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CJDS Experience

Head of School's Blog

Ms. J (Judy) is our Head of School at Chicago Jewish Day School. She writes a letter to the CJDS community each week in our newsletter, Likrat Shabbat. View some of her articles below!
 

What a Week!

Posted On: 5/24/2018 10:59 AM
Dear CJDS Community, 
 
There is a famous midrash which was written to illustrate values which are reflected in the upcoming holiday of Shavuot that goes like this:
 
When God was looking for a people to give the Torah, God looked down and said, "If I give you my most precious gift of the Torah, what would you give me as a guarantee of its value? The first group said, "We will give you all of our gold and silver." God thought and answered, "Thank you but that isn't exactly what I was looking for."
 
God moved on to the next group and asked the same question. The next group answered, "God, we will give you all of our most precious gemstones." God thought for a moment and answered, "Thank you, but it's not exactly the guarantee I was looking for."
 
Then God looked down and saw the Israelites, the Jewish people wandering in the desert and asked them what they could give as guarantee for this precious gift of the Torah. The Israelites, the Jewish people, replied, "We will guarantee the gift of the Torah with our children. Our children are our most precious possessions, and they are the guarantors of the future."
 
And so the midrash goes....that God gave the Torah to the Israelites, which we celebrate on Shavuot, which continues from generation to generation to be guaranteed by the children. If the students of Chicago Jewish Day School are any illustration of this story, the future of our people are in great hands!
 
This week marked the beginning of the joy and whirlwind of activity that is always a hallmark of the last few weeks of school at CJDS. They say pictures say a 1000 words - take a close look at the pictures which tel the story of our week - Shavuot, Craig Taubman, Layla Tov, field trips, volleyball wins, alumni accomplishments - what a week!
  • Our incoming JK and K students and their families joined us for our annual Layla Tov program welcoming them to our school. Students had a chance to meet other students in their classes and their future teachers!
  • JV Boys Volleyball wins against Waters School in the third set! We are so proud of the hard work and teamwork that both our JV and Varsity teams display on the court. 
  • Mazal Tov to Alumni Class of 2014, Ben Hirsch and Noah Cope, co-captains of the RZJHS volleyball team, who won Conference, the Conference Tournament and made All Conference Team!
  • Evanston Township High School honors their students for the National Honors Society. Mazal tov to our alumni:Class of 2017: Deena Goodgold, Nicole LeVee, Avi Shapira, Class of 2016: Gillian Rosenberg, Class of 2015: Sarah Bloom, Leah Oppenheimer, Ellie Rosenberg 
Special thanks to Craig Taubman for writing a beautiful song for our school, coming to our school for Kabbalat Shabbat and performing and teaching the song to our students. Our school hosts beautiful artwork created by the well-known Jewish artists, David Moss and Jeanette Kuvin Oren, and now we have a song written for us by Craig Taubman. The best reflections of modern day Jewish culture are present at Chicago Jewish Day School. They represent our constant quest to find and share "the best of the best" for our students and by extension, our families. 
 
Thank you as well to Rabbi Steven Lowenstein for his role in bringing Craig to our community, for visiting Chicago Jewish Day School today joining in the joy of Craig's concert, and for his continued support as a friend of CJDS. 
 
Chag Shavuot Sameach,
Ms. J (Judy) 

Save the Date to Celebrate!

Posted On: 5/7/2018 11:39 AM
Save the Date: June 3rd10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
We will come together as a community to celebrate our move to the new campus and the completion of Phase One! Although coming to work at our new campus often seems like a dream come true, at the same time, it is so comfortable. We feel so at home that it’s hard to believe we’ve only been there for a month!
 
 

 
Annual Campaign—Help Us Get to 100% Participation!
Next, we would like to thank all parents, grandparents, friends, and supporters of CJDS who have contributed to our annual campaign. We are on our way to 100% parent participation! We appreciate the leadership of Inbar Kirson and Stacy Raviv, our CJDS Annual Campaign Co-Chairs.
 
Both Stacy and Inbar have been involved and committed to CJDS for many years. They have brought that commitment to their role as leaders in raising our annual funds. In a year where we are raising both annual and capital funds, it is challenging to meet our goals. With capital giving, we can all see the results in the bricks and mortar around us. With annual funds, it is a bit different. We can’t always see the results of our gifts in such a concrete way. However, the annual campaign supports the continuity and growth of our educational program and staffing, our ability to help families in a variety of different ways, and to keep us on the cutting-edge with changing technology and the latest research-based educational approaches.
 
Often people say to us that they wish they could give more to CJDS and is there anything else they could do aside from giving a contribution. The answer is, in addition to the many opportunities we offer for people to serve on committees or task forces, volunteering and serving as CJDS ambassadors, we have some new avenues for raising funds in which we would appreciate your help. In our new Mercaz (Welcome Center), you might have noticed a large monitor on the wall detailing the day’s activities and upcoming events. We are looking for corporate sponsors who would like to advertise in this prime location space. Every person who walks through the doors of CJDS will see this screen!
 
Our pricing list is attached. Those of you who work for businesses, law firms, medical groups, and vendors with whom you frequent, often they have marketing and advertising budgets which make it easy to respond to your ask. The key to the success of this initiative is . . . your willingness to make the ask.
 
Question: What’s the worst thing that could happen? Answer: Someone can say no. But just think about how good it will feel and how much good can be done if you solicit a marketing gift for our school and they say yes!! 
 
To date, thanks to your help, we have $120,000 left to raise to reach our goal! We have 60 days to reach our campaign goals, and we are so close. Please help us by contributing, if you haven’t already done so, soliciting a corporate sponsor or individual gift or bringing a friend or relative to see our new campus. Thank you in advance for your help.
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Ms. J (Judy)

Posted On: 5/7/2018 11:28 AM
Dear CJDS Community,
 
In honor of this week's middle school musical, please read the letter below from our incredible Director of Middle School, Rachel Pickus!
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Ms. J (Judy)
 

Dear CJDS Community,
 
“What’s the matter with kids today? With their awful clothes and their rock and roll,” bemoans a baffled father in this year's middle school musical, Bye Bye Birdie, set in 1958.
 
Sound familiar?
 
Perhaps you tried to decipher a text from your teenager lately that seemed written in hieroglyphics? Or maybe you tried, unsuccessfully, to stay up on the latest middle school social media obsession? Well, you’re not alone. It seems that throughout history, every generation is equally confounded by the next.
 
Like Tevye in another CJDS musical, Fiddler on the Roof, who was baffled to his bones by his modern-day daughters, the underlying message of these stories seems to be that surely there will always be a generational divide. So, too, we learn there will always be the transmission of values and traditions. Despite the outrage and the bewilderment, as parents, we know how important our role is in teaching values and transmitting a shared sense of history to our children. We understand that it is up to us to help shape them into the adults they will become.
 
Our Jewish tradition is rich with advice on how to teach our children, from the different ways to tailor the Passover story to fit the individual needs of the four sons to the mandate from the Talmud to teach our children to swim.
 
As the parents in Bye Bye Birdie lament their children’s choice of music, and we, in 2018, yearn for the time when kids used actual words and not just acronyms (LOL), maybe we can also pay attention to how our children are actually internalizing the values and life lessons that we are teaching them. 
 
At the end of the day, what matters are the choices our children make. Are they standing up for what they think is right – even if their cause is not our own? Are they trying to make their world a better place?
 
Around the St. Andrew's gym on the musical nights were cut-out people hanging on the wall, representing youth over the last hundred years made by our CJDS middle school students. The people show that each generation found new fashions as well as causes to believe in. But each generation also took the values of their parents and applied them to their own place and time to improve the world for their own children.
 
Seen in that light, the truth is not so much what’s wrong with kids today, but how amazing kids are today!
 
Our children are truly our future. And as they find their own way in a world often foreign to us, we must have faith that they have the skills and courage and compassion to give the world – and each other – precisely what is needed.
 
For those who came to the musical, we hope you enjoyed it!
 
Rachel Pickus
Director of Middle School 

First Week at the New Campus!

Posted On: 5/7/2018 11:14 AM
This week, the words of Theodore Herzl could not feel more appropriate, authentic or meaningful. Herzl famously said, “Im Tirzu ein zo agadah” translated as “If you will it, it does not have to be a dream.”
 
The dream of having our own campus was realized as we opened our doors to 223 students and over 60 faculty and staff on Monday, April 9, 2018 – the 24th of Nissan 5778.
 
I cannot begin to express our gratitude, our joy and the excitement which was, and is, felt throughout the school by students, faculty and staff alike. In true CJDS fashion, we tried to establish a visitor free week during the first week. Much thanks to all our parents who cooperated with this request. Of course, however, a delegation from the Knesset was visiting Chicago and wanted to visit our school, and of course we were honored and couldn’t say no.
 
Have a wonderful Shabbat and take a few device-free minutes and let your child tell you about his/her week at school!!!
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Ms. J (Judy)

Last Kabbalat Shabbat at the Current Facilities

Posted On: 3/20/2018 10:45 AM
Dear CJDS Community,

As we embrace our Lech Lecha theme of going forward on our journey, we begin the preparations and count down the days to our move, with so many thoughts and feelings to share.
 
Today, Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten had their last Kabbalat Shabbat at Emanuel Congregation. As always, it's such a wonderful way to start a Friday morning. Thank you to the Morot who beautifully put this program together for our students and their parents/guests. We look forward to continuing our tradition of Kabbalat Shabbat at the new campus!
 
In the afternoon, Kindergarten through Grade 8 joined together for their last Kabbalat Shabbat at Emanuel Congregation. We began with a special graduate walk through the halls of Emanuel with all of our lower grade students cheering our soon to be graduates. This nod to our graduates was a way for them to feel closure with the buildings where many of them spent several years. They will be the first group to graduate from our new campus, and we know this will be a reflective moment in time for them.
 
After the graduate walk, we joined together for Kabbalat Shabbat and had the opportunity to thank the maintenance engineers as well as see a slideshow which will walk us down a bit of memory lane.
Shabbat Shalom,
Ms. J (Judy)

"When One Chapter Closes, Another One Opens"

Posted On: 3/13/2018 8:38 AM
Dear CJDS Community,
 
“When one chapter closes another one opens” is a quotation that my mom, z”l used to say at pivotal moments in our lives. This to me feels like one of those moments. Today at CJDS during Kabbalat Shabbat for Grades 1-8, we took the opportunity to thank the leadership of the institutions that have hosted us in their facilities over all these years: Rabbi Craig Marantz, Jessica Katz (on behalf of Cantor Michelle Drucker Friedman) and the staff of Emanuel Congregation, Father John Kalomas from St. Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Church and Jerry Goodman (on behalf of Alderman Harry Osterman) from the 48thWard in Chicago.

Today as we look forward to our move, we also pause to reflect on the past 15 years to those leaders and institutions who made it possible for us to continue to grow by leasing space to us. In these cases, transactional actions evolved into cherished relationships.

  • We thank Rabbi Marantz (and Rabbi Schaalman, z”l and Rabbi Zedek before him), Synagogue Liaison to CJDS, Glen Spear, Cantor Michelle (Shelley) FriedmanJessica Katz, and Synagogue President Dan Smolensky for sharing their facilities with us which began as a couple of classrooms and is ending with the use of the entire building.
  • Thank you to Father John Kalomas and his staff along with lay leaders Gus Zografopoulos and George Marks, and St. Andrew’s President Terri Mikuzis for opening their church and their hearts to our students, faculty and staff and entire community. The words “Vahavta lareycha kamocha- love your neighbor as you would love yourself” were truly beautifully demonstrated in our relationship at CJDS Darom.
  • Alderman Harry Osterman and Chief of Staff Jerry Goodmanwill always have our profound gratitude and thanks. One of our greatest challenges in all of our leased facilities was the lack of a gymnasium. Through the hard work and dedication to his ward, Alderman Osterman helped us to secure the Chicago Armory for our P.E. classes for 14 years.

Over the years, in our efforts to demonstrate our appreciation to Alderman Osterman and the city of Chicago, our athletic department staff ran basketball clinics for the neighborhood at the Armory, we had beach and park cleanup projects, we collected food for the Edgewater pantry and participated some years in the yearly holiday program at Senn High School. Alderman Osterman also hosts meetings periodically for all of the principals and Heads of Schools in his ward, and we participated in that as well.

Alderman Osterman was also pivotal in connecting us to St. Andrew’s when we need to expand our middle school. We thank him from our hearts and know that we will all be back from time to time to play at the beautiful park on the beach. We know we will all miss that beach!!

Lastly, we want to thank Demetris Giannoulis, who one day 14 years ago, answered a knock on the door from the Head of School of Chicago Jewish Day School wondering if he would be interested in leasing his driveway. The next thing Demeris knew that same Head of School wanted to know if we could just open the fence to create a gate in order to have a drive-through for carpool. Knock, knock, knock – what does this woman want now? We heard you were moving to New York, is there any possibility we could lease the whole house? Knock, knock, knock, before you leave is it ok with you that we do a little construction on your built-in shelves and create an ark for our Torah…etc.

Demetris has been the owner extraordinaire, and we can’t wait to tour him and all of the above leaders at our new campus.

As we close this chapter of the history of CJDS, we go with very fond and wonderful memories and for sure shed a few tears. We’ve made wonderful friends in the Edgewater neighborhood, and we are grateful to all of you.

Thank you to the CJDS parents who took time away from their busy lives to join us today for Kabbalat Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom,
Ms. J (Judy)

Weaving Values of Tikun Olam (Repair of the World) into Every Aspect of the School Experience.

Posted On: 2/11/2018 9:20 PM
Dear CJDS Community,
 
As the snow falls in Chicago and nature causes us to slow down even for a day, it seems like a good day for a reflective message. Our students at CJDS, in conjunction with their academic studies and curricular units, connect their learning to social responsibility, ethical behavior, and Jewish tradition and texts. Please see below some of the activities our students have been engaged in over the past few weeks. The activities cited below are just examples; every grade participates in social action.
 
  • Kindergarten raised and donated $67 to Camp Newman, a Jewish summer Camp that was destroyed by the California fires.
  • Grade 5 understands their role as leaders in the lower school and has taken on many projects this year that connect with their language arts, social studies, and Judaic studies units. Recently they organized a Tzedakah Market and raised $550, which was donated to the JUF Disaster Relief Fund, which aids the hurricane relief efforts for the people of Puerto Rico and the wider Caribbean. They are now in the planning stage of creating and organizing another Tzedakah Market to raise money for our CJDS new campus.
  • Grade 5 is also participating in a brand new service project called the Nora Project, hosting children with disabilities and learning to see past their disabilities to see their abilities. One goal of this program is to provide an environment not only for learning and understanding but to give each group an opportunity to forge friendships and to understand that friendship is extended and received in many ways.
  • Our middle school students wrote letters to the students who were affected by the school shooting at Marshall County High School in Kentucky, after hearing about that tragedy.
  • And coming up this month, our whole school community will be involved in demonstrating the mitzvot of Purim. In addition to hearing the Megillah, they will be making and distributing Mishloach Manot. In response to the mitzvah of mishloach levyonim, gifts to the financially struggling, we will contribute to the ARK.
Boston University’s Center for Character Development and Social Responsibility has engaged in extensive research on the importance of integrating character development and social responsibility into school curriculum. In defining Ethical Leadership, they write, “Ethical Leadership is the critical appropriation and embodiment of traditions that have shaped the character and shared meaning of a people. Ethical Leaders, therefore, are leaders whose characters have been shaped by the wisdom, habits and practices of particular traditions.”
 
In a day and age when ethical leadership seems at an all time low and social responsibility needs bolstering, Jewish tradition keeps us grounded and focused on fostering these values.
 
The great Jewish musical composer and performer Debbie Friedman, z”l took the words of our great sage Rabbi Hillel and penned a beautiful song which really speaks to why we teach and do what we do at Chicago Jewish Day School. Enjoy the lyrics below and stay warm and have a wonderful, wintery, snowy, Shabbat.
 
Im ein a-ni li mi li?
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
Uch-she-a-ni l’atz-mi mah a-ni?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
V’im lo ach-shav ei-ma-tai?
And (if not now), when?
 
Hillel was a Rabbi and he taught us what to do.
The first part of his lesson said you must be true to you.
You have to love yourself if you expect that others should.
Having self-respect is something special, something good.
 
Myself is very special, it’s the place I have to start.
But Hillel said we must make room for others in our heart.
Yes, love yourself but care and share – don’t lock the others out.
Caring for yourself and others is what life is all about.
 
Life is short, the time flies by and just before you know.
Today becomes last week and then a long, long time ago.
Hillel said do what you must – act now, today, don’t wait.
Decide what is important – do it now, it’s not too late.
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Ms. J (Judy)

Top Characteristics of Success at Google

Posted On: 2/11/2018 9:16 PM
Dear CJDS Community,
 
There’s been a lot of focus on the excitement of our new campus and how the beautiful new campus will become the “third teacher.” However, I want to focus back on the learning taking place inside our classrooms throughout our history and today. From the inception of our school, we have planned for educating our students for an ever-changing world and future jobs and careers that we can’t even anticipate! The following article reflects on the type of skills needed for educating children in the 21st century.
 
“…The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.”
 
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Ms. J (Judy)

Featured in Chicago Parent: "How to Pick the Perfect School for your Family."

Posted On: 1/19/2018 9:11 AM
Dear CJDS Community,
 
Periodically, I yield my message space to something or someone who has an important message. This week, I am giving it to Chicago Parent magazine. At this time every year, Chicago Parent produces a special education edition featuring schools who demonstrate best practices in education, exciting educational programs happening in Chicago, and articles that explore new and cutting-edge educational ideas.
 
This year, our Director of Admissions, Cortney Stark Cope, was interviewed in an article entitled: “How to pick the perfect school for your family.”
 
Cortney aptly responds to the interviewer that finding the right school really means finding the right fit. Please read the article so that you too can enjoy Cortney's words of wisdom!
 
As an additional surprise, Chicago Parent chose a photo of one of our CJDS students illustrating the article. Can you guess who the student is? We’ll give you a hint, he’s in Kindergarten. It is our hope that every parent at Chicago Jewish Day School feels that they found the right fit for their child. We hope every student is inspired by their teachers to be the best that they can be. Although we believe that no school or organization can be perfect, we hope each family at CJDS feels they have found the right educational home for their children and their family.
 
Shabbat Shalom,
 
Ms. J (Judy)
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