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

October 31, 2014

7 Cheshvan 5775

Parshat Lech-Lecha

Candle Lighting: 6:00 pm
Shabbat Ends: 7:06 pm

Dvar Torah 
Parashat Lech Lecha introduces us to the early career of Avraham Avinu. The story is striking in its abruptness: we are not told anything about Avraham's background, philosophies, or ideals, nor about the divine mission which he has assumed.  We are introduced to Avraham as if we know him already and are fully aware of his mission.  


Perhaps the verse is vague in order to teach us that like Avraham, it is our responsibility to follow our divine mission, no matter where we are coming from and what our background entails. Had the Torah told us of Avraham's background, we would think it was because of his upbringing that he came to greatness. Through this omission, the Torah is telling us that no matter our circumstance we can all fulfill his divine mission. But what is that divine mission? Rabbi Menachem Leibtag explains that ( we can understand what our mission is as well. 

He points out that Avraham turned 48 years old the year of the Tower of Babel and the dispersion. This was also the same year that he found G-d. It teaches us that Avraham's mission was diametrically opposed to that of the tower builders.  According to the Ramban, the sin of the builders was that they gathered together in order to "create for themselves a name." This point of view is in direct contrast to Avraham Avinu. At the end of Avraham's aliyah, the verse states, "He built a mizbayach there and called out b'shem Hashem, in G-d's name." (12:8) The Ramban explains that this meant that Avraham would go in front of the mizbayach and make G-d's existence known to all mankind. 


Instead of creating a name for himself, Avraham focused on promoting G-d's name, and on creating a name for G-d. When Hashem chose Avraham he said,  "And I will make you a great nation ... and through you all the families of the earth will be blessed." (12: 1-3) 


Our mission is the same as Avraham's. We must be great and do whatever we can to make a kiddush Hashem in everything we do. 


This week we hosted Magen Yeladim, a child and sexual abuse prevention program, for our students, parents, and staff. One of the unfortunate reasons for this program has been the pervasive and high profile occurrences of abuse in the Jewish community over the past few years. These occurrences are devastating to communities and cause horrendous chillulei Hashem. As a community, we must do more. We must do our best to minimize chillul Hashem, but at the same time do what we can to promote Kiddushei Hashem whenever we can. After all, it is the mission of Hillel Academy that, "We will reveal the vast potential and greatness of Hillel graduates such that all who interact with them will say, 'Blessed is their G-d; fortunate are their parents and teachers.' "

Have a wonderful Shabbat,



The Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh Pop Culture Grid


If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

If you could be anywhere, right now, where would it be?

Who is your favorite historical figure?

Shira S.


My cousin's house in Yerushalayim

Esther Hamalka

Shira W.


Lala Land where I normally live

My two grandfathers

Bluma R.

The ability to make peace


George Washington

Rivky G.

To talk to Hashem

New York

Ben Franklin

Rivka K.

To bring moshiach

The Kotel

Rivka Imenu

Chana Y.

To get along with everyone


Yisro and Tzipora because we're learning about them in Chumash

Amital L.

Duplicating myself


Ofra Haza

Batya M.

Go back in time

Inside any book

Mr. Hershey

Alexa B.

To be the best pastry chef

Hershey Park

Double Z

Maya D.

To breathe fire


The guy who created ketchup

Michal A.

Automatic homework completion and school removal

A water park

Anne Frank

Devorah M.

To know everything


Chana Ha Navi

Mr. Werber
Annoucments and Reminders 
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Family Feature - Shalom and Leah Kohanbash
This week we sat down with another Kohenbash alum and his wife Leah. 

Welcome (back) to Hillel Academy. What's your favorite part of Hillel Academy, thus far? Hillel kippahs

What's the best-kept secret of Hillel Academy? The Hillel Academy ice-rink.
Shalom and his family recently enjoyed a trip to D.C. They did not attempt to jump the fence for the White House tour.  But, if they had,  it would have been an easy way to avoid the lines.

Sounds like a great story, do tell? In eighth grade, my class was in the basement classroom at the bottom of the steps (does that room still exist?) with windows looking out to the driveway. On a cold winter day we were having a water fight outside our classroom in the driveway. Somebody forgot to turn the hose off and left it on overnight. When we came back the next day the entire driveway was a sheet of ice. The school was not happy...

Do you have any special family traditions you would like to share with our readers? We're Sefardi. We eat rice on Pesach.

Share something about your family that makes you unique.  Dad fixes robots, Mom fixes people :)

Sounds interesting, what kind of robots and what kind of people? 
I (Shalom) work on robots that work outdoors and do stuff. I am currently working on a robot to explore the moon and another robot for finding life on Mars. My wife Leah is a nurse, working on a GI surgical oncology floor.

If you could open your own restaurant what would it be? 
We'd call it Sampler. A restaurant that serves multiple items as a single entree.

What do you do with the projects your children bring home?  Depends on the project and how much space I have left on my fridge.

That is such a great answer, tell us just one. While many projects end up on the fridge, we like projects that the kids can do something with. For example, it is nice when we can hang the kids' stuff up in the sukkah or when the kids can run around using what they made in school.

Danielle is in the tiny tots room and Noam is in pre-k. 

What's it like sending your children to the school you attended and where you mother is such a famed individual? 
The fact that my kids are there is not weird. The weird part is coming into the school thinking I know how it looks, and finding all the rooms have changed. It is also cool seeing people every morning that I used to see every morning all those years ago (such as Mrs. Aronson). My kids really enjoy seeing their grandmother (The Morah Devorah) every morning and having her at the door greeting them.

What would you do without extended day? 
Start my own extended day. I would probably start by trying to recruit Morah Devorah...

Great stuff, thanks for your time and if you are ever interested in bringing back the rink, talk to Mr. Kraut, he loves ice hockey. 
Alumni Spotlight - Varda Epstein  nee Barbara Meyers
Share a favorite memory or two with our readers?Volunteering when Rabbi Rottenberg, zt"l, asked for a few strong BOYS to help
carry books.

What organizations are you currently involved in? I am the communications writer for Kars4Kids, which is the fundraising arm of Oorah, a Kiruv organization based in Lakewood, NJ. I work from home by virtual office. The CEO of the organization, Rabbi
Eliyahu Mintz brought me into the States this past summer so I could see the good work I'm helping to fund with my work. I spent time at two beautiful camp facilities in the Catskills and attended an amazing bar mitzvah:
How do you earn living? See above :-)

How did Hillel Academy prepare you for the future? I had an amazing class at Hillel. Though we only spent three years together, we all feel this incredible bond, as if we were siblings or a family of sorts. We held a reunion several years ago and my face hurt from smiling so much. I think I learned about achdus at Hillel, more than anything else.

Share some info about your family. I'm a third-generation born Pittsburgher on my mother's mother's side. And look what I went and did by moving to Israel and giving birth to 12 kids in Jerusalem: I broke the Pittsburgh chain. Oh darn. Also, my late uncle was Myron Cope. Go Stillers. I have 12 children and 9 grandchildren. My husband is from Skokie.

What do you do in your free time?
I blog about Israel. It's an obsession. I also play dumb facebook games.

Hillel Trivia - How 
many parking spaces in the lot? 
What lot? There's a parking lot?

Who was your first Hillel teacher? Miss Hodil.

What was your favorite class? English. Duh. I'm a WRITER?

Did you have a favorite teacher? Who was it and why? Jewish studies? Rabbi Roberts, zt"l. Secular studies, Florence Marcus, a"h and Andi Weiss.
When did you attend Hillel Academy? 1972-1975

Most interesting person in your contacts? Robert Werdine, a moderate Muslim who defended me for my pro-Israel views. See: We have become dear friends.
Share something with our students you wish someone had told you when you were in school? I wish someone had told me that it was normal for teens to suffer so much unbearable angst and that it would not be like that forever and that a productive and wonderful life lay ahead of me.

Can you share a memory about Myron ob"m?  My uncle loved babies and kids, like everyone else in my family. I remember the way he would play with my cousin Danny when he was a baby and lovingly call him "Monkey Man." He had a knack. 

Do you fly his flag outside your home? I flew two Towels from my mirpesset (porch) the week of his shiva, knowing that this was not at all meaningful for anyone but me. But it felt right. It's weird, I have this uncle who was the most famous man in Pittsburgh, and I moved to a place where no one knows who he is. 

Did you have an input in the towel design? No input in the towel design.

Thank you for your time!
School Counseling Program

      Thank G-d the past few years have brought tremendous growth to Hillel Academy. As we grow, so do the needs of our school and student body.  At Hillel, in addition to caring for the spiritual and academic needs of our students, we strongly believe in caring for their social and emotional health as well. In order to better meet these needs, we will be creating and implementing a school counseling program.  Rabbi Akiva Sutofsky will be spearheading this exciting and essential component to our school.


     Rabbi Sutofsky comes to Hillel with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He has been working with adolescents over the last ten years in Silver Spring, MD, Israel, and Houston, TX. He trained as a therapist at Jewish Family Services (JFS) in Houston for two years, was a student advisor at the Jewish girls high school in Houston (Torah Girls Academy- TGA), and has recently been selected to be part of a weekly training program in New York for Mental Health therapists and school counselors run by Torah Umesorah. He is currently a candidate for Licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Pennsylvania and will be working under supervision until his licensure is received.


     As school counselor, over the next few months Rabbi Sutofsky will be meeting with each child in grades 6-12 and will be introducing a referral system. This will allow students, teachers, parents and administrators to refer students to meet with Rabbi Sutofsky. He will also be setting up "open office hours" and will act as a resource for students, teachers and the administration. More information regarding the referral system will be forthcoming.


      The goal of the school counseling program is to ultimately provide students with "safe space" to address a range of clinical or behavioral issues that are affecting and impacting students in school. Offering an empathetic, listening ear and usage of counseling interventions, students are provided with a safe place to openly identify and discuss issues that cannot otherwise be identified and dealt with in the classroom. It allows the school to provide a forum where expressive needs for the students can be addressed within consistent, structured counseling sessions, while simultaneously enabling students to remain focused on their classroom learning. 


Rabbi Sam Weinberg            

HYPE - Get There First!
October 2014 - January 2015 Clubs

Check the Google Calendar or the Website for the schedules. 

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Reminder - there will be no clubs on Monday and Tuesday, November 3rd and 4th due to parent teacher conferences. 

MSB Intramural Hockey League Standings 






Dark Wizards 













Clubs began this week. Pictured below is the k/1 Ivrit Club with Morah Danielle and the Monday Sports Club with Ms. Bleil. 

Alumni Updates
We welcome any news from alumni; please send it to [email protected]
Do You Know Hillel's Speech Therapist and Reading Specialist?


Ms. Lauren Sarso ( [email protected]works as a speech therapist for the Pittsburgh-Mt. Oliver Intermediate Unit. She is assigned to four private/non-public schools in the Pittsburgh Area, Hillel being one of them! She graduated from Clarion University of Pennsylvania with a masters in Speech-Language Pathology. Her past work experiences include working for Big Beaver Falls Area School District and North Hills School District as a speech therapist. She started with the PMOIU at the end of September 2014 and, is looking forward to getting to know and work with the students at Hillel!  In her free time, Ms. Sarso enjoys riding her bicycle around the city and spending time with her family and friends. Ms. Sarso anticipates a great year at Hillel.

Mrs. Steigerwald ([email protected] )  is working for the Pittsburgh-Mt. Oliver

 Intermediate Unit as a Reading Specialist.  She splits her time between Hillel Academy and St. Bede School.  Before joining the PMOIU this school year, she taught for eight years in the Woodland Hills School District.  She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a masters in Reading Education, and completed a Reading Internship with the Pittsburgh Public Schools.  In her spare time, Mrs. Steigerwald loves spending time with her daughter Kenzie (2) and her son Crosby (6 months).  She is a huge Pittsburgh sports fan and enjoys watching the Panthers, Pirates, Steelers, and Penguins.  Mrs. Steigerwald is excited to become a member of Hillel Academy, and is looking forward to a great 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. 

Here is  Avital Isenberg's guess:

Tehila Rosenberg, Sharone Pasternak, Me, Efraim Loebenstein....  Not sure though :)

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

This memorable photo was taken in Israel of Ilana Kisilinsky ('14) and some of her seminary crew. 

 Photo Gallery 

The inaugural HYPE Coffee and Concepts: Getting Practical with Pirkei Avos 
led by Mrs. Lisa Cook, took place this past Tuesday, 
and will continue every Tuesday morning 8:15am-9:00am at Crazy Mocha.
Click HYPE TORAH to register for this class and any others as well. 

Students view the Kids Safety video clip as part of the Magen Yeladim education program that took place this week. 
Teacher Feature: Chelsey Butler - P.E. Teacher, Basketball Coach, and Running Coach
Hi, welcome to Hillel! Tell us about how you became a Hillel Academy employee. One of our very own students! Yael Itskowitz, was a lifeguard at the pool where I worked during the summer. She informed me that her school needed a PE teacher, and gave me some contact information. 

Rumor has it you played varsity softball in college. What position and tell us about your most memorable game? I was a second baseman and also the lead-off batter. I would have to say our conference tournament my senior year was the most memorable. It was the championship game with two outs, down by one and two runners on. I hit a two-run RBI double into right field to win the game! That was our last game playing on our home field. We seniors went out with a bang! 

What would it take for Hillel to field a girls softball team? As long as we can get 10 committed girls that have the passion to learn the game, we would be good to go. The permission to use a local field would help too. 

I am sure you saw the Steelers score 24 points in just under three minutes two weeks agi, how do you describe that? Well, I am in no way shape or form a Steelers fan. LETS GO BROWNIES! (Mr. Kraut is a member of Browns Nation as well), as a coach, I think it was a tremendous turn around and the Steelers needed a performance like that to pick them up. It took a lot of poise to accomplish those 24 points in such a short period of time and they kept the momentum through the rest of the game.

What's your philosophy as a PE teacher? I believe in order to build the mind, the body needs to be built at the same time. While promoting a healthy lifestyle, it is important to learn your body's physical ability through loco-motor exploration and teamwork.

Along with Coach Jazz you coach the girls cross country team, describe the feeling of all nine of our runners finishing their first race?  Our runners have had a lot of heart this season. For it being their first race, it was a very proud moment to see the girls cross the finish line and see how happy they were with themselves.

 What advice c
an you offer our athletes? What can they do to prepare for the running and basketball seasons? Train, train, and train. All year round you need to stay active and practice the sports you love. Don't be afraid to seek extra help from older athletes or teachers who have also played the sport. Go to athletic events and observe how the game is played, video yourself during games and watch it afterwards to see your faults.


What has been the most surprising thing at Hillel? Honestly, other than the awesome support from all the other teachers, it would have to be Mr. Brown's cooking. Coming from a public school, we were never blessed with home-made food. He's Superman back behind that counter!


What would you like to see in the new Hillel gymnasium? I would love to have more storage space, basketball hoops, and of course more room.


Thanks for your time!

Mazel Tov!

Please send any mazel tovs to [email protected]
Around Town 
  • MORDY BROWN CATERING: November Lunch Menu & November Lunch Order Form
  • 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].

Our sympathy to the family of Ethel Mangurten ob"m, past Nursery class assistant. Her children, Sheila, Kenneth, and Janice are all Hillel Academy alumni.

Please send condolence notices to [email protected].


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