The Hillel Happenings
The Official e-Newsletter of Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh
September 19, 2014

24 Elul 5774

Parshat Nitzavim-Vayeilech

Candles: 7:05
Havdala: 8:10

Dvar Torah 

Dear Hillel Family, 


Parashat Nitzavim continues with Moshe Rabbenu's final speech to Bnei Yisroel. After describing the rewards that will come to Bnei Yisroel if they follow the path of G-d, the verse states,


 "  יא כִּיהַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם--לֹא-נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ, וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא.  יב לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם, הִוא: לֵאמֹר, מִייַעֲלֶה-לָּנוּ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְיִקָּחֶהָלָּנוּ, וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ, וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה.  יג וְלֹא-מֵעֵבֶרלַיָּם, הִוא: לֵאמֹר, מִייַעֲבָר-לָנוּאֶל-עֵבֶר הַיָּם וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ, וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ, וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה.  יד כִּי-קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר, מְאֹד: בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ, לַעֲשֹׂתוֹ.      


 11. For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12. It is not in heaven, that you should say: 'Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?' 13. Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say: 'Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?' 14. But the word is very nigh unto you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it. 


 This very moving and poetic verse is most simply understood to mean that we all have the ability to acquire the crown of Torah. However, the Ramban explains that this verse specifically refers to the 

Mitzva of Teshuva. At this time of year, Teshuva is in the air.  Starting this Motzei Shabbat, we say 
selichot to stir our soul, and search for ways to better ourselves for the coming year. Unfortunately, for many of us, this process can be daunting, and even seem impossible.  This verse reminds us that we all have the ability to do Teshuva. In fact, the word Teshuva itself is a reminder of that. The word Teshuva is from the root shin, vav, bet- which spells shuv, which means to return - to return to our innate human desire to do good, and to cling to justice and righteousness. Teshuva is not an esoteric concept that requires us to change who we are, rather an introspective voyage to remove what we are not. 


 At school this is something we see every day. At Hillel, we are lucky to see our students grow from toddlers or even infants into adults. The innocence and tenderness of small children is something that is unique and spectacular.  As they grow, their innate goodness never leaves. Even when we are jaded, sometimes cynical adults, our inherent goodness is still there.  As Rosh Hashana approaches, it is important that we journey inwards to find that inner goodness that we know is there. 


May this year be a year of blessings for our entire community. Shanah Tovah.

Shabbat Shalom,



Hillel on YouTube - The Video Center 
Follow us on Twitter
Hillel Academy's CEO Dan Kraut receives Doris and Leonard H. Rudolph Jewish Professional Award

Hillel Academy's CEO, Dan Kraut, receives The Doris and Leonard H. Rudolph Jewish Professional Award. 
The bee man stopped by Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh today.
The bee man stopped by Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh today.
Annoucments and Reminders 
Like us on FacebookFollow us on Twitter
Family Feature - Sygal & Amos Azaria
We recently caught up with the Azaria family -Sygal, Amos, Yonadav (N), Hilla (1st), Elisha (6B),  Adar (3rd) and Gilad (11 months) who come to us from the Holy Land of Itzhar, Israel. Itzhar, according to Wikipedia is an Israeli settlement located in the West Bank, south of the city of  Nablus, just off Route 60, north of the Tapuach Junction.  The predominantly Orthodox Jewish community with a population of 1106 (2011) is within the municipal jurisdiction of the Shomron Regional Council Under the terms of the Oslo Accords of 1993 between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yitzhar was designated Area "C" under full Israeli civil and security control.  How is that for an explication?  Enjoy the interview. 

What was your favorite part of the Back to School BBQ? The animals    


What's your favorite part of Hillel Academy, thus far? The people

What's the best-kept secret of Hillel Academy? I'm afraid I'm not authorized to say.

Do you have any special family traditions you would like to share with our readers? Dance at the Shabbat table.

Share something about your family that makes you unique. Both of us were born Friday bein hashmashot (editor's note: twilight).


Steelers, Pirates, Penguins or PITT? Turtles

Interesting answer. Favorite dish to order at Grilliance? What is Grilliance? (no results on Google).

What do you do with the projects your children bring home? Put on the refrigerator (and throw away when they aren't looking).

Where will you put your Sukkah this year? At Lake Rebuka. 

Should we charge for elevator passes? I always use the staircase.


Thank you for your time, and we are so happy you joined the Hillel Academy family. 


Alumni Spotlight - Daniella Appel

Daniella Appel is this week's alumni feature. You may know her better as Daniella Kanal. She is one of six children, all of whom graced the halls of Hillel Academy. Can you name them all? Daniella and her husband live in Chicago with their daughter.  It is hard, she says, but she stays faithful to her black and gold, even though her husband has tried to cure her. One time she wore a Ward jersey to a Bears vs. Steelers game in Chicago and lived to tell the tale. For the benefit of our readers, the interview is included in its entirety below. Enjoy! 


When did you attend Hillel Academy? 1989-2004


Share a favorite memory or two with our readers? When I was in 6th grade, Fayth Aronson, z"l, and I would stay after school with Mrs. Russell to get help on our homework and she would give us licorice. In high school, we used to go on retreats with Mrs. Milch and Mrs. Langsner and they were always so much fun!

How do you earn living? I am a luthier and piano teacher.


How did Hillel Academy prepare you for the future? Hillel taught me to never give up and follow my dreams.


Share some info about your family. Zach, my husband, is a special education teacher and we have a 22-month-old daughter named Emma.



What do you do in your free time? I play piano, go to the gym and do fun activities with my family.


Who was your first Hillel teacher? Morah Devorah Kohanbash


What was your favorite class? Gym


Did you have a favorite teacher? Who was it and why? Mrs. Milch: she created a connection with her students and always made me feel important, special, and that she would do anything to help me learn. 


What's it like being married to someone from Chicago? Being married to someone from Chicago is actually really great because he knows all the great things to do here in Chicago!  There are a lot more Pittsburgh/Chicago couples than you'd think!  We started counting the ones we know of and are already close to 30!  Chicago and Pittsburgh both have very diverse communities and are accepting of all backgrounds.
Favorite Chicago Restaurant? My favorite Chicago restaurant is Shallots, but that's only for special occasions.  Otherwise, I would go to Tel Aviv pizza any day, but it's still no Milky Way!
What are the chances of you guys moving back? Moving back to Pittsburgh is always an option.  Right now Zach and I both have great jobs here in Chicago, but who knows, maybe one day in the future!
What will you add to  your sukkah this year? We live in a condo building so we have a communal sukkah.  We don't really do much in it; we usually eat at friends or family for meals.
Thanks for your time and we look forward to giving you a tour!
Israeli Fun Facts from the Bnot

The Bnot want you to know:


Teacher Feature - 

 Ms. Stephanie Wontrop is this week's Teacher Feature. Even though she is on staff and a great teacher, we were hesitant to interview her because she is a Ravens fan. She asked if we minded if she put a Ravens banner in her room. We held firm and told Ms. Wontrop she would need to look for a new job. We do want to congratulate her on the O's winning their division. For the benefit of our readers, the interview can be read in its entirety below. Enjoy! 


Where are you from? I'm originally from outside of Baltimore, MD and I came to Pittsburgh for college...and I still root for the Orioles and Ravens!


How did you find Hillel Academy? I actually found Hillel through lots of Google magic. I was searching the internet for various teaching opportunities and I found this gem.


What do you teach? I teach 6th grade English/Language Arts.


What's your favorite book to teach? I love To Kill A Mockingbird. It has a powerful message that extends to so many aspects of life.


You went to Duquesne for undergrad and CMU for grad school.  What is it like being on campus and not being a computer science or robotics major? Duquesne is a great school with an uncommon campus and environment. I loved the small class sizes and the one-on-one work with professors. These intimate classes helped to create many relationships that I still have today. I say its campus is uncommon because it's very green and almost secluded on the Bluff, creating a comfortable, separated campus environment while still being centrally located downtown and close to unique cultural areas. CMU is in a league of its own. Many students call it a "stress environment" because of the rigorous programs and the pressure they feel from all their courses. It was certainly an experience being in the heart of that "stress environment" and, at that, being in a humanities program at a school praised for its technological research. It's almost a little known fact that CMU's drama and humanities programs are actually ranked highly nationwide. It was another unique environment that I was fortunate enough to experience.


How has Hillel exceeded your expectations? The staff, faculty, and students at Hillel have been more than welcoming, kind, helpful, and supportive. I love that everyone offers genuine assistance and guidance and how friendly the students are, including those I don't even teach! Hillel fosters a nurturing environment for its students and faculty alike in which everyone is encouraged to succeed.


What are your thoughts from Meet the Teacher Night? Meet the Teacher night was a bit overwhelming, but in a good way. Discussing class goals for the year, expectations, and addressing questions in a New York minute is a true test of effectively and efficiently communicating information! I'm excited that parents had many questions about their students' goals and work for the year and look forward to building and maintaining strong relationships with them in ensuring every student's success.


Now that our remodeling is about to become public knowledge, can you offer an idea or two for the BHS? A nice little lounge/rest area for those poor teachers who have to run back and forth between school campuses? Maybe?

What do you do in your spare time? I'm an English teacher, so it should come as no surprise that I read! I also enjoy being active outside, exercising in a variety of ways, going to sports games, baking, watching movies (Netflix is great for binge watching TV shows too), going to concerts, shopping for fun accessories and shoes, and photography.


The Exchange or Heinz Cafe? The Exchange.


McCutchen or Jhay? Adam Jones. Orioles. All day every day. 


Submarine or Carrier? Say what? Is this like soda or pop? Soda...maybe...


Harry Potter or Shakespeare? I'm a Harry Potter nerd. Always.


Who is the most interesting contact in your phone? My Grandma Rita. She's absolutely crazy (gee, wonder where I get it from?) and always has a good story!

HYPE - Get There First!
Come hear your choice of shiurim given by leaders in our community. Each night's presentation will be given consecutively and be 15-20 minutes of interactive learning relating to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Open to men and women; refreshments will be served.

!שנה טובה ומתוקה
Tuesday, September 19 @ 8:30pm at Hillel Academy come hear Rabbi Weinberg and Rabbi Wasserman - Click HERE to RSVP
Pre-Rosh Hashanah Family Learning and Breakfast! - Sunday, September, 21st - Click HERE to RSVP

Dvar Torah II- A Student's Perspective 

This week is a double Torah reading and features the two shortest readings in the entire Torah, which have 40 and 30 verses in each Parsha respectively. The first of the two readings is Parshat Nitzavim. It is introduced as Moshe makes a covenant with the nation when entering the land.  The Parsha continues with one of the main themes for the month of Elul, 'Teshuvah' (repentance). Moshe promised that if the Jewish nation did Teshuva while in Exile, Hashem would redeem them, as Hashem always listens to the sincere prayers of the Jewish people.


One of the first steps of doing Teshuva is to regret one's previous actions. There are many examples throughout the Torah of those who did Teshuva, including Reuven, after moving his father's bed to his own mother's tent, and the Jews after committing the abomination of the Golden Calf.

Chazal tells us that if an individual makes a complete and sincere Teshuvah, his original transgressions may be transformed into mitzvahs. How and why should this be so? Teshuvah itself is illogical. If someone kills someone or eats something forbidden, no amount of Viduy and regret will bring the victim back or cause that food to be uneaten. From a logical standpoint, Teshuvah shouldn't work. It should not exist.


Yet it does. The very fact that Teshuvah works is a clear sign of Hashem's love for us. Hashem wants us to be close to him even though he knows we can and will mess up. He opens the door of Teshuvah to welcome us back, even though by rights we don't truly deserve it nor should it work. Once the process of Teshuvah works, we can gain insight if we examine the charata (regret) component. Let's take as an example the prohibition of eating squirrel. An observant Jew who has never tasted squirrel might or might not have much of a desire to eat it. One who has tasted squirrel and enjoyed it has a much more significant nisayon (test) to refrain from eating the delectable fuzzy rodent.  One who has eaten squirrel and has done a complete and sincere Teshuvah will view squirrel with a self-generated emotional revulsion that surpasses the attitude of one who has never tried it. For this person, his initial lapse and weakness becomes a badge of shame which propelled him to reinvent and improve. This may be part of the reason of how and why Teshuvah can turn a prior sin into a mitzvah.


We can keep this in mind for the next couple of weeks and do mitzvot and Teshuvah.

Have a Good Shabbos.  


Liora Nimchinsky - 9th Grade
Art Club began this past week. The group is working on using X-Acto knives.

Ziff's Corner - Advice for Parents 

As the new school year begins and you are setting the stage at home with patterns and routines of how you help your children with their school work and other needs, now is the time to think about how you want to prioritize your time.  We want to nourish the time we have with our young ones so they become as strong as they possibly can be.


Notice what needs to be done and delve into it.  We need to take care of our most heartfelt connections persistently, deliberately, and lovingly.  There is no harm in giving our young ones the help and guidance they need at the appropriate levels. If you are not sure what those limits are, ask their teachers, call me, talk to them. Young students need guidance and assistance so they are sure they are on the right track and get the positive feedback they need and deserve.  Older students need the same.  If kids know we, as adults are interested in what they are doing, chances are they will stay interested in what they are doing!  


The human moment  is those moments when we feel most connected to someone or something outside ourselves and most in the presence of what we're living for. Thank you for your partnership in educating our most precious resource, your child.


Mrs. Ziff

 (This was written with inspiration from Dr. Edward Hallowell's blog)

Flashback Fridays

We are so proud of our alumni!  We continue to strive to keep them current on Hillel news and we want to know what they are up to.  One of our more simple ways to do this is to post a photo from back in the day.  You think you know the people in the photo?  Great! E-mail us your guess and we will publish your name if you guess correctly. 

Thank you Laura Goldman and Bonnie Morris for your entries. However, we are getting conflicting reports, we know the student on the left is Jon Weinberger, but what about the student on the right? We have reports from a variety of sources with the following names:
  • Michael Felder
  • Yoni Reinfeld
  • Rob Itskowitz
  • Michael Weinberger
  • Ronnen Slasky 

    According to our research, Yoni was not born yet when was is picture was taken and Rob would have been five years old. So that leaves Felder, Weinberger, and Slasky. Can we get some help, please.  
    Last week's photo.
This week's photo:
Wait, are these BHS or GHS students? 
Hillel Gear Spotted Here

Hillel Gear is back and better than ever! We are ready for our fifth year of bringing you Hillel Academy apparel from around the globe sported by people you know or maybe those you don't know. But we can't do it without you!  If you're going out of town, to a ball game, to learn, or maybe to a backyard BBQ, grab your shirt or a magnet and snap a pic on your phone and send it to [email protected]. Remember, we have the winter break Hillel gear contest among others, so get ready! We are also looking for #HillelGear to start trending, so feel free to post to social media and use the #HillelGear or any clever ones.  Like us on FacebookFollow us on Twitter

For this week's entry, you might think that since Reb Shaw selects the Hillel Gear photos and he is in love with the Buccos (who, might we point out, are in the Pennant race), that he is taking advantage of the situation and wants to slip in a Bucco photo. With the PNC outfield as the backdrop, Shaw and Milch posed for this memorable shot.  Can you spot the Hillel gear?  Yes, you're right if you guessed the pinReb Shaw, was on the field with fellow softball teammate, friend, and Hillel parent,  Mordechai Milch, to sing the National Anthem at the Pirates game for the Jewish Heritage Day.  


Middle School Student Council 
We have high expectations gentlemen. 

Mazel tov to:
President Zelig Langer
Vice president Aaron Kraut
AAC (Assistant Activities Coordinator) Moshe Eli Chinn

Efraim Marizan
8th-grade class rep
Benji Marcus
7th-grade class rep
Reuven Kanal
6th-grade class rep
Natan Marcus 
5th-grade class rep 

Hillel Academy Pop Culture Grid
Students in the MixWhat do you do in your free time?If you were a box of cereal what type would you be?What's your favorite book?
Rivka PlotkinWatch videos of Berenstein BearsHoneycombMagic Treehouse
Kayla WeinbergPlayRice KrispiesSuperfudge 
Lillian Vidmar-McEwenPlay outsideCheerios Nancy Drew
Yona ItskowitzPlay baseballCocoa PebblesBaseball books
Akiva SunshineWatch TVCinnamon Toast CrunchBaseball books
Azi KnollPlay in living roomPeanut Butter PuffinsThe Beatle or Gettysburg
Yehuda RosensteinPlay baseball with neighborAnything but Honey Nut Cheerios
Moshe NimchinskyDevelop new appsHoney Bunches of OatsFantasy 
Avi IngberStuff that includes sportsNoneNon-fiction books

 Photo Gallary 
  The second-grade class connected their weekly reading about space with an opportunity to shoot some water rockets in the playground. Each student launched a rocket and had to set the trajectory and determine how much water "fuel" to use to get the best launch.
Great fun and learning was had by all.
Morah Leah Brown's and Mrs. Uebing's kindergarten constructed a boat. Friendly piece of advice; keep it in the classroom as opposed to entering it to the "anything floats" competition. 
Amalia Weinberg, up close and personal with an earthworm.

Besides the first row, Rabbi Weinberg's Meet The Teacher Night opening address was well attended. 
Rabbi Smith presents during the HYPE Elul Lecture Series this past Tuesday night. 

Do you know how many miles the sun is from the earth? Well, this class studied that using toilet paper. 
Daniel Nim blows shofar during the BHS minyan. #MustbeElul #RoshHashana5775. Yes, Rabbi Smith made it in twice this week. #TorahIsOrah

Mazel Tov!
Mazel tov to grandparents, Drs. Robert Lebovits (board member) and Jenny Rudin on the birth of a granddaughter!
Mazal tov to Chana (Lebovits - '11)  and Yehuda Levine on the birth of a daughter.

Mazel Tov to Mr. Dan Kraut on receiving the Doris and Leonard H. Rudolph Jewish Professional Award this past Wednesday night. 

Please send any mazel tov's to [email protected]
Around Town 
  • The unveiling for Albert J. Dorsey OBM ( Morah Dorsey's husband and Morah Chana's father) will be held on Sunday, September 21 at 2:00 P.M. at The Shaare Torah Cemetery in Carrick.  
  • Keser Torah Sunday mornings at 8:30am. Davening followed by learning, coffee and cake at Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh. All are invited!
  • NCSY: 
    1) NCSY will be visiting Simmons Farm for apple picking, corn mazes and more on Sunday, Sept 21.  Transportation will be provided at PZ at 1:30pm.  This event is for all Jewish teens in grades 9-12, and the cost of this event is $10.00. Flyer attached below*

    2) On the first day of Rosh Hashanah in the PZ education building there will be an NCSY Teen Rosh Hashanah

    3) There will be a Jr NCSY Succah Party and scavenger hunt on Sunday Oct 12.

    4)Lastly, there will be a Jr NCSY Sucah Party on Monday Oct 13. explanatory minyan and lunch. This event is open to all teens and will begin at 10:30am.

  • DON'T BE LEFT OUT - Last call for information for the 2015 edition of the Jewish Women's League Community Directory. Be sure that you have made any changes to your information, that we have your contact information if you are new in town, or that we have your advertisement. Contact Judy Mendelson, 412-521-6498[email protected]. DEADLINE: October 15, 2014. 

 Please send information by Sunday to [email protected].
Condolences - Please send condolences to [email protected].

Please send condolence notices to [email protected].

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