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

October 24, 2014

30 Tishrei 5775

Parshat Noach
Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 

Candle Lighting: 6:09 pm
Shabbat Ends: 7:15 pm

Dvar Torah 
At the end of Parashat Bereshit, we are introduced to the main protagonist of this week's Parasha, Noach. The name Noach means rest or tranquility.  The verse tells us that Noach was given this name because, "This one will bring us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands" (Bereshit 5:28). Rashi, based on Medrash, explains that Noach was given this name because in his lifetime the world saw advances in farming technology that freed men from their toil in the field. With better plows, irrigation, and other farming techniques, the world was brought a reprieve from their burden of working the land.

It is rather puzzling that the medrash cites this as a defining characteristic of Noach. Noach lived through the great flood. He saved his family and by extension all of humanity from destruction and devastation. And now he is known as the man who was alive during the invention of the plow? It seems to be trivial compared to living through the great deluge.

Rav Avraham Pam zt''l, explained that Noach's name, and the invention of the plow is an integral part of the story. Rav Pam explains that the reason the world fell into moral decay and corruption was because they had all this extra free time. They no longer had to work every hour of the waking day to provide food for themselves and their family, and this free time led to the downfall of humanity.   

Today, more so than any other point in history, life has never been so easy. We can get produce from New Zealand and Ecuador delivered to our door in the dead of the winter. Our phones tell us how many steps we take a day and how do get to the doctor in Wexford. And Amazon plans on using drones to deliver diapers and toiletries directly to our doorsteps. So now that we never actually need to leave our houses, what are we doing with our extra time?


The story of Noach reminds us how important it is to uses this extra time wisely. We should take that extra time and use it for good. We should use that found time to spend with our families, learn Torah, do acts of kindness, and help others. May this new year be one of progress, blessing, and growth for all of us.

Shabbat Shalom,



Annoucments and Reminders 
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Family Feature - Penina and Mickey Kohanbash

Hi, welcome to Hillel Academy. What was your favorite part of the Back to School BBQ? The petting zoo is always great!

What's your favorite part of Hillel Academy, thus far? Kayla is really enjoying school and loves her teachers.

What's the best-kept secret of Hillel Academy?  The great gymnasium!

Do you have any special family traditions you would like to share with our readers? Its great having a blend of traditions from both families. 

Share something about your family that makes you unique. We love being outside, so not a fan of winter.

Steelers, Pirates, Penguins or PITT? Steelers

Favorite dish to order at Grilliance?  The chicken sandwich is a favorite. 

What do you do with the projects your children bring home? We save them or at least try to. I label them with dates and put them in folders so we can open it later and look back at her work.

What's Kayla's favorite part of school? Playing outside in the playground.

Tell us about the family business. My sister-in-law and I own a spa in Shadyside called LaVida Massage of Shadyside. Its great working there because of the calming peaceful atmosphere. There are great perks such as being able to get a massage and facial. I am happy about my short commute time. I used to travel an hour (by subway) to get to work when I lived in New York, now it's 15 minutes.

Anything else you would like to share with our readers? We love making pizza at home, anything dairy is a winner. We hate the cold, so try to escape to my family in Florida. Kayla loves horses and looks forward to riding them when we are in Florida.

Thank you for your time!
Alumni Spotlight - Alyza Skaist Szanzer
When did you attend Hillel Academy?  2000-2003

Share a favorite memory or two with our readers? - When I was in 11th grade my class attended the Bais Yaakov convention in Montreal and the high school production.
What organizations are you currently involved in? - My shul's sisterhood.

How do you earn a living? - I work at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine doing biomedical research. Specifically, I analyze genetic data in the field of cancer research.

Can you go into greater detail, please. Our DNA is the genetic material that is the information that governs all the processes that occur in all organisms. Changes in the DNA will affect the outcome of protein function in the cell that accounts for variation in the population, for example, height or eye color in different people. However, sometimes such variation may cause disease. We call these mutations, structural variations or differences in gene expression. Many scientists are searching for such changes in order to understand the disease process and hopefully, find a therapy for such diseases. Large-scale experiments are performed that generate a lot of data that must be analyzed by me, a bioinformatician. That is a scientist trained in both the biology and computer science necessary to make sense of the data. I have worked on such projects in cancer, HIV, malaria and TB to name a few.  

Wow, sounds fascinating. Thanks for sharing! :)

How did Hillel Academy prepare you for the future? I learned a lot, but the biggest lesson I learned was ahavas hatorah and to take the lessons we learned in class and apply it to better ourselves.

Share some information about your family. I have two girls, Shana is two and Daniella is 10 months. We live in Baltimore, but I am still a Bucs fan.

Good to hear you kept your allegiance to the Buccos. That bodes well here at the Hillel Happenings. 

What do you do in your free time? We go to the Baltimore Zoo and I enjoy crocheting.

Hillel Trivia - How many parking spaces in the lot? 25

Well done! Did you count on Google Maps or do you just have a good memory? 

Who was your first Hillel teacher? I started Hillel in the 10th grade so I can't say I had a first teacher.

What was your favorite class? Mrs. Langsner's math class.

Did you have a favorite teacher? Who was it and why? Though I never had him as a teacher, Rabbi Skaist for obvious reasons.

Most interesting person in your cell phone contacts? Two noble prize winners Carol Grieder (top-photo) and Peter Agre(middle-photo) and one of TIME magazine's top 100 most influential people Debbie Persaud, (bottom photo).

Cool, how are you connected to these individuals? I collaborated with them on various projects. 

Thanks for your time!
HYPE - Get There First!
October 2014 - January 2015 Clubs Begin Monday  

Check the Google Calendar or the Website for the schedules. 

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

Congrats girls on a great season. Remember to keep running and eating bananas. 


Alumni Updates
We welcome any news from alumni; please send it to [email protected]

  • Varda Epstein ('75), lives in Efrat Israel and maintains well-known blog. 
    You may view it by clicking here 
  • Jacob Brent ('09) ran the Jerusalem 1/2 marathon in 1:32 and the London Marathon full in 3:25 and began school at The University of Pittsburgh Medical School in August.
  • Rabbi Barnea Levi Selavan, who studied in Hillel for 10 years, is now completing his BA in archaeology and the Ancient Near East, receiving his archaeologist license, and beginning an MA program at Tel Aviv University. Rabbi Selavan won a stipend for excellence in studies towards his MA. His daughter Meira, a community bat sherut two years ago, is continuing her university studies in non-formal education, and working at a hostel for mentally challenged adults. 
GHS Alumni (and Libby's husband) gather in Israel for a recent photo. 
Mazel Tov  to Yehudit Ungar ('08) on her recent degree from Touro College! 

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. 

Last Week's PhotoThis 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

On a recent trip to New York, Gabe and Alex Small visited with their cousins. Looks like the vist went well. Lots of communication going on.  Either way, Alex brought his Hillel Academy kippa to the Big Apple. Way to go Alex!


What You've Missed in the GHS and What's to Come

  • Mrs. Lisa Cook (the new Aish HaTorah Rebbetzin) addressed our students before Rosh Hashana about different aspects of personal growth.  She also began the GHS Chabura at her house which will continue on Tuesday evenings throughout the year. 
  • Rabbi Sutofsky delivered a Pre-Yom Kippur Drasha to the girls which was full of inspiration, and of course his humor and wit.
  • The GHS ran a very successful honey cake sale and donated over 30 cakes to the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry before Rosh Hashana.  Thank you to everyone who helped with and supported this fundraiser and Chesed project.
  • "Sukkah-Hopping" 
  • Motzei Shabbos - GHS Simchat Beis Hashoeva organized by our Student Council at Hillel Academy.
  • Shabbos of October 24-25 - GHS mini-Shabbaton (this weekend corresponds with the International Shabbat Project).
  • October 29 -PSAT exams for students in 10th and 11th grades.

Additionally, stay tuned for information about our Production and a new Chesed initiative.

 Photo Gallery 


This comes to you straight from Morah Devorah
Kohanbash's nursery class who are exploring the letter E.


Mazel Tov!
Mazel Tov Esty (Langer) and Zalman Dick on the birth of a baby girl and to grandparents Rabbi and Mrs. Levi and Elky Langer and the entire Langer Family!


Mazel Tov to Rabbi and Mrs. Silver on the engagement of their son, Yehuda Yona, to Chava Meth of Philadelphia!

Mazal tov to Rachel and Sholom Fox  on the birth of a baby girl,  and to big sisters Matana and Aviva and to the grandparents Rabbi and Mrs. Noson and Sara Sachs, and to the entire Sachs and Fox families!
Mazel Tov to Chana ('11) (Lebovits) and Yehuda Levine on the birth of a daughter and to grandparents Drs. Robert and Jenny Lebovits!

Mazel Tov to Deena November and Bryce Shirey on the birth of a baby boy!

and to big sister Lula, and the entire November and Shirey families!



Mazel Tov Rabbi Avrohom and Sarah Weisswasser

on the birth of a daughter, and to big sister Leba, and big brothers Motti and Chaim!




Mazel tov to P.E. teacher Sean McElhone and Jenna Ciocca on the birth of a daughter, Aria  Frances!


Mazel Tov to Rabbi and Mrs. Chaim Lebowitz on the birth of a baby girl

and to big brothers Yisroel, Yehuda, and Avraham!


Mazel Tov to Ms. Sonja Brett on her recent engagement! 

May we always share simchas!

Please send any mazel tov's to [email protected]
Around Town 
  • DANCE PARTYAll women are invited to Shaare Torah's second annual Women's Dance Party, featuring a Cinderella Ball theme. Wear your finest evening gown or whatever makes you feel elegant, pretty, or just plain comfortable, and come dance the night away to a medley of fabulous secular and Jewish music. Refreshments will include wine, cheese and other delicacies.

    Save the date:  Saturday night, November 1, 9 p.m. Admission is $10 in advance, $12 at the door. RSVP by e-mailing [email protected] or calling 412-421-8855. 

  • BNEI AKIVA is starting this week at 3:30 pm at Shaare Torah Congregation.  
  • The unveiling for  Fayth Aronson Berkowitz, ob"m will be November 9th at the Adath Jeshurun Cemetery, off Roland Road in Hampton Township at 11:30 am.  Seudah following at Hillel Academy, friends and family invited. 
  • Kesser 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 Pittsburgh NCSY Chapter Shabbaton on November 1st. Come enjoy Shabbat meals, Ruach, activities, advisors and much more. RSVP to [email protected]

    2). The Fall Regional Convention will take place over the weekend of November 8th.  This event is open to all teens in grades 9-12. Register at

  • GIRLS ONEG: Girls Oneg this Shabbos from 3:00 - 4:00 in the PZ Educational Building for all girls in grades Kindergarten through sixth.  Hope to see you there!

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

Please send condolence notices to [email protected].


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