The Hillel Happenings
The official e-newsletter of Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh
Parshat Yitro

Candle Lighting: 5:02                                                                      Havdalah: 6:11
 January 17, 2014                                                                            16 Shevat 5774
Dvar Torah



    The beginning of Parashat Yitro tells of the arrival of Yitro, Moshe's father-in-law, to the camp of Bnei Ysroel. We are told that Yitro was inspired to join Bnei Yisrael after hearing about the recent miraculous events that had transpired: "Yitro...heard all that G-d did for Moshe and for His nation, Israel, that the Lord took Israel from Egypt."  Interestingly, however, when Yitro arrives, Moshe brings him into his tent and then tells him of these miracles: "Moshe told his father-in-law all that the Lord did to Pharaoh and to Egypt on account of Israel..." (18:8). The obvious question arises, why did Moshe describe to Yitro the events that he had already heard?  

      One possible answer is that Moshe related the events to Yitro from a different perspective, and with a different focus. When telling us about Moshe's conversation with Yitro, the Torah adds a clause that does not appear in the parasha's first verse that tells of the news that Yitro had heard before his arrival: "all the troubles that confronted them along the way, and how G-d saved them."  This phrase can explain the purpose of Moshe's conversation with Yitro after his arrival.  Yitro heard the dramatic reports of the miraculous downfall of the Egyptian Empire, how a sea split to rescue Bnei Yisrael, how a slave nation defeated Amalek, and how the two million refugees traversed the arid desert and survived.  But Yitro had not heard of the ugly details of Bnei Yisrael's experiences.  Nobody in Midian reported about the people's charge against Moshe at the shores of the sea, Yitro did not hear of those dire moments in Refidim when Moshe literally feared that the people would kill him when they were suffering from a drought.  The news of the miraculous salvation spread throughout the region, but it is unlikely that anybody heard of the numerous travails and complex crises that sprang up along the way.

     In speaking with Yitro, Moshe wanted to ensure that his father-in-law did not harbor any utopian illusions about being part of Am Yisrael.  Certainly, G-d's treasured nation earns a special degree of divine assistance and protection.  But we also have our share of difficult problems and dilemmas, stressful moments, periods of uncertainty, situations of anxiety and fears.

      If, indeed, Moshe's purpose was to convey both the pros and cons of belonging to Bnei Yitroel, then it conveys an important lesson relevant to Jewish leadership. We have a miraculous and wondrous story, and G-d continues to perform miracles for us every day. But, at the same time, we must realize that there are also moments of despair and discord. Moshe is telling Yitro, that in order to help him lead, he must be ready for these moments as well. May we all continue to have blessed and miraculous lives and the strength to endure the more difficult situations as well. 

Shabbat Shalom,
Tu B'shvat on YouTube
2nd grade singing
Nursery singing

Many different programs and actives took place during the day on Thursday in honor of Tu B'shvat. There were shiurim (classes), singing, projects, and other activities that educated our students about this unique day. For our readers benefit, we filmed a few of them. Enjoy!
Middle School Girls Shiur with Mrs. Apfel
MSG Shiur with Mrs. Apfel

The Tu B'shvat fruit was donated in Memory of Mrs. Evelyn Bloom, Chava Devora bat Shabtai v'Chaya z"l. Mrs Bloom z"l belonged to all Zionist organizations in Pittsburgh because she saw good in anything connected to Israel. Mrs. Bloom z"l is well remembered for leading the Jewish Girl Scout troops in Squirrel Hill, including chol hamoed Pesach camping trips. Many Pittsburghers will never forget her fruit bearing fig tree and aravot bushes in her garden. Mrs. Bloom volunteered for many organizations in Pittsburgh, but Hillel Academy was the mo
DSC 9118
MSB Tu B'shvat Shiur by R' Nim
st important one to her. Education and children were always central to her view of the Jewish community.
Thank you to Drs. Elana Bloom and Jeff Garrett for making this Tu B'shvat so meaningful and memorable for all of our students.


View our videos on YouTube 

 2014-2015 New Student Enrollment Applications      
We are now accepting new student applications for 2014-2015!
Follow the instructions by clicking below to apply:
For questions or to set up a tour please contact the main office at 
Second Semester Clubs

Did you sign up for second semester clubs yet (k-12). Some are free clubs and some have a charge.  New clubs added for this semester are: 
  • Karate Club - Grades 1st-4th
  • Tennis Club - Girls Grades 6th - 8th 
  • Pittsburgh Pirates Fantasy Math 
  • Hockey Intramural League - Girls Grades 4th - 8th 
Click CLUBS to be taken to the online form.  Please remember that you need to fill out a unique form for each child who participates in clubs. Payment is due by February 3. Contact [email protected] for more information.  
Hillel Gear Spotted HereWinter Break Contest 
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. 
Make sure to plan for the Hillel Gear Winter Break Contest 2014. You need to send us a photo with Hillel gear. Please use #HillelGear if you plan to tweet it. We will post the photos. The photos with the most likes (on our page - you can't share it) wins a family dinner from Mordy Brown. Last year's winner was Rob and Shelly and the Itskowitz boys. 
There is much to say about this photo. Dr. Brian Goldwasser says he went to Las Vegas for a conference,which we wholeheartedly believe, as we verified his claim. But we think one major benefit was hanging out with his crew #Superheroes #Avengers. Will Brian and his family win this year's Hillel Gear Winter Break Contest? You never know until you submit those photos. 

#Vegas #IwishIwasanAvengers #BriGuy 

Where Are They Now? - Mrs. Rachel May-Weiser, Esq.


Hi readers. In an 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. We interviewed Rachel this week.  She lives in Israel with her husband and five children. She talked to us about the important lessons that she learned about leadership and her favorite Hillel activities. Enjoy!


When did you attend Hillel? 
1978 - 1992
What was the most valuable lesson you got while you were in high school at Hillel? Being in a leadership role is not always easy or appreciated, but that should not be a deterrent to doing the right thing, nor should it be a reason to not be respectful of others and their opinions. Listen at least as much as you talk, try to understand the positions of others, surround yourself with strong people who support you and love you -- and you will always come out on top. 
What's your favorite memory of Hillel? Purim Carnival. Everyone loved the Purim Carnival!   
Who was your favorite teacher and why? Mrs. Faigen. I loved English Literature. I majored in it in college. I loved the way Mrs. Faigen taught. She made us feel like our ideas and thoughts were important. She made me feel like I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up, including a lawyer. But more than that, she made me feel like I'd be good at it.
What is your current profession? Attorney -- JD, Case Western Reserve University School of Law 1998.
Can you share some of your career highlights with our readers? This would take me weeks. There are so many highlights. I practiced as a criminal and civil litigator for 13 years in Cleveland, while still being a very involved mom. During that time I represented some great people and some not so great people, but always felt passionate about my work. I won great victories in court and at the settlement table while always remaining a professional. But I'd have to say the highlight is what I'm doing now. I made aliyah with my family in 2010. I work for a non-profit organization called Shurat HaDin that sues terror organizations and its supporters on behalf of terror victims. Our motto is "Bankrupting Terrorism One Lawsuit at a Time." I work on the U.S. cases only, representing American victims of terror in Israel. This job gives me the opportunity to make my own contribution to the State of Israel, to the Jewish people and, I hope, to the world. I represent the most innocent of victims against the purest of evils with an end goal of suppressing terrorism by holding its supporters responsible. It is my hope that our work will make those supporters think twice or will financially constrain them from giving their support. If that helps curb terrorism, even just a little, I will feel great. And if in the process I can help garner some financial compensation to victims of terror, I will feel even better. The money will not take away the physical or emotional agony, or the nightmares, but it might ease life just a little bit so these victims can focus on healing.
Can you share some advice with our current students? It's cliche, but follow your dreams, work hard, don't judge a book by its cover, give people the benefit of the doubt, don't be afraid to reinvent yourself or to take controlled risks, and...move to Israel! :) 
Thank you so much for your time and we hope to see you and your family soon! 
The Ziff Corner 
Young children are constantly growing and changing  into different stages of development and so do their needs and wants. They have periods of time where they have strong expressions of independence and other times they want mom and dad to help them. The question often becomes, "How much help do I give them and when is too much help harmful to their growth and development?"  Here are some ideas to think about when you are struggling with this question.
  • Always try to answer their questions with a question instead of coming to them with an answer right away. For example: "What is it that you don't understand?" Try to get the child to pinpoint the problem and then you can help.
  • If they want you to help them with everything and  can't seem to find the independence, then you can try, "I am going to set the timer for 10 minutes. See what you can do by yourself ,and when the timer rings, I will come and help you."  Or, you can try, "Work on what you can by yourself  and then I will come and help with the rest."

  • Don't make too many things a control issue. Give your child choices that make your life easier, not harder.  Pick and choose your battles and  don't worry about teaching them a life lesson over tying their shoes for them, even though you know they know how.
  • My philosophy on homework help is to HELP THEM!  Do not do the work for your child, but be supportive, involved and interested.  Homework should not be a struggle and too hard for kids.  Please communicate with their teacher if you feel it is.  

Mrs. Ziff
Do Your Kids Weave?  Ours Do!
 This is just amazing. Mrs. Yalkut taught her students how to weave based on the Parsha they were learning. Well done guys! #SoCool
Third grade recently finished learning Chapter 21 of Bereishis (Genesis). 
To celebrate, they did an art project depicting Bereishis 21:33, " And he [Avraham] planted an Aishel [tree] in Beer-Sheva, and he called there in the name of Hashem, the G-d of the world."  After watching a video tour of the Negev and Beer-Sheva, they drew a picture depicting the desert landscape, including some details from the Torah, like wells, camels, and Avraham's tent. They then created a woven Aishel tree on top of the background. What a fun way to celebrate and review what we learned! 
 Family Feature  - The Swedarsky Family
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 Josh and Aviva Swedarsky.  Josh is a native, but Aviva is not. With the Olympics just around the corner, luge came up more than once in our conversation, 
as did beer.  To read the interview in full see below and enjoy! 

Your daughters Hanna (PK) and Kayla (N), and son Zach (I) are, enrolled at Hillel. What made you choose Hillel? We asked our kids where they wanted to go to school. Their responses: Hannah: I wanted to go where my friends were going. Kayla: I wanted a school on Beacon so I can Street Luge in the morning. Zach: Blah, Blah, Blah, Da, Da, Da


What's your favorite part of our wonderful school? Again, we had to defer to the kids: Hannah: Davening and Art - Kayla: No school for a whole week before Pesach. PARTY!!!!! - Zach: Blah, Blah, Blah, Da, Da, Da


Sq. Hill Trivia: What was the name of the first kosher pizza shop?Mineo's? Oops not kosher. Yaakov's?


What do the Swedarskys do on a cold Sunday afternoon? (See the beer photo).


 Josh, you are from here, but Aviva is not. Aviva, what's your favorite part of Pittsburgh? The 24 hour specialty food pantry located at Josh's parents' house. And the warm winter weather.


What brought you guys to Pittsburgh? 

Aviva, Hannah, and Kayla got a ride from Josh's Mom. And Josh took the bus. In all honesty, New York can really handle only one Swedarsky Family.

How many HYPE classes have you signed up for We haven't had much time to research the course offerings for the Hebrew-Yiddish Pottery Endeavor. 

Where did you two meet? 40.854576, -73.9345984


Do you think the Steelers should sign Ben - he has two years left - or wait a season?

I defer all sports questions to Zach. He says, "The Steelers should definitely extend Ben's contract immediately to provide stability for the organization the next two years and beyond."


Are there any Swedarsky family projects planned for 2014?Street Luge can be dangerous with these crazy Pittsburgh drivers.... taking bids for installing a zip line from Shady & Beacon to Hillel.


No more wisecracks (lol)! What should we know about the Swedarsky Family? OK, we'll be serious now. Josh was raised in Pittsburgh and went to Hillel for elementary school. Aviva was raised in Baltimore. (Who would ever think a Shady Side Academy graduate would marry a Bais Yaakov girl?) Josh went to YU, Aviva to Touro. We met in New York at a Shabbos meal sometime in 2003. One thing led to another and we got married in 2004. Nine years in Manhattan and 2 kids later, Josh got a job offer from a company based in Pittsburgh. We moved to Pittsburgh in April of last year and Zach was born 6 weeks later.    

We thank everyone who has helped make our transition to Pittsburgh an amazing experience.  The Hillel community is truly special and we are honored to be part of it.


Thank you for your time and humor! Most definitely! 

Faculty Interview - Ms. Sonja Brett

Welcome to Hillel, What grades do you teach?  I teach 7th and 8th grade Civics and 9th-12th grade World History.


Where did you attend college?  I went to Barnard College, apparently with all of Rabbi Weinberg's sisters.  It's a part of Columbia University in New York City and I recommend it highly! 


Many of our staff have reported that walking in the doors in the morning and seeing the smiling children is one of their favorite parts of working at Hillel. What's yours?  Seeing bunches of smiling children is definitely a morning perk, but I especially love seeing students STILL smiling in my class.  When that happens, it truly becomes the best part of my day.  
We closed school this past Tuesday, along with every other school in the county, because of frigid temps.  What's the best part of an unscheduled day off?  This past Tuesday it involved catching up on grading, but usually I spend unscheduled days off taking a long run down on the riverfront trails, baking, and then being as lazy as possible! 

Any plans for winter break?  I am so excited to leave the Arctic tundra behind and visit family in Florida for the week!  Hopefully, most of my stay will be spent on my bike and at the beach. 

What's your educational philosophy?  You absolutely have to have fun.  It can't be all games, all the time, but there has to be a way, every day, to make education exciting.   

You have been involved in a few different clubs (GHS XC and other girls exercise related clubs) this year and the girls art elective.  Sounds like you have many interests.  What's the saying?  Jack of all trades, master of none?  I like to keep things interesting.  My interests include some basic activities, like jogging, painting, hiking, travel, cooking, and reading.  My world revolves around my dog, Nigel, so we are usually doing something fun outside.  I'm also insanely competitive, so any kind of game that allows for a winner is something I would never turn down! 

What's the most surprising fact about Hillel?  Not that I was really entirely
 surprised by this, but I have never been a part of such a supportive group of people, including faculty, students, and families, who will do anything to help.  It's awesome to be in that kind of an environment.  I was also rather surprised at the amount of candy I can find in the halls of Hillel.  There is never a shortage.
Anything else you would like to share with our readers? Mrs. Finder was my Hebrew school teacher.  She is ageless! 
Tweets of the Week
 I thought the articles and interviews were really informative and shed a very positive light on Hillel. Thanks. #Loveit #Wantmoreofit 
@HillelAcademy1@hillelacademy2 I thought the rain coat was 2. 3 on the front chair, 3 on the back. Look closely #hawkeye 
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Girls Melave Malka 
This past Saturday night's Mother-Daughter Melavah Malkah was a smashing success.  The lunchroom was transformed with the theme "Ashira Lashem B'Chaiyi" -With My Whole Essence I Will Sing to Hashem.  The stage area was decorated with a beautiful sign by Mrs. Weisswasser and the sixth graders.  The artistic centerpieces created in the same musical theme were made by Mrs. Grossberg and her seventh and eighth grade girls.  All of the girls worked hard in the weeks leading to the Melavah Malka practicing their songs and choreography. They performed like professionals to the delight of everyone in attendance. 
This night would not have been possible without the help of many individuals. 
Thank you to Efrat Kagan, Hadasah Kamensky, Tovi Admon, Mimi Grossberg, Sara Leah Weisswasser, Leah Rosenberg, Ilana Kanal, Chana Pfeffer, Tzippy Rosenberg, Reb Shaw, Rabbi Weinberg, Mr. Kraut, Fred Davis, Rabbi Nimchinsky, Adina Shayowitz, Stephanie Small,  Elena Davis, Abby Schachter, Chantal Belman, Shulamit Cohen, Sari Cohen, Maxine Kisilinsky, Elky Langer, the Bnot Sheirut and Erela Plotkin.
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. 

This week's entry comes in via our Facebook page.

left to right: Steven Averback, Steve Joshowitz, Sandie Epshtein, 
 Jimmy Cohen, Robbie Stein (middle row) 
 David Fine, Joel Ungar, Kenny Mangurten
Like us on Facebook 

Last week's photo: 
 #Pyramid #Thoseglassesareback #Nounifroms #FlashbackFridays
This week's photo        
We did not receive any entries from this photo. So, let's have another go at it. 
  #FiddlerOnTheRoof #GHSProduction #OldSchool #FlashbackFridays
Mazel Tov

Mazel tov to Jimmy and Linda Joshowitz on the marriage of their daughter Jill to Yoni Zisook!

Mazel tov to alumna Jill Joshowitz on her marriage to Yoni Zisook!
Mazel tov to Rabbi and Mrs. Rosenstein and the entire family on the Bo Bayom Bar Mitzva celebration of Eli!

Mazel tov to Rabbi and Mrs. Langer and the entire family on the Bo Bayom Bar Mitzva celebration of Zelig!  



Sign up to study Mishnayos in memory of Fayga Devorah Bas Zev by clicking MISHNA and selecting the mishnayos you will learn.

Hillel Announcements 
WINTER BREAK: Hillel Academy will be closed from 1/20 - 1/24. Enjoy and be safe!
FOOD DRIVE: As part of pre-k's  "Our Neighborhood" unit the pre k is having a food drive. Please send in nonperishable items so that the pre k classes can do a mitzvah.
MORDY BROWN CATERING: Pizza for dinner on Monday's call the main office at 412.521.8131.
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Around Town
 FYI: The deadline for submissions is Sunday at midnight for the coming week
KIDDISH THIS SHABBAT: Dr. and Mrs. Moshe (Michael) and Miriam Kaminsky invite the community to a kiddush at their house (5812 Hobart St.) from 11:30am-12:30pm this Shabbos, Parshas Yisro, in gratitude to Hashem for the birth of their daughter, Sara Leah. Dr. Kaminsky will make a siyum on Maseches Bava Kama.
FOOD DRIVE: As part of pre-k's  "Our Neighborhood" unit the pre k is having a food drive. Please send in nonperishable items so that the pre k classes can do a mitzvah.
MORDY BROWN CATERING: Pizza for dinner on Monday's call the main office at 412.521.8131.
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!
NCSY: Jr. NCSY Shabbaton for 7-8 grades on February 7th. Register at 
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 - 4:00pm.   
GIRLS ONEG: There will be oneg this week, but no oneg the following week. 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: No snif Jan 18 & 25 we will be back on February 1st .  Every other week 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


of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh 
Jewish Family & Children's Service 
Administered by: 
5743 Bartlett Street Pittsburgh, PA 15217 (412)422-5627 Fax (412)428-8200
November 2013
Attention: Financial Aid Offices, Guidance Counselors, and Youth Organizations
Applications for need-based college scholarships for the 2014-2015 school year are available
from the Central Scholarship & Loan Referral Service (CSLRS) of the Jewish Federation of 
Greater Pittsburgh. This program is administered by Jewish Family & Children's Service. 
The funds are made available through the generosity of families who have established 
endowments through the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Jewish Community 
Center, National Council of Jewish Women, Jewish Women International of Pittsburgh 
(formerly B'nai B'rith Women), The Pittsburgh Foundation, and Rodef Shalom Congregation.
All awards are distributed on the basis of demonstrated financial need. Depending 
on the scholarship fund, other factors such as academic achievement, field of study, school 
attending, and community involvement may also be considered. In addition, the applicant 
must be Jewish, reside in Allegheny, Westmoreland, Beaver, Butler or Washington County 
for at least two years, and need financial assistance to attend an accredited institution of 
higher education
We would appreciate your assistance in aiding local students by publishing an announcement 
about the work of the Central Scholarship committee. We are enclosing a brochure that 
explains our process. The 2014-2015 CSLRS on-line application is available at http:// All applications are due February 11, 2014.
If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at (412) 422-5627 or e-mail me at 
Alayne Lowenberger, Director
Central Scholarship & Loan Referral Service
Want More Hillel Happenings? 

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