Yesterday, i.e. on graduation day, staff and teachers delivered gift baskets to the graduates. More pictures on our Facebook page.


Until We Meet Again

Below is my speech from last night's 8th grade graduation, followed by the video I created for them. It felt fitting to share this as my last Kibitzer communication. Akiba, you will remain in my heart forever! 

Thank you. Before I jump into my speech, I want to thank my family and children. It has not always been easy having your husband and dad as a Head of School, and I am grateful we have been in this together. 

I also want to begin by thanking my leadership team. Carla, Heather, Jill, Yelena, MFP and Levi - none of this would have been possible without you and I am grateful. Miriam - I want to thank you for your partnership these past few years. Akiba, as I know everyone here knows, is so fortunate to have you now and in the future.

Avi Goldberg said in his graduation video that this is a sad goodbye. I can't imagine a more challenging year for our graduates, and I can't imagine a more resilient, stronger and wiser group of young men and women to have gone through this.

I don't want to list all the challenges the graduating class, our staff, our parents and our world has had to deal with over the last few months, but let's just say, as my last act as Head of School, I have renamed the Akiba-Schechter Wolves to the Akiba-Schechter Murder Hornets for next year. You are welcome. 

We have been through a lot this year and when COVID hit, well, we went through much more than I think any of us thought we could handle. But handle it we did. Graduates, you handled it with grace, strength and humility. Parents, you also deserve much gratitude for your partnership and support during this difficult time. Thank you also to the school board for your work behind the scenes to ensure we make it not only through this time, but through the many years to come - pandemic free, we hope. And above all, thank you to the teachers and staff. And if I am being honest, "Thank you" are just two words that are not enough. They don't encapsulate how grateful I am to have been through this with you, and how much you have done to ensure our students and families were cared for, that our students continued to learn to the best of their ability and how you built community when community seemed impossible. 

When this all began, I signed up for Disney Plus. I knew I would be up late and needed different ways to keep my eyes open in the Akiba Atmosphere. In my Disney Plus journey I became interested in the history of Disney and its father Walt Disney. I came across this quote that stayed with me during this time. Walt said, "You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you." Not exactly what you might expect from the creator of Mickey Mouse, but as I heard the quote, I was reminded of the Jewish idea of Kam Zu L'Tova, that this is also for the good - a most difficult philosophy to believe in when there is so much pain right now.

We have certainly been kicked in the teeth and then some. We have been suffering during this pandemic. Tonight is just one more example of how our lives have been turned upside down as we hold graduation from our homes. But let's not forget, to name a few, the devastating wildfires in Australia, the helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gigi Bryant, along with seven other passengers, and the pain and suffering because of the murder of George Floyd. This has been a difficult year, and it is not over yet. How can we possibly find the good in any of it? 

I wish I could give you the answer, but what I do know is that we will certainly not find any good in any of it if we walk away from all of this as the same people we were before it all began. As Nina said in her graduation speech, COVID made her realize how important Akiba was to her. What have all of us learned from this? Who are we now because of it and who will we become once we leave this graduation tonight. 

I have had the pleasure of sharing stories each week with the lower school for Parsha, and I came across this one that I hope helps us find our way ever so slightly through this time. 

"A father passed away and left all his land and a large fortune to his two children; among their inheritance was also a small box with a plain gold ring that had been passed down through the family for generations. 
Delicately engraved on the ring were the words: "It, too, will pass."
The firstborn, who coveted the land and money, managed to persuade his younger brother to take only the box with the plain gold ring. 
As the years went by, the firstborn prospered, and his fortune grew - until one day, when he lost everything, leaving him in a deep depression for many years to come.
The younger brother, on the other hand, kept the ring on his finger and decided to adopt the words that were engraved on it - "It, too, will pass."
Throughout his life, no matter the circumstances, when everything appeared bleak and miserable, when he was faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, he would look at the ring and remind himself: "It, too, will pass."
And even when everything was perfect and wonderful, he would still remind himself: "It, too, will pass."
These four words guided him throughout his days; they gave him perspective, helping him to get the best out of the good times, and also to face the bad times untroubled." 

You see, graduates, ladies and gentlemen, the bad times do not only exist to appreciate the good times and the good times do not only exist to help us get through the bad times. All times are the times Hashem has chosen to help us make the best out of this world. The question we are then left with if all things truly pass, is, "What will I learn from the time I have and what will I do with what I learn?" If we figure that out, then good is certainly possible from the bad.

All of you were given beautiful graduation baskets today and will soon open them if you did not sneak a peek yet. In it is an illustrated Pirkei Avot that I picked out for you with a personalized bookmark I had the pleasure of making by hand (as I said earlier, late Akiba Atmosphere nights!). When you look at the bookmark, you will notice your name, a Magin David and an Aleph, sof pasuq or colon, and then another Aleph and you may wonder why. I engraved the Aleph because Aleph as a representation and a reminder of the first Mishna of the first Perek (Chapter) of Pirkei Avot, and more importantly, a reminder of who you are at this time. Pirkei Avot is a guide to ethical living, and the first Mishna is a reminder that it is not an ancient guide but one for now and forever. The first Mishna reminds us that the Torah (bible) was given to Moshe Rebeiinu (Moses), then to Yeshoshua (Joshua), the Zekenim (elders), the anshei knesset hagedolim (the men of the great assembly) and so on. It starts this way to remind us we are part of this chain, this mesorah, this tradition. The time we are in now remains one where we can stand and be a model of morality and ethics. And as I look at our graduates tonight, I know they are exactly that. 

I wish you Hatzlacha (good luck) in the next step in your journey, and I put together a video for you guys to let you know this is not goodbye. 

Graduation 2020 Video
Graduation 2020 Video

Shabbat Shalom and until we meet again! 
Dr. Eliezer Jones
Head of School  
From the Day School
Message to Our Graduates: Ask We Questions
by Miriam Kass, Principal

It is always a great privilege to address our graduates at this important moment in their lives. Graduation is a celebration of achievements, a time to reflect on life's journey and to gaze ahead with anticipation and hope for a bright future. But, truth be told, my greatest pleasures as a teacher and now as principal have never been these big occasions. I far prefer the less grand moments, the daily interactions I get to have with the students as they enter our building every morning, or in Loeb Hall during our morning middle school announcements, or in the hallways or classrooms, and especially in the privacy of one-on-one conversations in my office. It's in those moments when I get to see the distinctive traits of each student, what ignites their curiosity and their varied passions, what worries and puzzles them, and how they care for one another and for the world that I get to hear their Me Questions.
Most of you are familiar with the distinction between a Me and a We Question. In class, at staff meetings, and even at back-to-school nights, I often ask students, staff and parents, to reflect before asking a question: Is it a "me" question or a "we" question? A "me" question concerns the asker, but nobody else. A "we" question concerns everyone in the room. The community.
"We" questions pervade our lives as Jews. How do we pray? How do we grieve? How do we celebrate holidays and simchas? These questions all take into consideration how our individual behavior impacts those around us and promotes a flourishing, holy community.
And beyond our Jewish community, I cannot recall a time when asking "we" questions has ever been more prevalent or important. Struggling through a pandemic, we are asking how our choices risk illness or serve to protect those around us. Struggling with persistent racial injustice in America, we are asking whether our public servants serve our neighbors as well as they serve us. And we are looking inward, at our own behavior, and asking whether what has been convenient for me in the past has in some way, previously unnoticed, harmed others in our community.
So, I say to our graduates, all individuals of good character, with high ideals and a passionate sense of justice... as you leave Akiba-Schechter... Ask the We Questions. Ask them often. Scrutinize your world for ways to make it better, not just for you, but for others around you. If something seems unfair to others, ask why the world is that way. And if the answers are unsatisfying, ask more questions. Your teachers, your parents and I are confident that you are ready to ask difficult questions, grapple with the answers, and lend your voice to our community. We can't wait to hear what you ask and see what you do! You are ready and we need you.
What Our Graduates Have to Say    
Avi Goldberg
Avi Goldberg
Anna Copeland
Anna Copeland
Sari Freimark
Sari Freimark
Jed Marcus
Jed Marcus
Ezra Frankel
Ezra Frankel
Chana Cantz
Chana Cantz
Yonathan Ezra
Yonathan Ezra
Benny Lowenthal
Benny Lowenthal
Netanel Barsky
Netanel Barsky
Ezra Erlebacher
Ezra Erlebacher
Nina Glick
Nina Glick
Verdit Szmulewitz
Verdit Szmulewitz
Adyra Jones
Adyra Jones
Lilah Elia
Lilah Elia
Alexis Buckley
Alexis Buckley
Akiba Atmosphere    
Not everyone necessarily had a U.S. immigration story, but everyone did have an immigration story to explore. As an example, see Yoav Ezra's study of his grandfather's journey from Iraq to Israel.

3rd/4th Graders' Immigration Study
The 3rd and 4th graders in Mr. Esse and Mrs. Leonard's classes spent the past couple of months learning about the history of immigration in the United States. They then turned their attention to their own ancestors who immigrated to the United States.  The students were tasked to learn as much as they could about an ancestor who immigrated to the United States. They created family trees and also did some research on the ancestor's old country using modern-day information.  Using everything they collected, the students made Google Slideshows. They presented their projects to a "live" audience on June 9th and 10th in Zoom rooms. It was a great success and a tribute to all their hard work!
My Story at Akiba-Schechter by 5th grader Elisabeth Benson

Tikkun Leil Shavuot
by Maor Yehoshua

In honor of Shavuot, Moreh Maor's Hebrew-speaking class prepared "Tikkun Leil Shavuot."  Only we must be special in Akiba Schechter, so this happened during the day and in English. Why then was this happening in Hebrew class?  Because all the material and information students processed was in Hebrew. Through this assignment, they learned processing information in Hebrew, lesson preparation, how to convey a message, how to catch the attention of listeners, and managing a short-term project through Internet technologies. 
The students read various texts in Hebrew and from them they built four lessons that begin with one of the Torah stories but end with the present. For example:
The Ezra Family: "How many GB can you download in 40 days and 40 nights?"
The connection between the story of receiving the Torah and technological changes that allow high access to the Torah, rabbis, etc.
Nathaniel: "One Torah! One Story?"
Today, there are different versions of Passover Hagada that tell the story of the Exodus in a slightly different way - a feminist Hagada, Hagada from Ethiopia, Hagada with social equality angle, etc.
Elizabeth: "What's your story?״
The commandment to tell the story of the Exodus in Passover is the importance of telling your own story - learning from it, feeling empowered because of it, and passing your knowledge to the next generation, including this year's summary from Elizabeth's eyes, towards the end of the school year.
Students gave these lessons to their friends and teachers at school this week; each lesson was  different and special - just like each one of them!
Looking Back at this Year...    
It has been a wonderful year in Kindergarten Science with Ms. Rodin. The children learned about magnets, oil, animals, and the weather. They learned that science is something you do, and they had a lot of fun along the way. 
It was a great year in the Yellow Room as you can see in this video!
Among so many wonderful times this year, Mr. Salk's 1st/2nd grade class especially loved visiting their little buddies in the Blue Room. Plus, many got to be with Arun again!
1st/2nd graders learned so much in Science this year! For example, upper left: Yoka plays the glass jar xylophone. As part of their sound unit, the class explored how different amounts of water in a glass or jar produce different pitches. Upper right: Coco and Lazar are testing out a cup phone. The students were exploring how sound travels through vibrations. Bottom left: Felix, Ethan, Miri_ and Eden show off their rainbow jar experiment. In the unit on the states of matter they discovered that different liquids have different densities or weights. Bottom right: Vered conducts an experiment to see if air has weight, also as part of learning about the states of matter.
Back when 3rd/4th grade Science meant experiments in the classroom: Daniel, Golda and Zeke hold up the crystals they grew in class. These crystals were made by dissolving borax in water and suspending the pipe cleaner shape in the water. As the water evaporated, crystals formed and attached themselves to the pipe cleaner.
A big thank you to Elli Goodman and Ruth Czarnecki-Lichstein for leading our PTO this year and working tirelessly to support the spirit of our school and community. This week they and a bunch of lovely volunteers delivered year-end gifts to teachers and staff. Thanks to all who helped spread those smiles! More of these happy photos of our Facebook page.
Stay Tuned...
...for a letter next week with updates on the plans for reopening school and an introduction of our new Head of Judaic Studies and Community Engagement.

Explore Chicago Virtual Summer Program
Explore Chicago Will Staying Safe at Home
June 22 - July 24
Suitable for preschoolers through 3rd grade. Open to non-Akiba students!
Various options available,

2020-21 School Calendar is Available!
View  here .

Dates to Remember
Monday, August 31
K-8 Registration Day

Tuesday, September 1
First Day of School for K-8
Monday, September 7
Labor Day
No School 

Tuesday, September 8
Preschool Visitation Day
Wednesday, September 9
First Day of Preschool

June 12, 2020  
Volume 16, Issue 19
Candle Lighting: 8:06 p.m.
Parasha: Behaalotecha
Affiliated with the Associated Talmud Torahs and supported by the Kehillah Jewish Education Fund