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

November 7, 2014

14 Cheshvan 5775

Parshat Vayera
Candle Lighting: 4:52 pm
Shabbat Ends: 5:59 pm

Dvar Torah 

Parashat Vayera opens with the well-known story of the three travelers who visited Avraham in the plains of Mamre. The Talmud in Shavuot (35a) teaches from this verse that, "Welcoming guests is greater than greeting the presence of the Shechina." This is derived from the fact that (at least according to one view) Avraham seemed to put his conversation with G-d on hold in order to greet these wayfarers.

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (as cited in Rav Herschel Schachtar's Mi-peninei Ha-Rav, p. 271) explains this concept based on the Torah's view of kavod habriyot, human dignity. Taking care of the needs of weary travelers, even strangers, speaks to the importance of respecting humanity.

Rav Soloveitchik extends this comparison to the laws regarding Kriat Shema. The Talmud in Berachot teaches that one may interrupt his recitation of Shema in order to greet an important person such as a parent or dignitary. Rav Soloveitchik explains that Kriat Shema is our daily affirmation of G-d's kingship and divinity. This inherently includes kavod habriyot -- the respect and dignity given to all of G-d's creatures. Therefore, Rav Soloveitchik notes, it would be antithetical to the essential theme of this mitzva to ignore a person of distinction while reciting Kriat Shema.

Rav Soloveitchik continues that in the narrative immediately following the story of Avraham's guests, Avraham pleads to G-d on behalf of the people of Sodom. In this supplication, Avraham beseeches G-d with the phrase, "Anochi afar v-eifer -- I am but dust and ashes." (18:27)  Earlier, Avraham had shown so much respect for strangers that he disrupted a prophetic vision to greet them. How can he now speak so degradingly about a human being, himself?

Rav Soloveitchik answers his own question the same way he did the last one, by comparing this situation to Hilchot Tefilah.  When we stand before Hashem in our silent Amidah, we are not allowed to interrupt our prayers for anyone, even a king. Prayer is a time of humility and submission.  Accordingly, while during Shema it is appropriate to interrupt for the sake of expressing the greatness and importance of the human being, the Amidah prayer is a time to focus one's attention solely on the greatness of G-d and the meekness of man.

It is important for us to realize that every human being is a lofty creature worthy of our honor and respect, and by accepting G-d as our king, we reaffirm this belief. However, we must also realize that when we stand before G-d in prayer, we should be reminded of our frailty in comparison to His power.

Shabbat Shalom



Annoucments and Reminders 
  • The Ivrit Department is looking for donations of  novels and/or short story books in Hebrew. We would like to create a small library for our students to use. Please leave your donations in the main office. Contact Morah Danielle Greathouse, [email protected] for more information. 
  • November 13-15 - HYPE Fall Shabbaton (see below)
  • Alumni Basketball Game - November 29, 2014 @ Winchester Thurston School 
  • Awards Night and Penny Social on December 9, 2014 at Dave & Buster's at 6:30 pm - see below
  • GHS biannual production, Sunday, March 1st and Monday, March 2nd in the Robinson Theater at the JCC - Peter Pan
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The Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh Pop Culture Grid

People in the Mix

If you could have a zoo animal as a pet what would it be?

Who is your role model?

What is your perfect job?

Noah L.


Mr. Werber, and yes, I'm kissing up

A billionaire who does nothing all day

Tzvi Hirsch R.


My great grandfather

A brain surgeon

Noah M.


My parents

A professor at M.I.T.

Yosef K.

Red Panda


I'd do anything my father would let me do

Yoni A.


My father

Race Car Driver

Zelig L.


My teachers but mostly Mr. Werber. I'm kissing up too!!

Door holder

Reuven K.


I don't have one


Ms. Wontrop


My mom

Travel writer

Mr. Werber

Black Panther

Teddy Roosevelt

Actor/Teacher - I'm living the dream!

Mr. Werber
Alumni Spotlight - Baruch November 
Hi, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. When did you attend Hillel Academy? In the mid 1990s.

Share a favorite memory or two with our readers? I remember enacting a scene from Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" in Mr. Freedman's class. It was hysterical. Mischa Gelman played the beetle and he hid under the desk like a bug.

What organizations are you currently involved in? I founded and direct an organization for the arts and literature, called J.A.C.K.: Jewish Advocacy for Culture and Knowledge. It is growing very quickly. Someday we hope to turn it into a non-profit organization. Read more by clicking HERE

How do you earn a living? I teach Literature and Creative Writing at Touro College.

How did Hillel Academy prepare you for the future? I had a great English teacher named Mr. Freedman who really got me into literature. I also learned a lot of important aspects of Jewish life. But when I came to Hillel, the best thing was how accepting everyone was. This gave me new found confidence, which I needed to become the man I have become.

Share some information about the November family. I have a great family. My brother Josh, sister Deena, and myself are all professors of writing and we have had books of poetry published.

What do you do in your free time? I promote my literary events, watch movies, and write fiction and poetry.

Who was your first Hillel teacher? Rabbi Langsam. 

What was your favorite class? English. 

Did you have a favorite teacher? Who was it and why? Mr. Freedman was a great English teacher; he really inspired us. He was the best English teacher at Hillel when I was there.

Most interesting person in your contacts? Vijay Sheshadri , who won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, for his book entitled, 3 Sections. He was my teacher when I got my MFA at Sarah Lawrence College.

Share something with our students you wish someone had told you when you were in school? Enjoy being young while you are young. Don't rush through college when you get there. Remember, as Viktor Frankl professed, that finding meaning is more important and useful than happiness.

Anything else you would like to add? Well, when I was a senior, I was captain of the Hillel basketball team (Jake Sacks, Robert Itskowitz, Ilya Bratman, Steve Rabinovich, Mischa Gelman), which lost in the championship by one point. 

Thank you very much! 
Do you HYPE? 
October 2014 - January 2015 Clubs

Check the Google Calendar or the Website for the schedules. 

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MSB Hockey League Standings                                   BHS Hockey League Standings   

Moshe's Pens

Jake's Leafs

YDK's Avalance







Dark Wizards 











   MSG Basketball League Standings...coming soon

Alumni Updates
We welcome any news from alumni; please send it to [email protected]
Go Figure
13:28 - Eighth-grader, Yoni Admon's cross country course time on the 1.83 mile course beginning at Bartlett Street Park.                         
73 -
Square yards  of carpet used to cover the front office.

8 -
Gallons of  carpet adhesive necessary for securing the new carpet in place.

136 - The dollar amount it costs to buy one raffle ticket for this year's Scholarship Fund Dinner and Penny Social. 
Number of current NBA owners who attended Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh, Mark Cuban.
Middle School Girls: Midos/Mitzvah Program - "Refreshing our Midos Sip by Sip"


Last week the girls were introduced to the newest Mitzvah that we will work on, 
Tefilah"Power" up your Tefilah, connect to Hashem.



The students heard an inspiring introduction from Mrs. Grossberg on the beautiful gift of Tefilah, how it's an opportunity to talk to Hashem and form a connection.


Over the next few months, the students will work on specific aspects of their Tefilah. The 5th-grade girls began a program with Mrs. Itskowitz and will be rewarded for their effort.

The 6-8 grade students will work on their Tefilah during their Davening period. They are encouraged to volunteer to present an inspirational story, an explanation of a piece of davening, or a halacha that pertains to the girls in tefilah. They will also have the opportunity to lead the Tehillim part of davening. Points (beads) will be given out for volunteering to lead various portions in our davening period. The beads will be collected in a container as a group and when it's filled up they will be rewarded with a fantastic class trip.


This year's Student Council, Chana Kaminsky, Esther Rochel Grossberg and Shira Wiesenfeld ran an amazing Rosh Chodesh program. Dressed alike, in their cool hats, they broke out the theme for this year's G.O. with an original theme song. Their theme is "This year will be a hat full of fun." They taught their theme song to the 5-8 grade girls and played assorted hat games.


We look forward to to all they have hidden in their "hats" for this year!

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 Daniel Sokol ('01) for answering this week's Flashback Friday. 
Far left is Betsy Angel, bottom left is Louie Barr, the kid in the hat is me (Daniel Sokol) and David Zimmer is bottom right.

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

Rabbi Ari Goldberg and two of his children, fourth-grader Leora and second-grader Ezra were excited to watch the world series last week as their beloved Royals battled the Giants. As much as Leora loves to wear royal blue, she can't forget about her Hillel Gear. Great job and who knows maybe it will be the Royals vs. the Pirates next year. #BeRoyal


Editor's Note: Last week's photo was of Ilana Kisilinsky. 
 Photo Gallery 

Lech Lecha pre-school activities; students learned about tents as they journeyed like Avraham & Sarah.
The kindergarten bulletin board.

Mr. Pollak presented as an extension to the third-grade supermarket lesson. He explained about the history of Giant Eagle, market evolution, chain and supply explanation.


Morah Elaine Catz
Nursery science class - Leaf Graphing
Thursday, October 30, @ 10:15am
Hillel Academy, Room 115

We found out that a graph can be a helpful tool.  Without counting, we could easily see that the column with the most leaves was the multi-color one, and the green and the brown columns had the fewest leaves.


Great Leaf Graphing!


Teacher Feature: Faigy Chapley

DS: Welcome to Hillel Academy, some would say, greatest school in the country. How did you hear about us? 

FC: Several years ago before we moved to White Oak my husband and I traveled to many Jewish communities looking for exceptional Jewish schools combined with warm and friendly Jewish communities. Squirrel Hill caught our attention and we were very impressed while visiting Hillel Academy.

DS: You co-teach third grade with Mrs. Yolkut. Tell us about the co-teaching method. 

FC: The co-teaching method is the ideal way to teach Judaism and secular studies. Science, language, math, social studies, the world that surrounds us are all connected to Torah. Finding associations and connections that will allow our children to see them as one entity is a rare opportunity that I am excited to be a part of.

DS: What's the best part? 
FC: The best part about co-teaching is always having a friend and partner working together with you to accomplish the same goal. In our classroom, two heads are definitely better than one.

DS: Can you share some of your project plans with our readers? 

FC: Some projects that engage our students while providing a creative and authentic way to learn are:  Number Bond Twister, Fish Your Sequence, Recreate an American and Israeli Supermarket. Believe it or not there is so much learning, creativity and passion in all of these activities.

DS: I was in the Mesivta of Greater Pittsburgh which happened to be housed in Gemilas Chesed in White Oak, PA. You live in White Oak, so we have something else in common. What's it like living out there? 

FC: Living in White Oak is like going up to the country for vacation. We have what you call large back yards, rolling hills, and a warm close knit diverse Jewish community. We have one of the lowest crime rates in the state!

DS: Share your teaching philosophy with us, please.

FC: I am dedicated to enthusiastic, differentiated, and dynamic teaching methods as a means of creating and nurturing a lifelong love of knowledge in children. I am a passionate educator who seeks to motivate all students, especially those with special needs or disabilities. I encourage children to take responsibility for their own learning, treat all of my students with respect. Learning in the classroom is done through many modalities using traditional and 21st century tools.

DS: How would you define a successful student? 

FC: A successful student is any one of our third-graders. They are all hard working and continue to surprise me with their creativity and enthusiasm.

DS: How was your first PTC (Parent Teacher Conference) 

FC: I had an unbelievable first experience at PTC. Hillel parents are extremely involved with their child's
progress. Participation was 100%! A+

DS: How can you explain the Steelers turnaround? 

FC: Steelers not so much... Let's talk Penguins. Go Crosby go! (Former Canadian hockey player btw).
DS: Yeah, Crosby is the man. Wow, good to know, if we start a women's hockey league, I will give you a call. 

DS: Share some interesting facts about yourself with us, please. 

FC: I used to volunteer as an EMT in New York State. I volunteered to help guard a settlement called Tapuach in Israel. No, I cannot assemble an Uzi in 30 seconds. I am an only daughter surrounded by 8 brothers and I have three boys (no girls) go figure! 

DS: Thank you for those fun facts and thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.  Good luck this year!

Mazel Tov!
Mazel Tov to Rabbi Shimon and Chani Silver on the birth of a new granddaughter, and to parents Rabbi Yosef and Basya Shayna ('01) Grossman.  Much nachas to the entire family!

Mazel Tov to new grandparents, Marty Stein and Jacqlyn Stein and family and Mazel Tov to Libby ('11) and Aharon Tal-Ohr on the birth of a baby girl. Much nachas to the entire family!
Please send any mazel tovs to [email protected]
Around Town 
  • BLOOD DRIVE: Please join us at Shaare Torah this Sunday for Shaare Torah's Fall/Winter Blood Drive.  We'll be here from 9:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M.  You can email [email protected] to make an appointment or just stop in.  Walk-ins are very welcome and very much appreciated.  Help the Blood Bank as it prepares for the winter season.
  • MORDY BROWN CATERING: November Lunch Menu & November Lunch Order Form
  • BNEI AKIVA: There will be no snif this Shabbat, Saturday November 8 because many of our madrichim will be attending a shabbaton.  Snif will resume next week.
  • 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:  1)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 2)There will be a Junior NCSY laser tag event on Sunday, November 16th. This event is open to grades 5-8. Come enjoy pizza, laser tag and arcades. 3) NCSY Yeshiva Fair will take place over the weekend of November 22nd. This event gives 11th and 12th graders the opportunity to meet representatives from 40 post high school programs. 
  • 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!

  • PZSave the Date - Dr. Gerald Schroeder speaking at PZ Thursday, November 13 at 8:00 PM

    on Science and Religion.
  • PZ Partners in Torah Recruiting Teachers and Students now. No cost - Contact Shmuel Angel 412-897-6888 or email [email protected]


 Please send information by Sunday to [email protected].



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

Condolences - Please send condolences to [email protected].

Please send condolence notices to [email protected].
Family Feature -