The Hillel Happenings
The Official e-Newsletter of Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh

October 3, 2014

9 Tishrei 5775

Yom Kippur 

Candles: 6:41 pm
Shabbat ends: 7:49 pm

Dvar Torah 

       In Masekhet Ta'anit (26b) the Mishna describes Yom Kippur as one of the most joyous days of the year.  The Gemara (30b) cites two seemingly separate explanations for this joy, "It is a day of forgiveness and pardon, the day when the second tablets were given." In fact Rav Soloveitchik (Nefesh Ha-Rav, pp. 293-4) interprets the Gemara's comment as referring to two unique factors. In addition to being a day that we are forgiven for our sins, on Yom Kippur we celebrate Kabbalat HaTorah in the same way we do on Shavuot.   

    However, Rav Soloveitchik explains that Shavuot celebrates our receiving the written Torah, whereas on Yom Kippur we celebrate the oral law. Shavuot is "zeman matan Torateinu" in the sense that it was when we received the written text of the Torah, whereas Yom Kippur is celebrated as the day we received the Torah she-be'al peh - the oral tradition.  According to this approach, is there a connection between the Torah she-be'al peh and the process of Teshuvah?  

      One of themes of Yom Kippur is Hashem's willingness to dwell among us despite our mistakes and frailties.  As long as we strive for perfection and work to correct our mistakes and continuously improve, G-d is prepared to maintain a close relationship with Am Yisrael despite our impurity. This was the message of G-d's forgiveness after the sin of the Golden Calf, that G-d wants to dwell with us as long as we make sincere efforts to grow and improve.
      The process of Torah she-be'al peh similarly relates to G-d's special relationship with Am Yisrael. Hashem wishes for us to take part in the process of interpreting Halacha in the form of following our sages' interpretation of the oral tradition. This process is imperfect since even the greatest human mind is imperfect.  However, as long as the generation's scholars sincerely seek the truth in interpreting the Torah she-be'al peh, G-d approves of their conclusions - just as He accepts us as His nation as long as we sincerely attempt to serve Him faithfully.

            On Yom Kippur, we seek to resemble angels. However, we are not angles. The simcha of Yom Kippur is that we can celebrate the bond we enjoy with G-d despite our imperfections. 


G'mar Chatimah Tova and Shabbat Shalom



Hillel on YouTube - The Video Center 
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HYPE Family Learning Kick-off - 9/21/14
HYPE Family Learning Kick-off - 9/21/14
Shofar Demonstration
Shofar Demonstration
The bee man stopped by Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh today.
The bee man.
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. 
Annoucments and Reminders 
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Family Feature - Rabbi Seth and Lisa Cook
We recently sat down with the Cooks. They are new to town and are the new Aish on Campus couple. They may or may not be behind all the cool Aish videos on YouTube.  If you want to know the answer to that, you are going to have to track them down. The interview is printed below in its entirety for your enjoyment! 

Hi, welcome to the 'Burgh! Where did you move from? Bloomington, Indiana

What's your favorite part of Hillel Academy thus far? The list is endless but our new teachers, friends, and classmates who instantly welcomed us into the community.

What's the best-kept secret of Hillel Academy? Our daughter is running a black-market rubber band bracelet business in her kindergarten class.

I heard about the Shaindy bracelets. My son is all over them.  Did she share his business plan with you? I would actually say it's more a 'sweatshop' than a business at this point. She knocks out about 10-12 a night after everyone else is in bed. 

Who else is in your family? Our kids are Shaindy - 5; Nachy - 3; Avrumi - almost 2, and Akiva - 3 months. 

Do you have any special family traditions you would like to share with our readers? We make kiddush on Friday night.

Share something about your family that makes you unique. We host open house Shabbat meals for college students and young professionals in our home almost every week of the year. 

Steelers, Pirates, Penguins or PITT? Are those sports teams? Haven't heard of any of them.

Favorite dish to order at GrillianceGrilliant Whole Wheat Wrap.

What do you do with the projects your children bring home? Frame all of them, obviously

Where will you put your Sukkah this year? Outside.

Tell us a little bit about what you both do for Aish. Our goal for Aish is to empower Jewish students and young professionals and give them the skills to take responsibility for the Jewish people, starting in Pittsburgh and extending out. In addition to hosting Shabbat and Yom Tov meals, we teach classes and 1-on-1, run 3 Israel trips a year plus Challah baking and gourmet cooking workshops. Sushi rolling is also a personal favorite. 

So, you moved across from Allderdice high school; remember the phrase "nothing rolls like dice" - it may come in handy.  But for real, will we see Aish in Dice? Aish in Allderdice? I think NCSY has that covered. 

Any other fun facts you care to share? Tell everyone you know about us - :)

Alumni Spotlight - Samantha Brinn Merel
We recently sat down with Sam Brinn. She went to Hillel when the kindergarten was in the room where Morah Leah 
Ackner's class is now. She loves to run and write and even has her own blog.  To read the interview in its entirety, see below. Enjoy!

Hi, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. To start, what grades were you in  
when you attended Hillel Academy? 
Kindergarten through 7th-grade. 

Share a favorite memory or two with our readers. Endless games of hopscotch on the faded hopscotch boards on the playground.

Ok, I had my share of those as well. What organizations are you currently involved in? Young Israel of White Plains.

How do you earn a living? Trusts & estates attorney at Sidley Austin LLP in Manhattan.

How did Hillel Academy prepare you for the future? I was lucky enough to have Deborah Ozoroski twice during elementary school. Her class, more than any other, taught me how to express myself in words, and how to appreciate and understand good writing. I am currently both a lawyer and a writer, and I think a lot of that can be attributed to her and the way that she taught.

Share some info about your family. My husband's name is David. We recently moved to White Plains, NY after eight years in Manhattan. My parents have been back in Pittsburgh for about five years after a tenure in North Florida. Both of my sisters are living in Cleveland, OH with their families.

About your husband; we were leafing through a tech magazine and saw his name. What's he up to? He is founder and CEO of Thinkbright, which is a VoIP company that provides phone service to small and medium sized businesses. He started the company about 10 years ago. He is also founder and CEO of Koupah, which provides a point of sale (POS) solution for retail businesses that combines POS and social, and that allows retailers to build relationships with their customers and connect to customers on a deeper level than existing POS systems allow.

Buccos or Steelers? Steelers, no doubt, but I'm a Pittsburgh girl through and through, so really, both.

What do you do in your free time? I am a runner, a romance novel aficionado, and a pretty serious TV watcher. If it's on TV, David and I probably watch it. I am also a writer. I started a blog almost three years ago where I write three or four times a week (, and my essays have also been published in the Times of Israel, and in an anthology of essays on female friendship called "The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain and Power of Female Friendship."
Did you have a favorite teacher? Who was it and why? Deborah Ozoroski, by far. More than any other pre-high school teacher, and maybe more than any teacher I have ever had, she prepared me to do what I do now. She taught me to love reading and words, and taught me to write and to love to write, and to appreciate the way that words can be used to tell the stories of our lives.

Can you offer some advice for our young writers? My very best advice for young writers is to just write. Write all the time. Write as much as you possibly can. Write the story that has been percolating in your head, a journal entry about your day, your thoughts on an issue close to your heart, or whatever else strikes your fancy. The most important thing is to put words on a page and to do it every day. The more you write, the easier it is to write, and the better you get at it. A blank page is the hardest thing there is, but as soon as you wrestle out those first few words, more words will come. I can promise you that.

What's your favorite distance to race, 5k, 10k, half marathon, or marathon? I love the half-marathon. I have run the Pittsburgh half twice, and it is my most favorite race.

This year's Awards Night and Action is at Dave and Busters. Will we see you at the ski ball area or Who Wants To Be A Millionaire game table? Who Wants To Be A Millionaire for sure. I love trivia.

Tell us the secret behind your interesting schach? Twist ties. Utterly simplistic, but the very best way to keep the schach from blowing off with the wind.

Who is the most interesting person in your contacts? My professor from the very first Wills & Trusts class I took during my second year of law school; he is fascinating, and the reason that I do what I do.

Elementary Rosh Hashana Programs
by Rabbi Dov Nimchinsky, VP of grades 4-8 boys
Taste this: the fourth grade, seated in the cafeteria try many of the traditional
simanim  in preparation for
Rosh Hashana.

The 4th grade and middle school boys participated in a number of pre-Rosh Hashana programs gearing up for the Chag. Rabbi Avraham Rodkin, Director of Education for the Kollel Jewish Learning Center, gave a shuir on Hilchos Shofar to the Middle School boys assisted by Rabbi Aharon Kagan. The students also participated in a hands-on exploration of different customs relating to "Simana Milsa." The students sampled rubia (black eyed peas), rimon (pomegranate),  kara (gourd), keres (leek), selek (beets), and the head of a (gummy) fish, and learned about their associated YehiRatzons. The boys were Matir Neder in front of a Beis Din of their rebbeim and participated in a Rosh Hashana quiz activity put together by the Bnot Sherut. The 5th through 8th-grade boys also participated in a Machzor Scavenger Hunt  coordinated by the Middle School Boys Student Council.
Rabbi Rodkin with Rabbi Kagan put on an interesting shofar demonstration. 
HYPE - Get There First!

After the Sukkot break, the HYPE fall semester of classes will begin, stay tuned for a schedule of courses. 

Did you make it to HYPE family learning? Regardless, enjoy these photos, check out the youtube above and stay tuned for the next one. 
Rabbi Admon learns with his children, Michal (6th) and Avi (4th) as a friend looks on.
Pre-kindergartener, Risa Schachter, learns with her father Ben, at the HYPE family learning last month. 
Dan Cohen completes the HYPE packet with his second grader, Yossi. 
October 2014 - January 2015 Clubs Registration is now OPEN
Club fill quickly - so register ASAP

Click HERE  to register for K-3 Clubs 
Click HERE to register for 4-8 Girls Clubs
Click HERE to register for 4-8 Boys Clubs

Click HERE for High School Schedules 

Boys Cross Country Race - 9/14 vs. CDS and Falk.
Boys Cross Country Race - 9/14 vs. CDS and Falk.

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Alumni Updates
  • Menachem Lazar - '99 will be presenting at Harvard and MIT at the end of the month. Click HERE for the schedule. 

We welcome any news from alumni; please send it to [email protected]
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; Judi Kanal, Naama Lazar and Rena (Margolis) Apt for correctly naming the formal male students below. 

The BOYS in the picture are from L to R: (Of course it was Purim): Menachem Lazar, Gavri Butler, Aaron Siebzener, Tuvia Lazar and Elli Kanal.

In response to the photo Naama told us: "When they danced with one of the male teachers, some were very surprised at the teacher for dancing with girls." 

Rena said, "One of them (I think Gavri) is wearing my uniform."

Judi said, "I cannot THANK you enough for printing that picture of Elli (who is wearing Ilana's skirt btw).  May I PLEASE have a copy of that picture? I have never seen it before.  I forwarded it to everyone in the family.  I'm beyond hysterical.  Thanks so much for printing that picture - you made my day!"
This Week's PhotoLast Week's Photo

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


This past summer Akiva and his family - his parents Josh and Kira, and his sister, Elisheva and brother Tamir - traveled to Olympic National Park in Seattle, Washington. When this photo was taken they were on a 
day hike near the top of the mountain. Our Hillel Gear Spy Satellites (HGSS-GII) caught Akiva making a snowball which he was going to throw at his sister. We alerted his parents via text and saved the day. Now you know the value of Hillel Gear! Thank you Sunshines! 
 Photo Gallary - Rosh Hashana Photos
The middle school girls had a fun time baking before Rosh Hashana. 

Kindergarten took a trip to the Squirrel Hill Library.  Besides looking for books, the students took some time to challenge each other to chess games. 

Morah Chani's class made
bee hats. 

Morah Fox helped her kindergarten class make Yom Tov cookies. 

Anat and Alexa learn Hilchot Rosh Hashana together. 

Kindergarten made honey jars disguised as plastic apples. Tamar Wisenfeld
and Aharon Russell were excited to pose for this shot with their jars. 

Science with
Mr. Garwood.
The third-grade shows off their Rosh Hashana projects complete with real honey sticks. 

Former bnot sherut, Meira and Rivka send their sweet wishes to the entire Hillel family. 

Morah Devorah shows her students the changing leaves outside of Hillel Academy. 

Mazel Tov!

Joaquin & Rachel Espinoza

on the birth of a daughter, and to big brothers Moshe Leib, and Lev Yaakov.


Please send any mazel tov's to [email protected]
Around Town 
  • The unveiling for  Fayth Aronson Berkowitz, ob"m will be November 9th at the Adath Jeshurun Cemetary, off Roland Road in Hampton Township at 11:30 am.  Seudah following at Hillel Academy, friends and family invited. 
  • Keser Torah Sunday mornings at 8:30am. Davening followed by learning, coffee and cake at Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh. All are invited!
  • NCSY: 

    There will be a Jr NCSY Sucah Party and scavenger hunt on Sunday Oct 12.

    Lastly, there will be a Jr NCSY Sucah Party on Monday Oct 13.

  • If anyone needs assistance building a sucah this year, feel free to request help from an NCSYer by emailing 

  • 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].
 Zippora Coleman, ob"m

 Bella Joseph Z"L , beloved mother of 

Jeffrey ('70) and Arthur ('74)  Joseph, beloved mother-in-law of Elaine (Reimer) Joseph ('70), and beloved grandmother of Gayle ('98), Sammy ('99), and Elliot('00).

Please send condolence notices to [email protected].


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