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

December 12, 2014

20 Kislev 5775

Parshat Vayeshev
Candle Lighting: 4:35 pm
Shabbat Ends: 5:44 pm
Dvar Torah 
In this weeks parasha, we read about the frightening story of mechirat Yosef- the sale of Yosef. As Yosef approaches his brothers, they plot to kill him. Reuven, the oldest of the brothers, heroically steps forward and proposes that instead of killing Yosef they should, ''Shed no blood; cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but lay no hand upon him'--that he might deliver him out of their hand, to restore him to his father'' (37:22). When the Torah describes this pit, the verse states, "the pit was empty, it had no water in it" (37:24). Rashi cites a passage in the Talmud which explains the redundancy in this verse, "it, the pit had no water, but it had snakes and scorpions" (Shabbat 22a). Our sages here are telling us that despite Reuven's intentions to save Yosef, he did not do enough to ensure that he was, in fact, safe. He checked to see if there was water, but he ignored other potential dangers.


This medrash can also teach us an important lesson regarding the upcoming holiday of Chanukah. The passage in the Talmud immediately before this interpretation of our verse in Vayashev, teaches a seemingly unrelated law regarding the holiday menorah. The Talmud teaches that a menorah lit above two cubits (around 30 feet) is not valid. The reason for this is that a menorah so high is not visibly seen; therefore, we do not fulfill the essential mitzvah of publicizing the miracle of Chanukah. Many commentators are puzzled by the juxtaposition of these two passages. Why is this law regarding the menorah connected to this description of the pit where the brothers placed Yosef?


Perhaps the Talmud is alluding to how important it is for us to not "miss the point" when it comes to Chanukah. Our sages are warning us that just like Reuven tried to save Yosef, but overlooked such an essential detail, we too should make sure that we light our menorahs out of a desire to glorify G-d, and publicize the miracle of the Chasmoniam's victory.


We hope that everyone has a wonderful Chanukah with their family, friends, and entire community.


Shabbat Shalom



Announcements and Reminders 
  • DATE CHANGE - Mother/Daughter Melave Malka - December 27, 2014 at Hillel Academy of Pgh
  • GHS Production - Sunday, March 1 and Monday, March 2  in the Robinson Theater at the JCC - Peter Pan. 

1. Please don't park in front of the main building on Beacon Street, during arrival and dismissal times, including 5pm (club dismissal). 
2. No U-turns in front of the school.

Websites and Social Media:

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Hillel Academy Student Blog 

New for this week's issue, we are launching the Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh Student Blog.  This project was designed to give Hillel Academy GHS student Rivka the opportunity to share with the Hillel Academy Nation interesting topics about a variety of things, ranging from human teeth to bio-luminescence.


Visit our blog Visit our blog

Pittsburgh Tomchei Shabbos Begins



At Hillel Academy, we feel strongly about giving back to our community.  Fayth Aronson, a graduate of Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh, and a beloved Baltimore pre-school teacher, touched the lives of so many with her acts of kindness. A true Baalas Chesed (readily performing acts of kindness), Fayth's example of care and concern for others, her giving neshama (soul), and continuous drive to act on behalf of others, was an inspiration for everyone who knew her.  A quiet, and humble person, Fayth was a doer, always looking to help someone in need.


Created by her parents, Selma and Bill Aronson, The Fayth Aronson-Berkowitz Chesed Society will ensure that every Hillel Academy Girl's High School and Middle School student develops Fayth's appreciation and desire to seek out chesed (acts of kindness) opportunities in their community.


This week the first project began, Tomchei Shabbos of Pittsburgh. The mission is to provide Shabbos and Yom Tov food packages to those in need in our community on a consistent weekly basis, in a discreet and respectful manner. Led by their mentors Dan Kraut and  Dr. Becky Weinberg, Hillel Academy GHS students, Yael Itskowitz, Adina Kisilinsky, Leah Joshowitz and Eliana Halley learned how to create a Tomchei Shabbos Program from the ground up, helped design a logo, , and assembled teams consisting of community volunteers to provide the necessary food items, box them, and ensure their delivery.  

 "The Chesed Project, and Tomchei Shabbos will be a lasting legacy for these students long after they have left Hillel Academy, and at the same time will enable the entire Hillel Academy Family (students, alumni, parents, grandparents, board members and supporters) to give back to the Pittsburgh Jewish community."  Dan Kraut, CEO


A family recipient upon receiving the package, "Thank you so much. I am beside myself. Thank you to all involved. Mostly, thank you for thinking of us."

 We would love to add you as a team member or you could volunteer for other activities. Volunteers can become team members, and/or volunteer to help our Fayth Aronson, z'l Chesed Society students with packaging on Thursdays, and/or monthly challah baking. 

If you are interested in volunteering or donating, please click here: 




The Hillel Academy Pop Grid - by Mr. Werber 




If you could meet a character from any book, who would it be?

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

What do you like most about yourself?

Akiva S.



I'm a Jewish person

Tali I.

Alex from Land of Stories

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

I'm awesome!

Zalman R.

Harry Potter


I'm a good reader

Naomi L.


Cookies and Cream

I'm funny

Tovia G.



I'm a good goalie

John M.

Lebron James

Death by Chocolate

I'm good at sports

Ariella L.

Elsa from The Snow Queen


My hair

Liora G.

Ginny from Harry Potter

Cookies and Cream

I'm smart

Moshe N.

Drizzt from Icewind Dale


My sheer awesomeness!

Shoshana L.

Ella from Ella Enchanted

Cookies and Cream

My personality

Avi I.

Roderick from Diary of a Wimpy Kid


How I play sports



Awards Night 2014 - Dave & Busters

Our annual Scholarship Fund Dinner was held at Dave & Busters this past Tuesday night. Mr. Kraut thanks everyone who purchased raffle tickets, and participated in the Penny Social. And a special thank you to Marci Bleicher for organizing the Penny Social Auction.


The highlight of the evening was the drawing of the raffle that was won by:

Mr. & Mrs. Joel Berelowitz - First Prize - 6 round trip tickets of Israel or 6,000 in cash
Dr. & Mrs. Lee Weinberg - iPad Mini
Eliana Felder - $500 in Giant Eagle Certificates

Many other prizes were taken home from the Penny Social.  Enjoy the photos and many more on our Facebook page. 


Hillel Academy Gobble Gobble - Tint Tots Style
Hillel Academy Gobble Gobble - Tiny Tots Style
Native Americans Visit Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh
Native Americans Visit Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh

Hillel Academy students share what they are thankful for - Thanksgiving 2014
Hillel Academy students share what they are thankful for - Thanksgiving 2014
Hillel Academy's Aleph Bet Video
Hillel Academy's Aleph Bet Video
Alumni Spotlight -  Avi Siebzener - '01
Q: Hi Avi, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. When did you attend Hillel Academy?
A: 1989 to 2001

Q: Share a favorite memory or two with our readers?
A: Watching Mr. Sarkany and Rabbi Eisen playing chess, color war (during Rabbi Pliner's tenure), using an ancient apple PC in Mr. Golombek's class because I broke my writing arm on the ice slide in the old parking lot.

Q: What was your favorite Mesivta meal?
A: Teeny weeny, eeny, beany casserole.

Q: How did we play football/sports on a "halfpipe" of a
A: We played sports cause we were boys and that's all we had to work with. To me I always looked at it as two options:
up hill and down. Clearly downhill had the advantage.

Q: Steelers prediction? 
A: Steelers Superbowl Champs every year. There's no one we can't beat on paper.

Q: What organizations are you currently involved in?
A: Steeler Nation.

That's a great answer!

Q: How do you earn a living?
A: IT contractor.

Q: Care to elaborate?
A: My job is fairly fluid; every few months I'm doing a different project for a different company. Right now, I'm working for Northern Trust Bank automating their code release deployments. I'm a flexible code monkey. I go somewhere, learn something new and help them improve it based on research and creativity.

Q: How did Hillel Academy prepare you for this?
A: I learned all of my problem-solving and math skills at Hillel which is the basis of my profession. 

Q: Share some info about your family.
A: I have been married for six years to Chava Sara from St. Louis. (Interesting fact, her dad was offered Rabbi Weingot's job and could have been my principal for my senior year but he declined). Our children, Nadav two years old and our newborn twins are a month old, Ari and Eemunah.

Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: Of which there is none, but I organize a roller hockey game on Saturday nights.
Q: Hillel Trivia - How many parking spaces in the lot?
A: According to Google Maps it looks like 12. but with Pittsburgh drivers I'm sure you could squeeze 47 in there.

Great point! I love how each interviewee has a different answer to seemingly a black and white question.

Q: Who was your first Hillel teacher?
A: Morah Gross

Q: What was your favorite class?
A: Math

Q: Who is the most interesting person in your contacts?
A: Elan Sokol

Q: Share something with our students you wish someone had told you when you were in school?
A: Pay attention and do well now so you can have what you want later. 2. Invest your allowance.

Q: Did you have a favorite teacher? Who was it and why?
A: Ms. Oz. I still remember many of the things we had to memorize today such as the helping
verbs, and state capitals.

Q: Do you remember Rabbi Weingot's favorite phrases?
A: Excuse me? And no rishush!

Exactly, what I was thinking.  A few weeks ago, the featured alum could not remember.  I also remember, "Hello, Glenda, Weingot!"

Q: Lastly, is there any consolation for not living in the City of Champions?
A: Only consolation of not living in the burgh is Romanian deli every Shabbos.

Thanks for your time. Have a Shabbat Shalom and we would love to have you back for a tour sometime!
Do you HYPE? 
October 2014 - January 2015 Clubs

Check the Google Calendar or the Website for the schedules.                     
  • Middle School Mishmar begins at 6:30pm; students may not enter the building before 6:25pm. 
  • When hockey or any club ends, students must exit the building. They may not wait for another club to begin. 
  • Hockey games take between 25-30 minutes to play. Please plan to pick up your children on time.
  • There are no Clubs during Chanukah. 
  • Middle School Basketball begins December 29 at the JCC Robinson gym. It is important for students to arrive on time and be picked up on time as well. Email already went out to students who registered for the team.   
 We are ready for the....
 Girls Intramural Basketball League
Sparks (Black) Team

Stars (Yellow) Team

Aviva ItskowitzRivka Kaminsky
Batya MandelbaumShira Wiesenfeld
Bracha BerelowitzDevorah Milch
Esther GrossbergChana Yolkut
Bluma RodkinRachel Luzer
Ariella ChinnSarah Kagan
Liberty (White) Team

Lynx (Blue) Team

Shira SutofskyAvital Segal
Leora GoldbergChaya Sutofsky
Elisheva RosenbergMaya Davis
Talia ItskowitzMichal Admon
Rivky GrossbergSarah Hertzberg

                            FINAL MSB Hockey League Standings  

Dark Wizards


















           Hockey Playoffs:
            Game 1: Dark Wizards 12
                           Tigers 6
            Game 2: Cavs 2
                           Rebels 0

Championship Game: Tuesday, December 16
Dark Wizards vs. Cavs


Game 1:

Sparks 4 
Lynx 2
Game 2:

Stars 12 
Liberty 10


SLIP - And the winners are....
Gift Card $ Amount
Eli Rosenstein18
Zelig Langer18
Mordy Russell
Moshe Nimchinsky
Yaakov Moshe Katz
Akiva Moshe Silver
Zalman Rodkin
Leora Goldberg
Yitzy Berelowitz
Elisha Azaria
Yoni Admon
Nechama Rodkin
Avital Segal
Bluma Rodkin
Chana Kaminsky

Hillel Aademy of Pittsburgh Presents S.L.I.P.
Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh Presents S.L.I.P.

This past Sukkot break Rabbi Nimchinsky offered the optional S.L.I.P. contest to students in grades 6-8. Students had to prepare and learn specific sections of the Kitzur over the Succos break and then took a test upon returning to school. Students who scored 85% or higher won $18 gift cards. Students who scored 95% or higher won $54 gift cards.  The program will be repeated over Winter and Pesach Breaks.

S.L.I.P. Program sponsorships are available, if you are interested in a sponsorship please contact Dan Kraut, [email protected].


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

Jesse (Yishai) Pliner ('00) is mentioned in a Business Wire for the latest news on his company, Prong. The title is Prong "Charges Up" with Capital Infusion from Georgia Oak. Click HERE to read the article.

And here it is...the full Alumni Basketball Game - 11/29/14 - Old Alumni vs. Young Alumni

Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh Alumni Game - 11/29/14
Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh Alumni Game - 11/29/14

Go Figure  - Hillel Style Baby!


Facebook "likes" of the Hillel Academy page. Five more than last week. We are pushing for 500. 
Like us on Facebook
There are 13 scenes in our adaptation of Peter Pan.


Parshiyot that will be learned by the end of the year by our students in grades K-12?

Days from today until the Opening of GHS production, Peter Pan.


Flashback Fridays Photo Challenge

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, Ms. Bonnie Morris for answering last week's photo challenge. 


This Week's Photo A

This Week's Photo B

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.

 Liora Nimchinsky holding her new nephew, Nosson Tzvi Yaakov Nimchinsky, while keeping his feet warm in Hillel gear! 

 Photo Gallery 

Making dreidels with 5th grade girls and shiny CD candles with 2nd grade!

Fifth graders were learning about the Taino people, who greeted Christopher Columbus when he landed in the Caribbean. The Taino made hammocks from woven cotton or other plant fibers because it allowed them to be cool in the warm night air. Gabe Small made a model of a Taino hammock!

Science Class with Mr. Garwood
Monday, December 8, 2014 @ 11:35am
Science Lab 

Mr. Garwood taught the kindergarteners about Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. If you would like a special visit with these wonderful creatures, contact Mr. Garwood at [email protected].

Guess This - A Matching Game

Whose computer is this? Match the computer (use the letter above the image) with the faculty person's name:

 These computers belongs to:

Rabbi Weinberg, Morah Bonnie,  Mrs. Sunshine, Mr. Kraut, Mrs. Aronson, Reb Shaw, 

First three people (can't be in the same family) who submit the correct answer win a bagel breakfast from Mordy Brown. Hatzlacha! 







Mazel Tov!



Mazel Tov to the Scholarship Fund Raffle Winners: 


Grand Prize: Mr. and Mrs. Joel Berelowitz

IPAD Mini: Dr. Lee and Leora Weinberg

Giant Eagle Gift Certificates: The Felders


Mazel Tov to alum Samson McHugh on this engagement to Hayley Wicktrom! Much Nachas to the entire family!


Mazel Tov to alum, Micha Stiebel on his engagement to Saskia Freud! Much Nachas to the entire family!

Mazel Tov to Grandparents Michael and Barbara Katch on the birth of a grandson, Elichaim Yitzchak Uriel to Jamie and Eytan Rosenthal! Mazel tov to the entire Katch, Rosenthal and Farber Families!


Mazel Tov to Morah Gladys Margolis on the Bat Mitzvah of her grandaugter, Chaya Rivka, daughter of Rena (Margolis - '99) & Avrumi Apt. Much Nachas to the entire family!

Mazel Tov to Morah Gladys Margolis on the Bar Mitzvah of her grandson, Seth, son of Jeff and Danielle Margolis! Much Nachas to the entire family!

Mazel Tov to Louis & Chana Miller on the birth of a daughter this past week in Israel. Much Nachas to the entire family!
Mazel Tov to Shui Maizlech - Class of 2010 on his graduation from the University of Pittsburgh. 
Please send any Mazel Tovs to [email protected]
Condolences - Please send condolences to [email protected].

Around Town 


  • MORDY BROWN CATERING: December Lunch Menu & December Lunch Order Form - Don't forget - daily grab and go lunches. See Mordy, proceeds go to After School Clubs.  
  • BNEI AKIVA: Snif this Shabbat is 3:30pm at Shaare Torah. 
  • Kesser Torah Sunday mornings at 8:30am. Davening followed by learning, coffee and cake at Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh. All are invited!
  • NCSY: 1) NCSY Jewish Scholars continues  at PZ.  This event is for teens in grades 9-12 to come study interesting topics with an adult mentor and work on a long term community service project.

    2) Junior NCSY will have a Chanukah party and capture the flag event on Sunday, December 14th. 3) There will be a Senior NCSY Chanukah party on Thursday, December 18th, 7pm-9pm. 

  • 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!

  • 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].

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

Please send condolence notices to [email protected].