Welcome to the Hillel Happenings!

October 27, 2017 - 7 Cheshvan, 5778
Parshat Lech-Lecha
Candle Lighting by 6:04 pm
Shabbat Ends - 7:11 pm

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Parashat Lech Lecha introduces us to the early career of Avraham Avinu. The story is striking in its abruptness: we are not told anything about Avraham's background, philosophies, or ideals; nor about the divine mission which he has assumed. We are introduced to Avraham as if we know him already and are fully aware of his mission.  

Perhaps the verse is vague in order to teach us that like Avraham, it is our responsibility to follow our divine mission, no matter where we are coming from and what our background entails. Had the Torah told us of Avraham's background, we would think it was because of his upbringing that he came to greatness. Through this omission, the Torah is telling us that no matter our circumstance, we can all fulfill his divine mission. But what is that divine mission? Rabbi Menachem Leibtag explains that by undertanding Avraham' s mission  we can understand what our mission is as well. 

He points out that Avraham turned 48 years old the year of the Tower of Babel and the dispersion. This was also the same year that he found G-d. It teaches us that Avraham's mission was diametrically opposed to that of the tower builders. According to the Ramban, the sin of the builders was that they gathered together in order to "create for themselves a name." This point of view is in direct contrast to Avraham Avinu. At the end of Avraham's aliyah, the verse states, "He built a mizbayach there and called out b'shem Hashem, in G-d's name." (12:8) The Ramban explains that this meant that Avraham would go in front of the mizbayach and make G-d's existence known to all mankind. 

Instead of creating a name for himself, Avraham focused on promoting G-d's name, and on creating a name for G-d. When Hashem chose Avraham, he said "And I will make you a great nation ... and through you all the families of the earth will be blessed." (12: 1-3) 

Our mission is the same as Avraham's. We must be great and do whatever we can to make a kiddush Hashem in everything we do.  

With the news cycle being what it is, and the advent of social media, it is unfortunately very difficult to avoid reading about chilulie Hashem - desecration of G-d's name - in the news on what seems like every day. As a community we must hold ourselves to the great standard of Avraham Avinu an d we must do our best to minimize chillul Hashem, and at the same time do what we can to promote Kiddushei Hashem whenever we can. After all, it is the mission of Hillel Academy that "We will reveal the vast potential and greatness o f Hillel graduates such that all who interact with them will say, 'Blessed is their G-d; fortunate are their parents and teachers.'"

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Weinberg, Principal                  



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It's pumpkin time! 
Find Benny's missing pumpkin seeds in this email....

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What do your students call you? 
Miss Mia. 

How long have you been teaching at Hillel Academy? 
This is my second year at Hillel.

  What is the most rewarding thing about teaching your grade / subject? 
Learning from my students. There isn't a class that goes by where I do not learn something new; either about something in the science field or about my student's interests. 

What gadget do you rely on most when teaching?  
My computer. 

What phrase do you find yourself using the most during your day?  
Does any one have any questions, concerns, or angry comments?

I wish my classroom had... More space! I like to get my students moving as they learn which is difficult in smaller classrooms.

The most important thing I teach my students is: To keep learning! It does not have to be science related, but just having a growth mindset and always being ready to learn will help students navigate life.

My students teach me... Many things; from Judaism and the American Culture to new discoveries and things that interest them.

My favorite rainy day activity is: Reading a book.

What were you like when you were your students' age? 
Like many Sri Lankans I was academically driven, but was more interested in playing sports, especially netball.

What is your motto? "You must be the change you wish to see in the world" - Gandhi

The most useful lesson I ever learned is: No matter how hard a task is, you must complete it yourself to see the rewards.

The skill I would most like to have is: Calligraphy.

The most amazing / odd / inspiring place I have been is: I find ecology very interesting so places like the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, and Tropical Rainforests in Sri Lanka, always amazes and inspires me.

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Find Sri Lanka on the map! 

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Teacher Feature: A Chat With Miss Mia

By Rachel Cohen, Rivky Sutofsky and Chana Kaminsky
It is lunchtime in the FAB GHS. The air is filled with the mysterious odor which is likely a mixture of tradition soups, oatmeal, and Morning Star. It is here that we convene, Rivky at the table on a Chromebook, Rachel with her notebook and pencil in hand, and Chana standing in the corner, anticipating the journey we are about to embark on into the compelling, fascinating, and awesome life of Miss Mia.
We begin at the beginning. Miss Mia tells us that she was born and raised in the suburbs of Colombo, the capital city of the tropical island of Sri Lanka. It's just off the southeast coast of India.
Growing up, Miss Mia attended an English speaking school, because Sri Lanka was colonized by the British in 1802, but English is her second language. "I speak Sinhalese. There are three official languages: English, Tamil and Sinhalese. I'm Sinhalese, so I speak Sinhalese. Tamils speak Tamil, [because they are] related to the southern Indians who are also Tamils. [It] depends on religion." Along with Sinhalese and English, Miss Mia also took French for four years, but claims to have forgotten most of it, accept: "Je m'appel Mia!" (My name is Mia).

On her first trip to the US, in 2004, she and her family toured our entire country, from New York City to Niagara Falls to the Grand Canyon to Vegas to Disneyland, in just two weeks! Miss Mia recalls her favorite site to be the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, explaining "because I am a nerd"; she even walked the whole three miles over it.
Miss Mia loved America so much that she returned to Youngstown State University for her undergraduate degree where she mastered in Forensic Science, and then to Duquesne University, where she is currently working on obtaining her PhD in Instructional Technology. She noted that working towards a doctorate "will help me become a better teacher, [because it] is a way to get more teacher training." Dr. Mia, as we like to call her, joined the Hillel family last year, as a devoted high school science teacher, when she was introduced to our wonderful school by friends who happen to be Hillel alumni.
When we ask her what her favorite part of science is to teach, Miss Mia replies, "I really really like ecology, because it's about nature, and every time I step outside I'm in awe of nature, and I really get to see it." She adds that "DNA and genetics interest me as well but you don't see it as much."
Miss Mia also tells us that at Hillel Academy, she learns "a lot about Jewish culture." She explains, "my students keep me in touch with what's cool." We ask her if student speech has rubbed off on her and she immediately replies, "Is it, though...???"

When it comes to culture, Miss Mia informs us that she has no preference between Sri Lanka and America - she likes aspects of both. "I love how American students can form more personal relationships with their teachers, whereas in Sri Lanka they keep their distance, and [having to] ask questions in class is the most nerve wracking thing ever!" Miss Mia recalls working to overcome her fear while in college in the US. According to Miss Mia, something the United States is lacking in is how everyone in Sri Lanka is very nice and open and helpful. Interactions with strangers become personal relationships; "random people call each other aunt and uncle," and the common excuse for someone running late is that they were helping a stranger on the street, or deep in conversation with someone they bumped into.  
With home being so far away, Miss Mia is used to long-distance travel. Her top two items to bring on a plane trip are a phone and a good book. Miss Mia is a dedicated Harry Potter fan. She has read each book multiple times, plus watched Fantastic Beasts. Miss Mia tells us that she doesn't have much time for pleasure reading now, as much of her time must be dedicated towards teaching and earning her PhD. Along with reading, Miss Mia also enjoys gardening and hanging out with her friends. She is, according to testimony of Mrs. Myers, also an "amazing cook."
Clearly, the openness and cheer of Sri Lankan culture has stayed with Miss Mia even after all her time away from home - you can count on Miss Mia to always be there with a friendly smile, a hilarious anecdote, and an infectious laugh. We very much appreciate all of the hard work that Miss Mia puts into each and every one of her classes, and the dedication she has to teaching and sharing her wisdom with her students. Thank you Miss Mia!

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Is There An Echo In Here? 
Multiples at the FAB GHS

By Chana Yolkut

The 2017 FAB GHS graduating class included a Shira, Rivka, Shira Rivka, and Leah, I kid you not. This year, we have a Rivky Sutofsky, Rivky Saxon, Sarah Goodman, Naomi Edelman, and Rachel Cohen. This year's seniors may sound like they have a greater variation of names, but what you may not know is that there is another Rachel (in 11th grade) and another Sarah (in 10th) making Naomi the only girl who can know for sure that if there is someone screaming "Naooomi" down the hall, they are in fact calling her name. Rivky Saxon, a senior, notes the struggle: "Anyone who shares a name in the GHS can tell you they've heard their name being shouted down the hallway; they yell back "What?" only to hear "No, the other [Rivky]." After a while you just learn to take it in good humor.
There are so many advantages of a small high school, but a major disadvantage is the lack of diversity of names. For example, the name Rivka is definitely the most common name in the GHS - with three Rivkys (two having a last name beginning with S) and one Rivka. There are two Chanas (myself being one of them), two Sarahs, two Rachels, and two Shiras. When you consider the amount of girls in the high school this is a huge percentage; 41%. 
"At first, it was difficult to come to terms with the fact that I was not the only Shira anymore," says Ninth Grader Shira Wiesenfeld with good humor, "but I quickly got used to it. Now I always look around to see if the person is trying to talk to me or the other Shira."
One might think that an easy solution to this problem would be nicknames. But nicknames pose their own unique set of problems. Junior, Rachel Luzer, reflects that "Just like everyone else we have tried nicknames that never catch on or going by last names which we have found doesn't work either." Yet for some, nicknames have caught on. Rivky Sutofsky is known by teachers as students alike as Rivky Su, because teachers couldn't call her "Rivky S," as there is already a "Rivky S (Saxon)." Good sport Rivky Saxon says "In some classes I'm called by my last name to make it simpler, and I don't mind it."
As for me, I have thought about being called by my middle name to clear up confusion, but quickly rejected that idea, as that would make life even more complicated. Why? My middle name is Devora and I have a Devorah in my class. As you can see, this is a puzzling dilemma that has yet to be solved.

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By Rachel Luzer and Rachel Cohen

A H illel Academy student from the G irls High S chool is popular for her delicious baked goods, pastries, and breads. Her name is Chana Kaminsky, and she is the owner of her baking business, Kaminsky Konfections. The Hillel Happenings asked her about her business.
H ow long have you been baking ?
    Since I was a kid (probably around 6) .
What type of desserts do you sell?
    A lot of types... like different types of cakes, cookies, donuts, muffins, ice cream pies, other pies, fudge, brownies, etc.
Why did you decide to start a business?
    Because I love baking, and I want to share it with the world!
What's your favorite dessert to make?
    Chocolate chip cookies .
What's your favorite dessert to eat?
    Chocolate chip cookies .
Rumor has it that you donated to the FAB GHS last year during production time. What motivated you to do so?
    At the end of the day everyone is really hungry and tired and we had to stay after school to do more work for production . W hen people have good, fresh, homemade food, it makes everyone happier and in a be tter mood and more productive! ( maybe....? )
What dessert takes you the longest to make?
    Cakes take a long time to bake.
What do you like about baking?
    Eating it. It's amazing that you can take raw ingredients like flour, eggs, sugar, oil, etc. and turn them into something awesome and delicious .
Do you want to open a bakery as a career?
    Probably not - it's a lot of hard work and will likely end up being more of a business than baking job. But I'd totally bake on the side, and sell to anyone who wants!
Do you think you would take on the challenge of making a wedding cake for someone if they ordered one?
    I could try, but I 'm more into baking good food than fancy decorating.
Do you make up the recipes yourself or do you get them from somewhere else?
    Usually from somewhere else , but sometim es I make them up .
How do you have the time to bake all the time?
    I don't. I make time. You make time for the things you love .
How often do you bake?
    At least once a week .
First Baking then the world? Are you going to take your new- found business experience and apply it to something else later?
    Who knows?

Chana is an innovative and incredible baker! Everything she makes turns out delicious and she is always experimenting with new ideas - I've never been disappointed. - Mrs. Wimer


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Send caption to  hillelhappenings@hillelpgh.org
or put your suggestion in the Hillel Happenings Dropbox! 

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Mazel Tov!
On the birth of a boy, Zeke Josef,
on September 27, 2017,
to Eric and Chava Riemer
in Denver Colorado

Mazel Tov!
On the birth of a grandson
to Leah and Philip Milch
and to aunt Devorah!

Check out the Hillel Academy Alumni Page on Facebook! 

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Did you know the Bnot Sheirut have their own Facebook page? It's filled with lots of pictures and videos! Check it out at:  www.facebook.com/PittsburghBanot

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The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh awards grants to students who reside in the Greater Pittsburgh area (Allegheny, Butler, Beaver, Washington and Westmoreland Counties).


The Central Scholarship and Loan Referral Service (CSLRS) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh coordinates the efforts of a group of organizations, agencies, and scholarship endowment funds which provide need-based scholarships to local undergraduate and graduate Jewish students.
CSLRS is a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and is administered by Jewish Family and Children's Service.


Any Jewish high school senior, college or graduate student with demonstrated financial need is eligible to apply. All applicants must be bona fide residents of Allegheny, Beaver, Washington, Butler or Westmoreland counties for at least two years. Individuals are known by number, not name, to ensure confidentiality.

When a student applies for aid, the CSLRS committee matches the student with the funding source or sources for which they qualify. Some funding sources require high academic achievement; all require students to demonstrate financial need.


For school year 2018-2019 Central Scholarship will again be using an on-line application process.
The on-line applications will be available in late November at http://www.centralscholarship.org . First-time applicants must be interviewed by CSLRS staff.

Application deadline is February 12, 2018. Regrettably, applications received after that date will not be considered.

For further information, contact Jewish Family & Children's Service, 
412-422-5627 or alowenberger@jfcspgh.org

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When you  #StartWithaSmile , Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price to Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh. Bookmark the link and support us every time you shop.  https://smile.amazon.com/ch/25-1067130   

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At Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh, we educate young men and women with unlimited capacity who compete in a superior manner in all challenges undertaken. Our students are Torah observant models of exemplary character, who love G-d, the Jewish people, and the land of Israel. To say that our students possess a love of learning, confidence and the ability to think critically merely highlights the value of a Hillel education. What we ultimately achieve each day, and have been for 70 years is the gift of instilling each student with the foundation for a life spent actively serving and leading the Jewish community and society.

Micki Myers, Editor | Hillel Happenings | 412 521-8131 | hillelhappenings@hillelpgh.org |www. hillelpgh.org