The Hillel Happenings
The official e-newsletter of Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh
Parshat Bo
Theme Week Part VIII: Math 

Candle Lighting: 4:48                                                                       Havdalah: 5:57
 January 3, 2014                                                                            2 Shevat 5774
Dvar Torah

In Parashat Bo, when Moshe Rabbeinu presents the laws of the Korban Pesach to Bnei Yisroel he tells them that "your children will say to you: What is this service to you?" ("Ma ha-avoda ha-zot lakhem" - 12:26).  Moshe then instructs parents to teach their children how Hashem spared their ancestors the deadly plague of the firstborn and that he redeemed the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt. 

While we generally understand this verse as an innocent query, the  Mekhilta understands this passuk as an ominous prediction of a time when ignorance of tradition will run rampant among the Jewish people: "Bad tidings were conveyed to Israel at that time - that the Torah will one day in the future be forgotten." According to this opinion, the children asking their parents to explain to them the significance underlying the Korban Pesach, means the disappearance of Torah knowledge, and widespread ignorance of tradition to the point where the meaning behind the most basic laws and customs will be forgotten.

Rav Yehuda Altman, in his work Yam Shel Yehuda (Europe, 1926), suggested that this interpretation of the Mekhilta is based upon the Torah's use of the word avodah in this verse in reference to the korban pesach ritual.  Although the term avodah means "service" or "ritual," it also has a clear association with taxing or tiring labor.  According to the Mekhilta, the scene depicted by the Torah of a child asking his parents "Ma ha-avoda ha-zot lakhem" refers to a child who sees his parents burdened by religious observance.  He senses that they approach their religious duties as nothing more than that - duties, obligations, responsibilities - and not as a privilege and source of joy and fulfillment.  Therefore he understandably asks, "What is this avodah to you?"


If parents fail to show zeal and enthusiasm in their mitzvah observance, and approach it purely as an avodah, then their children are likely to question the need for this observance - "Ma ha-avoda ha-zot lakhem" - rather than embrace it. We must do whatever we can to ensure that our children see the Torah and Mitzvah observance as a thing of excitement and beauty and not of onerous obligation.


Shabbat Shalom,

Where Are They Now?


Hi readers.  In attempt to reconnect with our alumni, we have started a new column that focuses on our proud alums.  We hope that this will help to strengthen our alumni network. This week we begin with Daniel Sokol and Aliza Stiebel (both alumni!). We talked to Daniel about the the tour company he started in Israel where they live with their two children. Read below to learn more about them. 



Hi, we heard you were in town and wanted to catch up with youYou graduated in 2001 from the Mesivta of Greater Pittsburgh, part of Hillel Academy, right? And Aliza graduated from Hillel Academy in 2003? Yes


What was the most important lesson you learned while in high school? You don't have to be the tallest to be the best in basketball- prime example Rabbi Sammy Weinberg!


Can you share a favorite memory from Hillel? Getting off the Mesivta bus each morning and getting a hug from Rabbi Weingot.


SokolTours is one of the major tour guide companies in Israel.  Tell us about it. I moved to Israel in 2005 with my wife Aliza.  I have a degree in Political Science, love history, and am passionate about Israel. Becoming a tour guide was a perfect fit for me! I had to go through two years of intensive training and testing in order to get my license, and need to take yearly courses to maintain it. Thanks to my Hillel education, that is no problem. SokolTours is all about making your trip to Israel the best experience possible. I specialize in families of all ages and love bringing the country to life for the newbie

tourist to the seasoned traveler. We tailor-make our itineraries to fit each family's needs and interests, and no two trips are the same! I love the excitement that I see in my tourists' eyes when they experience something new during their trip here.


Where is your favorite location to tour in Israel? That is a tough one. I love all parts of the country, but I'd have to say that my favorite spot is Ir David, the City of David.  Not only are archeologists constantly finding huge new discoveries there, but it is also a place that I find deeply connects myself and my tourists to the people from the times of the Tanach.


Have you had any celebrities? Oh yeah! I've taken out Shwekey's family and J.K. Rowling's lawyer/agent, but I think the most famous celeb that I've given tours to must be Danny Kraut! (See if you can name the current and former Hillel Academy families visiting with Avraham Avinu at Eretz Bereishit with SokolTours.)


You went to Derech Etz Chaim (DEC), do you maintain a connection to them? Totally!  For the first many years that we lived here, my wife and I davened at DEC for all of the chagim. I'm also the yeshiva's tour guide, so I get to take the guys out on trips about once a month.


True or False: I heard that tour guide school in Israel is really hard? True!  It really is tough- once you finish the two years of training, you have to pass both a written exam AND an oral exam.  And even then, only 25% of the students actually pass on their first try and go on to get their tour guide license. 


Can you offer some advice to our current students? Never drink six cans of Surge before lunch.

Hillel Grid

Hey there HH readers. The Hillel grid offers a quick glimpse into the minds of our wonderful students.  Meet some of our third and fourth graders. 

Student in the grid
Favorite lunch snack?
What do you use math for?
Skis or snowboard
Calculator or protractor?
Yaakov Berelowitz
Geri Pollack
To be smart when I'm a grownup
I don't know what those are for
Natan Marcus
Potato chips
 To figure out how many words I can fit on a page.
Gabe Small
 Kit Kat
To count tickets when Deena Wasserman hands out prizes.
Not sureCalculator
Nechama Russell 




 Reb Shaw

Family Feature  
New for this year: as our school continues to grow, we are happy to feature our new families in an attempt to formally introduce and welcome them to the Hillel Academy family. This week we talked with Debbie Marvit - McGlothlin.


Welcome to Hillel Academy.  Your son John is in 3rd grade. What made you choose Hillel? John's 3 uncles and grandfather all went to Hillel. And his great grandfather actually taught there in the spring of 1960.

Unbelievable!  I did not realize you had such a rich history with Hillel.What has been most surprising thus far about Hillel? How much fun school can be while still learning so much.

What's your favorite part of Hillel? John says " sports club and gym. " As a parent, I like the overall warm and nurturing environment.  
Can you believe that the referees had such a strong hand in the Steelers not making the playoffs? Yeah, what's up? Hopefully, the Steelers will make the playoffs next year.  
How do the Marvits stay warm in the Pittsburgh winters? Hats, gloves and winter sports.

Are you more likely to go skiing or go poolside for winter break? We are split on that one. John says skiing, but I would have to disagree.

This week's Parshat Bo features the infamous plague of Darkness. Too bad they did not have iPhones.  What would you do if you were in complete darkness without your smartphone? Curse the dark (not as productive as lighting a candle, but it works).
Thank you for your time!

?יכול כולכם נחשו מה בשבוע הבא
Can you guess what next week is?
שבוע עברית - עם הרב ויינברג ודני קראוט
שבוע עברית - עם הרב ויינברג ודני קראוט
שבוע עברית
שבוע עברית
Faculty Interview - Mrs. Katie Erskine 
This week we sat down with Mrs. Erskine.  She loves to garden and drive her Chevy Volt.  Did you know she once grew all of her fruit and vegetables for an entire year.  She even challenged Israeli farmers to a #growoff. Do you share some of her interests? Or want to find out about her responsibilities in Hillel? 
Or maybe you just love reading the HH. Enjoy the interview below. 


Hi, Mrs. Erskine. How long have you worked at Hillel? This is my second year at Hillel, so that would make it 1 years now.


You are an integral part of our learning support department, which has really grown over the past three years. What can you tell our readers about the strides you and your team have made led by Mrs. Ella Ziff? I think when I started last year we were all really just getting a handle on what we had available both in terms of human resources and technology, but as the learning support department has developed into a team, we have found some wonderful ways to support all the students and teachers here at Hillel.


Where do you see learning support going in the future? I love where the learning support team is going here at Hillel. I feel like the way we are able to integrate into the Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade classrooms is really the future for a lot of other classes. Being part of a team in the classroom allows me to work with classroom teachers to help students who need a little extra support and to offer an extra challenge to students who are moving at a little faster pace. It's a much more flexible system than pulling students out of regular classwork to work on "remedial" or "enrichment" activities and I feel like it's a lot more effective and beneficial to everyone in the class.


You are one of the first to drive a Chevy Volt, what's that like? I love my Volt! It's great that I can get almost the whole way to school and back home again without using any gas, and even more importantly it's comfortable for my long commute. It also drives really well in the snow, which was a pleasant surprise since it doesn't even have 4-wheel drive.


What's your favorite part of being a Hillel staff member? There are a lot of things to love here at Hillel, but I think my favorite thing about being here is how friendly everyone has been. From my very first day last year, students, staff and parents all made me feel welcome and like I was really a part of the school community.


You are one of the many teachers on the dismissal team, how can we make it more efficient? This is probably the wrong answer, but it never seems that bad to me (from inside). It's always going to be a little loud and rowdy when siblings who have been in different classrooms get together at the end of the day, and putting small children into cars isn't really designed to be easy.


One word to describe yourself? Eclectic; I've always had really diverse taste in everything from food to clothes to music and beyond.


The BHS coding club have used the Google satellites to tell us that you love to garden. Any chance we will see a gardening club in the second semester? I do love to garden! It's my biggest summer activity. A garden club would be great fun for me, but I would have to divide my time between that and my pet program, the Homework Support Club. Incidentally, if there are any aspiring gardeners in the Hillel Happenings readership, I do know a few organizations that offer grants to schools looking to start a garden club or class, and I would love to be involved.


According to the HVAC website, your husband is an expert heating repair man? He is pretty awesome at his job, and I never miss an opportunity to talk about how proud I am of what great work he does. The coolest thing about being really talented in that kind of field is that he gets to meet people I would never dream of meeting in person, and he gets to do it in their own home. He is always meeting local personalities; in fact just recently he worked at Clint Hurdle's house and got to meet him.


Wow, I wish I had apprenticed with him that day. Did your husband bring up #Bucnation while he was there? What's the most surprising thing about Hillel? I am always surprised by all of the amazing things that come out of such a small staff and student body. The number of extracurricular activities available and the amount of student enthusiasm and participation is probably better than in a lot of public schools twice this size, and every time I read a Hillel Happenings there's another great activity that a staff member has taken time to prepare.   


Be honest did you program your TI-81 to play games? Nope. I wasn't tech 

savvy enough to manage anything that cool until I was a college student.


Anything else you would like to share with our readers? I know it's a math-themed issue, but I never miss an opportunity to encourage everyone -student, parent and staff member alike- to keep reading. It's one of my favorite pastimes and that's all because my parents loved to read and loved reading to me. Happy Reading! (Sorry it just has a better ring than "Enjoy those math facts!")



Children develop math concepts and skills early in life.  From the moment they are born, babies begin to form ideas about math through everyday experiences and, most importantly, through interactions with trusted adults. 


To read the rest of this article click  ECC.

Morah Dori
4th Grade Studies Measurement

The 4th grade has been having a wonderful time learning Metric Units of Measurement. We have enjoyed learning how standard measurement has changed along with the many problems that have arisen throughout time due to non-standardized measurement systems. 
Math Anxiety


Math Anxiety can be an unfortunate part of a child's school experience.  If we can help children love math, just like any other subject, they can be successful!  Here are some tips to help students who feel a bit anxious about math.


 1.  Parents, share in the fun of learning math with your child.  Play some fun math games or other games on the computer with your children. Your child's teacher or I can be of some help if you are looking for some resources.

2. Introduce Math Muscle: Teach your child that with practice and effort they can achieve more success in math, just like in sports.

3. Find a good role model or two, in real life or in history. Put math in a practical frame for the older students and point out a doctor or science professional in the community.

4. Lower the pressure: Talk to your child's teacher if necessary!

5. Help your child remember to write down steps.  So many students insist on doing math problems in their heads. It helps a lot to write things down.

6.  Have your child keep a math journal.  It helps to refer to old problems and to write down their emotions and feelings, both good and bad.

7. Practice and practice and practice some more with your child.  Whether it be math facts or homework, it is always more fun to do something that is difficult with someone you love! 

Mazel Tov!

Mazel tov to our very own Rabbi and Mrs. Dov and Rivky Nimchinsky on the wedding of their son Yosef!  



We are saddened to announce the passing of 

Felicia Brinn (Faiga Tzipora), ob"m 

beloved mother of Helen Bachrach, and loving grandmother of Adina,Shoshana, Yehoshua, and Boaz.           

Tweet of the Week
Awesome interview on Morah Elaine, thank you! I loved, loved, loved to get her science emails and would always forward them to my mother-in-law to show her what an awesome education her grandchildren were getting.  We were especially impressed with the whale in the lunchroom. 

Please click HERE to sign up to say Tehilim for Fayth Aronson (Fayga Devorah bas Shulamis) and all others who also need a refuah shelama. 

Hillel Gear Spotted Here


Hey, Hillel Happenings readers, we all know that Hillel nation extends well beyond Squirrel Hill. So here's our chance to prove it. Send a picture of yourself in Hillel gear (uniform, t-shirt, etc.) to [email protected], and each week we'll select the best picture for inclusion in the Hillel Happenings. 

At first glance the Steelers vs. Browns game this past Sunday looked to to be a meaningless game. Fans couldn't even give their tickets away.  However, the Steelers were never mathematically eliminated and after week 15 it became apparent that the Steelers could make the playoffs with win and lots of help from other teams within the AFC.

Ninth graders Moshe Wasserman and Jacob Wiesenfeld were lucky enough to attend this game thanks to Moishe Siebzener and Deena Ross who won them at the Awards Night Dinner. They donated the tickets back to the school to use as part of a BHS incentive program.  Moshe and Jacob won them for accumulating the most davening points. Thank you to Deena and Moishe and mazel tov to Jacob and Moshe.  




Flashback Fridays

Can you figure this one out? Email us the names of those in the picture, and we will print your name in next week's Hillel Happenings. 

Last week's photo: 

This week's photo        

Around Town
FYI: The deadline for submissions is Sunday at midnight for the coming week
MORDY BROWN CATERING: January Menu and Order Form 
Box Tops 4 Education: EASY AS A - B - C!!! If you shop in Giant Eagle in January, you can get 50 Bonus Box Tops instantly if you purchase any 10 participating products with your Giant Eagle Advantage card. Don't forget about site where you can clip valuable coupons but also, if you sign up, Hillel gets 2 bonus EBox Tops. Every box top counts!
AGEWELL RIDES: AgeWell Rides, a NEW service of AgeWell Pittsburgh through Jewish Family & Children's Service, will offer rides for senior citizens who do not drive and who want to go to doctor appointments, shopping, to the hair dresser, or to attend religious services. We are currently recruiting drivers who have a couple of free hours and who want to make a difference in a senior's life. They are encouraged to contact AgeWell Rides at [email protected] or call AgeWell Pittsburgh at 412-422-0400 (and speak with Maxine Horn or Ellen Leger). 
BOYS ONEG:  Boys for grades 1-4 in the PZ social hall from 3:00pm - 4:00   
GIRLS ONEG: Girls' Oneg in the PZ educational building from 3:00pm - 4:00pm for girls K-8. There is no supervision until 3:00, so any parents who bring their children to Oneg before then should please wait with them until there is an Oneg leader to accompany them to their room.  For more information and to join our email list, contact Girls Oneg at [email protected]
BNEI AKIVA: Snif will take place at Shaare Torah from 3:30-4:30 pm
MEN'S FLOOR HOCKEY LEAGUE: Tuesdays @ 10pm and Saturday night @ 9pm, both in the Hillel gym. Contact [email protected] for more information. 
WOMAN'S PICK UP BASKETBALL: Ladies Basketball is in search of some more experienced and committed players. Please contact Shayna Creeger for more information- 412 320 5859 -  Sundays and Thursdays from 8:15pm-9:30pm.
MEN'S PICK UP BASKETBALL: Wednesdays from 9pm-10:30pm in the Hillel gym


Want More Hillel Happenings? 

5685 Beacon Street 
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
(P) 412-521-8131 
(F) 412-521-5150
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