Author: ATT Chicago

ATT Convenes Government Programs Meeting with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Representatives

This week ATT convened a meeting with school principals and school government programs representatives to discuss the rules and ideas regarding Federal Entitlement Programs. Pam Butts, Director of Nonpublic Programs at Chicago Public Schools (CPS), presided over the meeting and discussed ways to use Federal Title Programs more effectively. 

Also present from CPS were Melanie Rodriguez, CPS Title I Program Manager and Katrina Coronel, CPS Title I Program Coordinator – North Side. 

The discussion was very valuable, and all attendees left with new ideas and a better understanding of these important resources for intervention and support at ATT schools

REACH and ICJA continue successful PD collaboration!

The meaningful professional development (PD) collaboration between REACH and ICJA continues for the 2023-2024 school year with the formation of a new PD group to read and discuss Marc Brackett’s book, Permission to Feel. The response was overwhelming with 20 excited, eager ICJA teachers enrolling in the nine-session seminar.

The first session occurred last week, and discussion participation was 100 percent. Each teacher shared thoughts about an “Uncle Marvin” (a character in the book) in their life or a quote that resonated. The discussion was lively until the bell rang signaling the end of the period with several participants staying after to continue conversing about the book.

The group’s goal is to learn how to work with emotions that will help improve teaching skills and how to connect better with students.

Community raises $750,000 for REACH

Thanks to the generosity of the Chicago Jewish community, as well as supporters outside of Chicago, the REACH team raised an unprecedented amount of money in only 30 hours on a Causematch campaign. Nearly 400 donors, matched by several generous REACH donors raised $750K for REACH. We at REACH, as well as at the ATT staff are humbled and grateful for the generosity of the community that we serve.

REACH is Chicago’s coordinated effort to build Jewish day schools’ capacity to support students with a wide range of needs in an inclusive way. Our vision is to ensure that all Jewish students can attend the Jewish day school of their choice.

Executive Director Julie Gordon, MA says, “REACH has had unprecedented growth, and these funds will enable us to sustain the high quality services we provide.”

These services include the following:

  • Direct services to students
  • Partnering to develop best practice systems, strategies and protocols for the needs of each specific school
  • Professional development, training and coaching 
  • Community collaboration

Thank you to the families who laid the foundation for the REACH program to grow and have such an impact on our day school community: 

  • Oscar A. & Bernice Novick
  • Crain Maling foundation
  • The Walder foundation
  • Rabbi Morris Esformes
  • Gayle (z”l) and Eric Rothner
  • Robert and Debra Hartman
  • Robinson Family Foundation
  • The parent body that spearheaded the growth of REACH led by the Broner and Sheinfeld families. 

One of the most exciting parts of running this online campaign was hearing the stories that came in from our teachers, parents and partner schools.

Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of donors, REACH has the ability to continue doing the important work of ensuring that every Jewish child has the opportunity and tools they need to succeed in the day school of their choice. When one child in our community is empowered, our whole community is lifted up.

REACH is an affiliate of the ATT and a partner with JUF in serving our community. Learn more about REACH here.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Shmini

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

Using Everything for the Good

This week’s Torah portion starts off talking about the dedication of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Aharon, the Kohen Gadol, was charged with the inaugural service which included bringing a calf as an offering to G-d. Rashi points out that this was not so easy for Aharon to do. A discussion took place between Aharon and Moshe about this service. Aharon appeared to be embarrassed and was not ready to fulfill the service for he was well aware of the fact that he participated in the sin of the Golden Calf and now felt uncomfortable bringing a calf to G-d. However, Moshe counters this reasoning and says to him, “Why are you embarrassed? This is exactly why you were chosen.” What was the idea that Moshe was conveying to his brother that made him worthy to be chosen for this task?

On a basic level most commentaries understand that Moshe was telling Aharon because you have a sense of embarrassment and you are approaching G-d with a feeling of remorse that is why you are chosen to bring this offering.

However, there is another layer here to be understood with a timeless message of hope for all. Human beings are frail, and we succumb to our evil inclination at times and make mistakes. G-d teaches us that we can always turn things around and learn from our mistakes. We should not give up hope that since we have sinned, we are unworthy to serve G-d. Instead, we should understand that the opposite is true. Yes, we may have sinned and made some mistakes, but we can learn from our sins and mistakes and use those experiences as a vehicle to get closer to G-d. Learning from our mistakes is an important part of growth in life.

Moshe is telling Aharon the reason you were chosen is because you sinned. You can now teach this lesson to everybody – that after one sins, don’t despair, but rather use what you have learned from that experience and turn it around to get closer to G-d. You, Aharon, must be the one to take a calf and offer it to G-d. In the past you used a calf for a sinful purpose. Now, you can use it to get closer to G-d.

One always has the opportunity to learn from every experience in life. Certainly, doing mitzvos and positive things are good for us. Let us also remember that even our negative experiences in life can be turned around and used for good as well.

ATT event honors teaching excellence

Nearly 500 educators, community members, friends and lay leaders gathered on Tuesday, February 21 to make this year’s ATT celebration of educators an inspiring evening celebrating Jewish education in Chicago.

At the event held at the Ateres Ayala Simcha Hall, the Hartman Family Foundation Educator of the Year Awards were presented to the following outstanding educators:

Mrs. Malka Loterstein, (Arie Crown Hebrew Day School)

Rabbi Ephraim Kletenik (Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi)

Mr. Chaim Safier (Hillel Torah North Suburban Day School)

The award and selection process are designed to highlight the outstanding 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.

Mrs. Loterstein’s award is sponsored in memory of Gayle Anne Herwitz. Watch a video featuring her contribution to day school education below.

Watch a video featuring Rabbi Kletenik’s and Mr. Chaim Safier‘s contribution to day school education below.

The evening concluded with an auction for RebbeimMoros, and Teachers only. The ATT looks forward to continuing to find ways of showing our hakoros hatov to all of the dedicated educators in our city.

The program also highlighted ways the ATT team are proud to support teachers, administrators and students.

The ATT has over a 90-year history of supporting Chicago Jewish day schools.

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

A Taste Of Torah – Pesach

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

Three Matzos

As we approach the Seder, there is a noticeable change in the start of the meal. Usually we set the table with two challos on Shabbos and Yom Tov, but on the night of Pesach we use three matzos. Some commentaries explain that each matzah represents one of our forefathers, Avrohom, Yitzchak and Yaakov, the founders of the Jewish nation. Since Pesach is the time when the Jewish people became a nation, it is befitting to keep our beginnings in mind, look back at our roots, our spiritual genes so to speak, as we start the Seder night.

One question arises if we explore this idea one step further. The middle matzah which represents Yitchak is the matzah that we break in two and save part of it for the Afikomen. What, if any, is the significance to breaking Yitzchak’s matzah?

When Avrohom was about to offer Yitzchak as a sacrifice to Hashem, Yitzchak never wavered in his belief. He was ready to give up his life for his beliefs. The breaking of “his” matzah symbolizes that mesrias nefesh (giving of one’s self) to do the will of G-d. Yitzchak’s actions instilled in Klal Yisroel (the Jewish people) the fortitude and strength to overcome the many challenges not only in connection with the Pesach story but for all successive generations.

Pesach, as we experience the Seder, is the opportune time for all of us to acknowledge how we have benefited from the previous generations’ mesrias nefesh. Their tremendous sacrifices continue to play a big part in instilling in us Torah values. The Seder provides the perfect setting for us to express our gratitude to our Rabbeim, Moros, parents, and grandparents for their constant mesrias nefesh to help us become steadfast in our commitment to be Torah Jews.

ATT, especially in this unprecedented time, calls for all to acknowledge and applaud the dedication of all of our schools, our principals, our teachers, our administrators, our staffs, and our parents for their tremendous efforts and tireless work to keep education alive in our community. May we all gather the strength and mesiras nefesh from our past generations and dedicate ourselves to make this a most joyful Yom Tov.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Vayikra

Written by: Avrohom S. Moller

This week we begin Sefer VaYikrah also known as תורת כהנים, the Laws of the Priesthood. It is because VaYikrah, Leviticus, deals with the laws of sacrifices, ritual purity and the special requirements of the priestly caste. It underscores that there are different strata and status amongst the Jewish people, where the Kohanim are “holier” and more chosen than the Leviim and Yisraelim. Sefer VaYikrah comes after Sefer Shmos, the Book of Redemption, where the Jewish people develop from a family to a mighty nation which receives the Torah, and everyone is a member of the “kingdom of priests.” Together they build the Mishkan, an earthly “abode” for Hashem to “dwell” in their midst. It seems very egalitarian and accessible to every Jew from every background.

The juxtaposition of Sefer Shmos and VaYikrah seems to pose a very fundamental question. If we have a very basic belief that all men stand equal before Hashem and that free will is in the words of the Rambam “a basic tenant and a major pillar in Torah and mitzvah,” then why would Hashem create a hegemony of kohanim who inherit their status and seem to be privileged from birth with their status?

Perhaps the answer is that there are two pathways which one must utilize to achieve closeness to Hashem and success as a Jew. It can be imposed externally by divine decree that a person must follow a prescribed path. His free will is expressed in his acceptance of these rules and restrictions, and when one views these responsibilities as an opportunity to grow, it will bring him closer to Hashem. On the other hand, one has to pursue a course of self-expression and individuality to become closer to Hashem. Autonomy is a pillar of Judaism together with humility and submission to Hashem’s will. Every Jew is a priest, some are given more responsibilities, but all Jews must create their personal connection with Hashem as well. The Gemara actually says that an illegitimate scholar is greater than an ignorant high priest.

We are preparing for Pesach, a time where we relive the אהבת כלולותיך, the sweet love of our union with Hashem some three millennia ago. It is time to reflect on how we relate to Hashem in our special and individual way and also how we conform to his dictates expressed in the Torah.

Midwinter break update

In recent years, many ATT schools have scheduled midwinter break in January to provide teachers and students a well-deserved break during the long winter. Each school has important considerations regarding which week is scheduled. Unfortunately, this past January break presented challenges for families and teachers who have children in multiple schools.

At a recent ATT Principals Council meeting, the principals agreed to prioritize the communal need for a coordinated midwinter break, and therefore, resolved to implement a uniform calendar for 2024 in which midwinter vacation will be scheduled during the week after Martin Luther King Day is observed.

We acknowledge and applaud this decision and appreciate the effort made by our schools’ leadership to accommodate this communal need. 

Please note that this will not change the school schedules in schools that do not have a January midwinter break.

Safety summit for schools

On January 25, 25 administrators and staff from eight ATT schools gathered for a half-day “mini-summit” focused on abuse prevention and safety in our schools. ATT, JCFS and Upward Community have partnered creating a coalition of Chicago organizations that will continue to improve practices and education in our community about this important topic. The partners each bring resources and experience in this field including relationships with national organizations that have expertise which can be accessed by our schools. 

The facilitator for this session was Shira Berkovitz, Esq., the CEO of Sacred Spaced, a national organization that has developed hiring resources, policies, and practices, called Aleinu. These are used in hundreds of Jewish institutions, schools, and shuls, and they are now available to our schools with ongoing support.

The participants had an opportunity to hear what a fully implemented system of abuse prevention looks like. They looked at some case studies and discussed several practical aspects of prevention and responses to incidents. The main point was to continue this renewed effort in all of our schools and to empower our schools through best practices and education so that they can enhance their current student and parent education and safety practices.

This effort is a continuation of ATT’s longstanding role in the “Safer Schools” initiative which is support by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. ATT and its partners will be reaching out to each school individually to follow-up on this event and to make sure that this area of school practice remains highly visible and updated.