Category: Latest News

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.

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.

Raising Committed Children

In November, 200 attendees joined the ATT for their 36th Annual Rabbi Isaac Mayefsky Memorial Lecture featuring the captivating speaker, Rabbi Ephraim Eliyahu Shapiro. His presentation, Raising Committed Children in a Materialistic World, focused on strategies for effective parenting. His practical suggestions to help parents and teachers keep children focused on Torah values and stay firmly rooted and committed to Hashem, each other and themselves included:

1. Parents, day schools and Yeshivas need to make the home/place of learning a haven filled with Torah values where our children can connect to Hashem and grow and bond with each other. 

2. He defined the word אלה as our reason for being, our goals, our exuberance, and pride in accomplishment. And then questioned, “What would our children say about our אלה, since our actions will influence them as they grow and mature into Torah committed Jews.

3. Steps to connect spiritually with one’s children. 

  • Show undivided attention by shutting out all distractions when interacting with them.
  • Never underestimate the power of prayer. Daven to Hashem for help in this endeavor. 
  • Speak in a way that the child understands.
  • See things from the child’s perspective.
  • Use recreational compatibility to bond with one’s child.
  • Show your child your warmth and emotion. Let them know how much you care – that you are always accessible – and that you mean it! 

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 and teachers of children of all ages.  To listen to the presentation, click here.

ATT social workers address Coronavirus challenges

On March 26, the ATT gathered social workers from several schools for a discussion on Zoom responding to parent questions and concerns during Cornavirus. Panelists included: Debbie Cardash, REACH; Carly Krawetz, Hillel Torah; Phil Zbaraz, Ida Crown Jewish Academy; and Rabbi Shmuel Tenenbaum, Mashgiach at Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi

Following is a transcript from the discussion

Establishing norms – we have more skills than we thought we did! By being with our kids as much as we are now, we are learning many things about them that we never knew before.

Last time questions revolved around structure and keeping everyone occupied.

How do I keep everybody structured and supervised while I try to work remotely?

Early childhood: Carly Krawetz:

Find an area in your home that each child can claim as their own. Give them more responsibility for their own learning. Children need breaks every so often.

Middle school: Rabbi Tenenbaum:

This is a transition for every family. Reflect back and think about what worked and what didn’t – then adjust. Reset and strengthen boundaries.

Adolescents: Dr. Phil Zbaraz

Structure is a good thing. Otherwise you are driving in a blinding snowstorm. Structure gives organization to the day and gives clarity. You do not have to account for every minute of the day though. Need to build in some down time. That’s OK.

The kids are going stir crazy. Any  ideas to help them get along better?

Early childhood: Carly Krawetz:

Remind children they have to take turns (just like at school) and you can make a schedule for them. Create new structures as needed.   150 “I’m Bored Jar” Ideas will be shared. Good opportunity to have older children help younger ones.

Middle school: Rabbi Tenenbaum:

 Children/Adults boredom and business stem from the same place – a sense of not being fulfilled or productive. Boredom is often the result if a child does not value what they are doing.

Adolescents: Dr. Phil Zbaraz

 The family can come together a head of time and discuss what to do in times of boredom. Perhaps have a boredom “treasure chest” – that’s where a person goes – pick from the treasure chest of ideas.  There might be a gift to boredom – teach kids how to sit quietly. Lay on the floor with a book on the belly and relish the quiet time. “I’m bored!” With teens, take the statement further, ask the teen what are you needing? Boredom could be ambiguous. Bring them into the conversation. It is not your responsibility to make everything better. There is a difference between problems to be solved and situations to be managed.

What do we do for kids who can’t work independently easily? What if child loses interest and does not call into the ZOOM classes?

Early childhood: Carly Krawetz:

This is new for the teachers so be transparent with the students and involve the teacher to tweak the program if you can. This occurs at any age.

Middle school: Rabbi Tenenbaum:

The school has been getting compliments and complaints – too little work or too much work. The underlying issue is that parents can’t be expected to  know how to manage schooling – schooling is not their specialty. So, the question is How do to manage it? Mom, your responsibility is to be a mother and caregiver and use your best judgment to manage the situation. Be supportive for your children.

Adolescents: Dr. Phil Zbaraz

Try to involve the teacher if the student is experiencing difficulty. If parent is pressured to fix it, that evokes anxiety they can’t resolve. Perhaps the teacher can provide some modification for the student.

As a parent, I am coming down with the virus (mild case) and not feeling well?

Early childhood: Carly Krawetz:

Pair children together to help with tasks. Give kids jobs to be helpful – jobs they don’t normally have. Use Dr. Phil’s 60% rule for the academics as well.

Middle school: Rabbi Tenenbaum:

If there’s a sick mom, there’s a sick family. This is a double transition for the family. Need to adjust the norm to a temporary new norm. Have a family meeting and delegate jobs so each person can undertake something and own the situation. Create an incenetive as well.

Adolescents: Dr. Phil Zbaraz

Use the 60% rule. If we all pull together – let’s try to do 60% of what mom would be able to do. The glue of everything working in the home needs to be the goal – lower the bar. If things fall through the cracks, that’s OK.

I’m very worried about finances, older relatives, how do I help everyone to feel less scared?

Early childhood: Carly Krawetz:

Middle school: Rabbi Tenenbaum:

Everyone is in the same situation of “uncertainty.” Everything falls into that category. Try to think back if there was a similar previous situation in the family and see if there was a management strategy that worked then that can work now. Look to community organizations – ATT, Agudah, Chicago Center for Torah and Chesed, JUF, etc.

Adolescents: Dr. Phil Zbaraz

What is the level of the worry? Is it dire? Is it just uncertainty? Try to avail the family of resources and programs driven through the community’s agencies. Familiarize yourself with what the resources are. Many are being impacted financially and this is unfolding as we speak. Try to gather helpful information. Re: elderly relatives – are their other family members who can help with the responsibilities of checking in and seeing how they are doing. Perhaps can facetime if possible.

Debbie Cardash: Try to use a “buffet of options.”  Create a gratitude blog for what we do have. Some have compared the current situation to the lack of things in the ghettoes of the Holocaust. Need to maintain a sense of humor. One is allowed to be sad and exhibit feelings but keep things in perspective.

Dr. Phil: Embrace the truth that we don’t have to be perfect at this and we can make mistakes. Sometimes what brings about elevated anxiety is when people only have one bucket to stuff everything into. When the clouds separate, and there is a moment of calm, write a note and put it on the refrigerator – what are the 12 most important things in your life that are non-negotiable and cut into who you are as a human being?  This way you have a separate sacred bucket of what you really value in life and that are enduring (not transient).

Carly Krawetz: Work on self-care with no one size fits all. Deep breathing, family walk, staying connected with others in your community, make a list of what’s in your control (what will I make for dinner?) and what is not in your control, create a self-care log.

Rabbi Tenenbaum: Make a list of some of the nice things that came out of this situation. Like family time together, relaxation time we never had before. There are kinds of speakers, shiurim, and conferences – a yes to one thing is a no to something else. Do not feel bad if you do not have time to log in to the numerous things out there. The market has been super-saturated with these opportunities.

What are anxiety reducing strategies we can do?

Early childhood: Carly Krawetz:

Use a “worry jar.” You out your worries in the jar and they stay there and are put away. Surround children with positive things – a bedtime story, a positive TV show, a game. Talk to your kids. Ask them, “how are you?” Create a worry thermometer to show kids where they are. Often, what you think your kids are worried about are not what they actually worry about. Acknowledge their worries and be empathic about them.

Middle school: Rabbi Tenenbaum:

Almost everyone is struggling with anxiety. Be cognizant that this is out there – seek resources to help you. Reach out to your primary care doctor.

Adolescents: Dr. Phil Zbaraz

Debbie Cardash: Be thoughtful about what you are talking about in front of your children. If parents are anxious, they will project that anxiety in front of their children. What info is helpful and need to know and what is bringing the climate down?

Round robin tip-

Carly Krawetz: Remember to breather. This is temporary.

Dr. Phil: Go to the end of the driveway, pickup your paperl – face the east and say Thank You  for the rising sun every morning.

Rabbi Tenenbaum: Adults are the glue that is holding the family together – take your self-care breaks to keep the family together.

Covid-19 Helpline (non-medical) 224-534-9867

Resources to help children structure their day

Parent Guide in Response to School Closures

In response to the school closures in our community, The Associated Talmud Torahs hosted a session for the community parents with a panel of our schools’ social workers. Panelists included Mrs. Debbie Cardash, REACH; Ms. Carly Krawetz, Social Worker at Hillel Torah; Mr. Phil Zbaraz, Counselor at Ida Crown Jewish Academy; Rabbi Shmuel Tenenbaum, Mashgiach at Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi and Rabbi Ephraim Goldman, TAG.

The discussion focused on responding positively to the unexpected changes and uncertainty that are impacting our community, specifically in our homes.

Below is the transcript of the workshop

This conversation will try to address how to work together to provide a measure of comfort and well-being to all during these trying times. Since this is an adjustment period for adults and children, how can we reduce anxiety and tension at home?

How am I going to manage my stress?
Don’t do it alone. Humans are wired to deal with challenges in community. Reach out to someone – a family member, a trusted neighbor. Chances are what you are feeling will resonate with someone else and you can support each other.

Sleep helps challenges go better so try to get enough sleep. Using the airplane analogy,” always put your own oxygen masks first”. Don’t forget to breathe. Deep breaths help with anxiety. Stress exhibits in different ways. Try to find a moment to reflect on what you think is contributing to your elevated stress. Maybe even write it down so you can organize it.

When you identify what stresses you, you might journal what helps you, and try to provide that help for yourself. This is a time of stress in Jewish homes naturally, post Purim and pre-Pesach. Perhaps discuss with your children how they are feeling stressed. Don’t make suggestions about what is stressing them, listen to them. Then discuss all of these stressors and how the family can work together to resolve the stressors.

What are some strategies for talking to your children?

First, how old are they? That affects the nature of the questions, the tone, and what the conversations might sound like.

Pre K-Middle school: be honest with them, show empathy, and check in with them. This age has simpler concerns, e.g. “what about my birthday party?” Listen to them and their needs. Ask them what they’ve heard and what they are feeling. Don’t make assumptions as to what they need. Meet them where they are emotionally and developmentally. Explain that schools are closed to keep them safe and healthy. Don’t give too much information but just enough.

Adolescents: Older students might miss their academic challenges. Students who participate in team sports are impacted with respect to their physical needs. Perhaps they can go out running with friends. They may miss emotional needs through friends as well as their spiritual needs. Try to ascertain what domain is really impacting them? Parent should tell children that it is OK to feel stress. Reassure children that we are here to support each other within families and within the community. Do exercises that can relieve stresses and relax people.

Remember that children need their social peer interactions. Reassure them and encourage them to interact with siblings and call their friends. Teamwork activities help. Also, involve the children in the decision making. Empower them to have their voice in how the day will be orchestrated.

Unpredictability provides a lot of stress for adolescents and humans in general. The sooner the family can come together and provide structure and some predictability will help relieve the ambiguity and uncertainty that exists.

Recognize that there will be a certain level of chaos.

What can we do to create structure?

Keep some of the school’s culture and structure encoded even at home. A good morning starts with a planned night.

Davening, some learning, breakfast, lunch, supper provide structure. This is important for all ages. For younger children, you can use pictures for creating the schedule.

Children who are starting to read and older children – silent reading in the schedule or some other independent work.

Chores: We all have jobs – including children. Parents and children can each make lists of what needs to happen before Pesach. That will help many of the chores get done where everyone agrees. Children should help in the kitchen. That will be a lesson learned as well.

Cooking teaches math and cooperation. Parents who are structured will model for their
children how they are dealing with this situation as well. By giving children too much power will make the situation much worse. Children will need to do chesed at home to help siblings when necessary.

Take care of your own health: Parents must take care of themselves too. Decide what you as a parent need during the day. Children will get their needs met (sometimes at the expense of the adults). Be thinking of healthy, high protein food so we can all be as patient as possible.

What are things a parent can do when the stress has built up over the days together and things appear to be coming unglued?

Try to evaluate what kinds of things you need to let go of to reduce the stress level and get things back into manageable level? Do you need help from other people? Lean on neighbors, extended families, community. Talk to your children.

How do adults take care of their own needs? Make a list with your spouse and children and let them know what this looks like. Children might have to do something while the adults have their time that they need.

How will our children learn?

We need to provide them with a learning structure with some accountability. This will take creativity. The children might be able to help each other – in reading, learning. There will be technical difficulties. We need to laugh and be transparent with children that things will not be perfect so need to be flexible as we try to do our best. Make lemonade out of lemons.

Parting advice tips:

It is OK that we do not have all the answers. We will all do our best to answer questions. Don’t forget to breathe. Feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress are not new phenomena. Yes, this situation is unprecedented but dealing with adversity is nothing new. There has never been a time in our history where we have not been challenged. We have the innate ability to rise to the challenge. We are doing this in community – we are not alone even if at moments we feel alone. Therefore, reach out to others.

We are in it with the world together. We have the choice to laugh or cry. Make the best out of it and rise to the occasion.

Rabbi Ephraim Goldman speaks about the use of technology and its challenges:

Everyone has different levels of access. Once you allow the use of technology it is very hard to cut back on its use later on. Remember, there will be long term consequences. While a movie might calm children for two hours, it is not a perfect solution, just a temporary Band-Aid. If children are not getting along with each other, they will start up with each other again after the movie.

  • Following are suggestions of what we should be doing all the time:
  • Children should never have access to technology in their own privacy behind closed doors. Any access must be supervised and out in the open.
  • Technology use should not be too close to bedtime. This interrupts sleep patterns.
  • Technology use should not be too long at one time. Use 20-30 minute increments at a time. Then do something else more active and engaging.
  • Everything we give to children should be filtered.
  • Have a conversation with children re: why these are precautions taken with technology.
  • We can show our children there are learning benefits to using technology properly. The weeks ahead will see many new shiurim online and via video conference.
  • There is a vast difference between passive and active engagement with technology. Children who use technology must be involved in some kind of activity which is healthier and uses their minds. Some examples: Google maps – type in any address and zoom in. Can Google world locations and see them and learn about them. Scratch – coding for kids. Be cautious of any activities that interact with the outside world – these can be very dangerous.

In conclusion, this is the beginning of a conversation. We hope to use this format to reconnect in the future. Comments can be forwarded to If families have more issues that require more intensive support, connect with your physician or health