Author: ATT Chicago

A Taste Of Torah – Parshas Shemos

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

“וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה הַסְּנֶה בֹּעֵר בָּאֵשׁ – And he (Moshe Rabeinu) saw that the thorn burning in fire.” This posuk describes Moshe Rabeinu’s first encounter with Hashem. Hashem commands him to return to Egypt and to deliver the Jewish people from their slavery.

The Kli Yakar (R. Ephraim of Lonshitz, commentator on Chumash 1540-1609) takes note of the unusual syntax of this posuk. Since the fire did not consume the bush, it would seem to be more appropriate to say, “The fire was burning in the thorn bush.” Instead, it says the bush was burning in the fire. The Kli Yakar gives a homiletic answer to this problem.

 Moshe Rabeinu was troubled by the intensity and duration of the Jewish people’s suffering. Why wasn’t Hashem bringing an end to this terrible time? The answer was given to him by the vision of the sneh – thorn bush. The thorn bush represents callousness and hatred. The fire represents the wrath of Hashem which is sometimes directed at his people. The message was that although the fire of Hashem’s anger was being displayed against his people, there still was infighting and hatred amongst Jews as we see from the encounter that Moshe had with Dasan and Avirum earlier. This hatred is symbolized by the thorny bush. Our people’s troubles should bring us together, not create rancor and jealousy. This is why the thorn bush was burning in the fire.

When we read the parsha, we relive the great moments and lessons of our people’s history. We have begun the Sefer HaGeula – the Book of Redemption.  We too are in great need of redemption and resolution to our people’s troubles. The way to affect that redemption is to examine the rivalries and disrespect that we show our fellow Jews. When that is corrected, G-d’s promised redemption will surely follow.

Successful Cohort for New Rebbeim

The ATT has just concluded a very successful training cohort geared specifically to new rebbeim in Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi, Arie Crown and Yeshiva Ohr Boruch. Nine teachers from these schools, who have all spent fewer than three years in the classroom, met for several sessions, totaling 16 hours, focusing on classroom management, building routines, parent communication, building trust and relationships with students, lesson planning and lifelong learning as an educator. The facilitators and presenters were veteran principals and educators from the ATT system and the local educational community.

The rebbeim were offered followup coaching to assist them in working on any of these areas of their choice. This kind of one-on-one coaching as a followup to formal training is proven to be an effective model of improving classroom outcomes.

Feedback from the participants in an anonymous survey following the course proved to be overwhelmingly positive:

“The fact that we sat together and heard real challenges from the classroom made me feel better and more supported.”

“Next year I would be interested in hearing more about different teaching modalities and more on modifying lessons.”

“I was attracted to attend these sessions because I want to be the best mechanech I can be, and I want to continue growing throughout my career.”

“I continue to look for new tools to add to my classroom.”

“I learned that trust must be built with parents and that I must choose my words carefully when criticzing or expressing teacher concerns.”

“There are so many components to proper lesson planning; mastery objective, activities, assessment, time management.”

“It is very helpful to have a protocol to teach routines. I learned about teaching the benefit of the routine, then modeling, reviewing, practicing, noticing the correct way and the incorrect way in the modeling and reviewing again!”

The new rebbeim cohort all left with a commitment and curiosity to continue growing in their careers through professional development.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Vayechi

Long Lasting Effects

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayechi, Yaakov tells Yosef that your sons who were born before I came down to Egypt, Ephraim and Menashe, are mine. Rashi understands the statement to mean that Yaakov has a greater connection with the sons born before he came down to Egypt than to Yosef’s future children that would be born while he would reside in Egypt. Rashi notes that this statement also has a practical application. Only these two sons born before Yaakov’s arrival are to be counted as part of the twelve tribes and receive an inheritance in the land of Israel. A question then arises. Wouldn’t it be natural to assume that the sons born while Yaakov is living in Egypt would have a greater connection with Yaakov being raised under his guidance as opposed to the sons who were already grown when their grandfather arrived?

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zatzal, says this passuk illustrates a great lesson about chinuch – educating one’s children. Yaakov’s message to Yosef was simply defining successful parenting. He is saying to Yosef that the chinuch, I, Yaakov, gave you enabled you to raise your children true to the values of Torah even in a foreign land without my presence.

Educating one’s children to learn the values that are dear to us is a daunting task, and its true measure of success is recognized even more so when one’s children leave home and take those lessons with them. Therefore, a parent does not have to be close by watching every move his/her child makes.  Parents need to give their children the tools, life lessons, and values to make the right choices wherever they may be.

May we all follow in the footsteps of our forefather Yaakov and instill in our children a deep appreciation of who we are and for what we live.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Vayigash

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

Yosef HaTzaddik is portrayed in the Torah as being the provider for his father, his family, his country, and indeed, the entire region around Egypt. During the seven years of famine, all of the neighboring countries had to come to Egypt to purchase food from Yosef’s stores. When his father and brothers came to Egypt, it was Yosef who provided them with all of their needs. Yosef showed a great deal of leadership and strength during this period as he negotiated with the Egyptians and relocated an entire population while managing this enormous distribution program.

One might picture Yosef as a highly disciplined, efficient, driven and very organized person and that is probably correct. Yosef HaTzaddik had been sold into slavery and had risen from rags to riches without anyone giving him a break. He had spurned the advances of Potiphar’s wife and endured imprisonment because of wicked accusations which should have left him very embittered. Yet, we also read about a compassionate and emotional person (Yosef is the Torah personality who is described as crying the most) which he must have been. He treated his brothers with tremendous sensitivity and kindness in spite of all that they had done to him.

It is typical for people who are overachievers to be very demanding of themselves and also of others. It is really rare that someone can be highly disciplined and demanding of one’s self, yet gentle and understanding of other people’s shortcomings and foibles. Yosef HaTzaddik is compared (Devarim 33:17) to the ox which is immensely powerful yet also very patient and gentle. This is because he was this synthesis of calm patience and inner strength.

The truth is that both of these attributes are really one. To be demanding of one’s self yet tolerant of others’ shortcomings are two sides of the same coin. When we withhold judgement and give others the benefit of the doubt, we are also showing strength as the passuk says, “The patient one is better than the champion and one who conquers his spirit is better than the conqueror of a city”(Mishlei 16:32). We should all aspire and work on developing our strength in both our self-control and our acceptance of others.

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