They live within every one of us.

All Jews throughout all periods of time are eternally connected. We feel that responsibility to rebuild and to replenish what was lost. We are one people with one mission with one G-d and a value system that has kept us going for thousands of years. We are connected to the past and its memory inspires us to do more for our people in the future.

Vayakhel is the gathering of Jews throughout time. We continue to build from the past and rebuild the future. We have much to be proud of in our community as we see tremendous growth in our day schools, synagogues and Jewish life. We have dedicated Rabbis, lay leaders, and volunteers living daily by the values handed down to us. We have dedicated organizations such as the JUF with committed staff to work on behalf of the community of Jews here and abroad. We are one people gathered together over time.

Let us continue to strengthen our commitment to each other in the memory of those lost, to continue to build the legacy of the Jewish people until the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdosh (Temple). May it come speedily in our times. Amen.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Ki Sisa

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

Holiness – A Charge from Previous Generations

Parshas Ki Sisa contains the commandment of creating the שמן המשחה – the anointing oil. Rashi comments on the verse of “שמן משחת קדש יהיה זה לי לדרתיכם – This shall be anointing oil for me for generations” that there was a miraculous characteristic to the שמן המשחה. The oil regenerated itself after it was used, and it was always the same amount that Moshe made initially. It simply never had to be replaced.

The question is why this special property was necessary? Couldn’t the שמן המשחה be reproduced as were many other parts of the Temple vessels and supplies? We know that  Hashem does not change nature’s course unless there is a necessity.

Perhaps one can suggest two possible insights into this phenomenon. The שמן המשחה‘s purpose was to activate the holiness of each person and vessel it was used on. Without anointing, these vessels would not “function” as כלי שרת – vessels of service. The reason the oil never was depleted served as an importance lesson about holiness in the Torah perspective. Holiness is based on the traditions from previous generations as it was communicated to them by Hashem. It is not updated or changed by the mores and norms of the time.

A second message is that holiness is eternal. Hashem will always have holiness and righteousness in this world no matter where humanity decides to go. Hashem’s  master plan is that there will always be a segment of holy people that pursue and conduct themselves in this role.

We convey values to our children about their Jewishness. We should stress the אלקי אבי – my father’s G-D as part of that message. We didn’t invent our way of life; we inherited it, and we cherish the mission of bearing this torch for all times.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Tezaveh

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

It’s Not About Me

In this week’s Torah portion, Tezaveh, the name of Moshe is omitted. Commentators wonder why his name is omitted. The next question they ask is why in this specific Torah portion is his name absent since it appears in every other portion since his birth.

The understanding of many is that when Moshe in pleading on behalf of the people to G-d, one of the times they sinned, he said, “Erase me from your Torah.” Those words had an effect; his name needed to be removed from the Torah as a fulfillment of that statement. That only explains why his name had to be erased somewhere but why in this specific Torah portion?

There is a beautiful lesson that is being taught here. Moshe never wanted to be the leader. He begged for Aaron, his older brother, to take the position. However, G-d appointed him and although He gave Aaron a role as well in the process of the redemption, Moshe was clearly the leader. Aaron’s role was that of the Kohen Gadol and his responsibility was being the leader in the service of the Mishkan (Tabernacle).  This week’s portion deals with the vestments of the Kohen and is about Aaron and his descendants that would inherit the priesthood after him. In a way, G-d grants Moshe’s request for Aaron to be the leader by not mentioning him when it is time to put the spotlight on Aaron. This was the week that focuses only on Aaron as Moshe truly wanted to show respect for his brother.

It is a great lesson in life to be able to step aside and give the proper respect to those around us when that respect is due. We should all be able to look for ways how we can think about others first like Moshe who throughout his life lived by the principle it’s not about me.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Terumah

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

In Parshas Terumah we begin the section of the Torah that deals with the building of the MishkanI, the Tabernacle. When the Torah ends the description of the Mishkan, it goes on to describe the laws of the service in the sanctuary and the ritual laws of purity. This is followed by the special laws of the Kohanim. A full third of the Chumash deals with the construction, rituals and history of the Mishkan.

This requires some analysis since we know that the Torah puts great emphasis on man’s internal thoughts and connection to Hashem. The prophets decry the empty gesture of ritualism.  In several weeks (Parshas Zochor) we will read Shmuel HaNavi’s admonition of:

הנה שמוע מזבח טוב להקשיב מחלב פרים
Why does the Torah attach so much importance to the pageantry and pomp of the sanctuary and the service?

This question has been generalized by many who don’t understand the function of the מצוות מעשיות – the practical mitzvos. Isn’t it sufficient to love Hashem and practice his moral ways without eating matzoh or wearing teffilin? If I meditate on the Creator and his world, do I still need to keep all of the minutiae of hilchos Shabbos, the laws of Shabbos?

The answer to these questions are found in the passuk of ד’ חפץ למען צדקו יגדיל תורה ויאדיר – Hashem desired to give it (the Jewish people) virtue and so he enlarged the Torah and made it (or them) mighty” (Yeshayahu 42:21). This important passuk is explained in several ways:

  1. Hashem wants us to succeed in this life as well as the eternal life. As the architect and planner of this world, he gave us mitzvos that will help harmonize our lives with the cosmic and the practical aspects of this world. This wisdom is known only to him, and as Jews who serve Him, we trust his superior knowledge.
  2. Mitzvos provide us with the opportunity to show our allegiance to Hashem, especially when we do things that aren’t intuitive to us. It is our way of surrendering our will to Him. It is the foundation of our relationship with Him, and He provides us with the opportunity to connect to him through mitzvos.
  3. We want to earn our keep and since Hashem doesn’t “need” anything from us, He wanted us to have an opportunity to earn a reward by obeying him.
  4. There are many dimensions to the world beyond the reach of our senses. These spiritual realms are impacted by our observance of mitzvos. Since we cannot comprehend what these worlds are, we also cannot comprehend how our actions effect the real “Tikkun Olam.”

We are entering a period in the Jewish calendar which is rich with ceremony and practical mitzvos. We should embrace these mitzvos as a great gift that allows us to contribute to the world’s perfection, achieve eternity for ourselves and to build our relationship with Hashem.