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

   December 26, 2014                                                                                                         4 Shevat 5775
Parshat Vayigash

Candle Lighting: 4:37 pm
Shabbat Ends: 5:50 pm
Dvar Torah 


IParashat Vayigash, when Yaakov hears that Yosef is still alive, the verse tells us that "
ve-techi ru'ach Yaakov" - "Yaakov's spirit was revived" (45:27). The Midrash Tanchuma explains that G-d withdrew prophecy from Yaakov during the twenty-two years he spent in bereavement, and it was restored once Yaakov learned that Yosef was alive.  The Rambam mentions this understanding of the verse in his Shemoneh Perakim and uses it to prove that despondency precludes the possibility of experiencing prophecy. 


 The simplest explanation for the centrality of joy and contentment in achieving prophecy, perhaps, is that it denies a person the peace of mind that prophecy demands.  Intense concentration is among the critical prerequisites to the experience of prophecy, and despondent people are generally incapable of this level of concentration being preoccupied with their distress.  It is for this reason, perhaps, that a prophet can only experience prophecy in a state of general contentment and while in good spirits.

 Every day at school we are given the opportunity to educate our students. Much like prophecy, knowledge and information retention requires a state of happiness, calmness, and tranquility.  In a recent article in the National Association of School Psychologists newsletter (, Dr. Scott Huebner highlights the importance of a positive school climate and individual student happiness in schools. He maintains, "students reporting greater happiness show more appropriate classroom behavior, higher school grades, better peer and teacher relationships, better physical health, and greater participation in classroom and extracurricular activities." 

Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh presents
Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh presents "Happy" Chanukah!


Over the past few weeks, we have had many fun activities in celebration of Chanukah. From ice skating to dancing, this past week has been a blast. It is important to realize that events like these are not only great ways to celebrate chagim together, but also help create a better and more positive learning environment. 


In case you missed it, here is our "Happy" Chanukah video that has received over 1000 views on YouTube. 


Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Sam Weinberg

The Hillel Pop Grid - by Mr. Werber 

Students in the Mix

If you could invent a donut, what would you call it?

What is your ultimate Chanukah gift?

What do you like most about winter?

Shira S.

Shira Sutofsky Texas Donut

Tickets to wherever I want


Rivky G.

Choco-Banana Supreme

A teleporter!

Winter break!

Michal A.

The Disgustable

To live in Israel

Disgusting weather

Bluma R.

The Mega Donut



Rivka K.

Eat This!

A plane ticket to Israel


Devorah M.


(Devorah Milch Delicious Donut)

To live in another country

Snow storms!

Shira W.

Cookie Dough Ice Cream Donut

Live in Israel in luxury and 50 billion dollars.


Maya D.

Chocolate Monster

1.1 million dollars

Snow fights

Amital L.

Sweet Sugar Delight

Unlimited Accessories

The coziness!

Batya  M.

Super Duper Strawberry Delight

Being able to get anything I want from Machne Yehuda

Everything except the cold

Alexa B.

Everything Donut

Have the perfect life

Getting together with your families during the holidays

Announcements and Reminders 


  • DATE CHANGE - Mother/Daughter Melave Malka
    - December 27, 2014 at Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh 
  • GHS Production - Sunday, March 1 and Monday, March 2  in the Robinson Theater at the JCC - Peter Pan. 
Click HERE to start shopping. 

Websites and Social Media:                                  Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView our videos on YouTubeVisit our blog


Hillel Academy Student Blog 

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 

Pittsburgh Tomchei Shabbos Begins


Hillel Academy Parents, Supporters and Friends!!!We still need volunteer team members. If you are interested in volunteering or donating, please click here: 



Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh presents
Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh presents "Happy" Chanukah!

Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh Presents Chanukah Chesed
Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh Presents Chanukah Chesed
Daily Ivrit Video - Chanukah 7
Daily Ivrit Video - Chanukah 7
Hillel Academy Presents High School Physics
Hillel Academy Presents High School Physics
Family Feature: Yossi & Faigy Chapley
Q: Hello, welcome to Hillel. Where did you move from? 
A: Monsey, NY (Eretz HaKodesh). Interesting fact: Mom and Dad are originally from Toronto, Canada.

Q: What's your favorite part of Hillel Academy, thus far?
A: The dynamic faculty & fun after-school programs!

Q: What's the best-kept secret of Hillel Academy?
A: Ella Ziff and her incredible Resource Room!

Q: Do you have any special family traditions you would like to share with our readers?
A: On Pesach we all walk around the Seder table with our Afikoman slung over our shoulders to symbolize the Jewish people's hasty departure from Egypt.

A: Share something about your family that makes you unique.
Q: We are Levi'im

Q: What do you do with the projects your children bring home?
A: We put them up on the wall in our dining room for everyone to see (and eventually throw them out once the novelty wears off).

Q: Share a family Chanukah minhag with us.
A: We light our Menorahs with bee's wax candles by the window; and have a Chanukah party every night with mini-sufganiyot and potato latkes!

Q: The Buffalo Bills offered fans $10 an hour to shovel snow and free game tickets. Deal or no deal? Why?
A: No Deal. Because the Bills are bad. They'd have to come here and shovel OUR snow to make us go to one of their games! Go Steelers!

Q: Joe, tell us about being a firefighter. What got you into it? 
A: When I was a little kid, my Grandfather would take me to the visit the Fire Station and I was always fascinated with the dazzling lights and all the cool firefighting equipment. That got the ball rolling... I originally started off in 2003 by volunteering in Public Safety as an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) with a local Ambulance Corps in Ramapo, NY and later obtaining advanced certification as a Paramedic in 2006. Being a paramedic allows me to help sick people more effectively by administering life-saving medications, securing advanced airways, and interpreting/correcting heart rhythms (EKG's) with a Cardiac Monitor. When we moved to White Oak in 2011 I wanted to do more for my community and enhance my professional career as a Firefighter-Paramedic (Like Johnny & Roy in the TV show Emergency!), so I joined the local Volunteer Fire Department and started my Firefighter "essentials" training with the PA State Fire Academy. I'm now cross-trained as an Interior / Exterior Firefighter & EMT-Paramedic, and certified as a Vehicle Rescue Technician. Flying down the road with lights & sirens is fun, going into burning buildings is scary, putting out fires is exciting, rescuing injured people from car wrecks is intense, and answering false alarms is boring... but the best part about being a Firefighter is the positive recognition I get from my community and family! I also like the pride I feel from representing Orthodox Judaism in such a positive way. 

Q: What pulled you to White Oak?
A: We moved to White Oak to take advantage of affordable housing and the ability to join a small close-knit community where we could become leaders of our community and foster a personal relationship with others in our congregation.

Q: Have you heard Mesivta stories? What's your favorite?
A: I've heard some crazy Mesivta stories, but I can't share them...this is a "family" publication after all!

Q: Any good ponds to go skating there?
A: I'm actually not sure, we do all our ice skating in Squirrel Hill. We do however have lots of beautiful parks around our area.

Q: Pumper or ladder?
A: What you mean to say is Engine or Truck, and my answer is the Engine. I'm not too good with heights, so just give me the Nozzle and point me to the fire!

Q: Coke or Pepsi?
A: Pepsi. Wild Cherry. That's right.

Q: L.L. Bean or North Face?
A: North Face. But they say that L.L. Bean is good for your heart!

Q: Slip-ons or laces?
A: Laces. Real men tie their shoes.

Q: Bus or car?
A: I choose the Ambulance or Fire Engine, they get me to where I need to go faster!

What Do You Miss Most?
These people have left the Hillel Academy community for a variety of reasons. All of whom made a difference in our school. We have reached out to these individuals and asked them what they miss most about Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh.

Here are their responses:

Erica Tipton (former teacher) - The students! 100% the students. They are smart, inquisitive, and most of all, full of love and kindness.
Meira Sacks (former parent and teacher, who made aliya) - My kids would probably say oneg.
Chevi Rubin (former admission director and parent who also made aliya) - My laminated "I know nothing about the laminator" sign, all things dismissal related, and all the laughs. And now I'm sad. Thanks Shaw.
Teacher Feature: Ms. 
 Kelly Trapani
Q: Hi Welcome to Hillel Academy! Tell us about yourself.
A: My name is Kelly Trapani and I graduated from IUP summa cum laude earlier this month with a degree in health and physical education and a minor in nutrition. I've lived in Pittsburgh my whole life and went to Montour high school.

Q: So, you graduated IUP. How was that?
A: I loved every part of my experience at IUP! Indiana is such a nice town to live in. I was very involved on campus and extremely involved in the Greek life community. I taught group fitness classes at the IUP gym. I was awarded Most Outstanding Student Teacher for fall 2014 and I was actually homecoming queen for my department fall 2013.

Q: You did part of your student teaching in Gateway H.S. How does our high school compare to theirs? They are VASTLY different! Gateway High School is enormous. I am not lying when I say I got lost in the school almost
everyday. That doesn't really happen here which is awesome. I feel as though the students here at Hillel are so well-mannered and respectful and I feel incredibly lucky to be working in such a positive atmosphere, not all teachers can say that!

Q: What's the most surprising thing about Hillel you have found so far? 
A: How close the entire school is. It truly is like a family. I think it's absolutely amazing, I wish I would have had that kind of experience going through school.

Q: Were you on the Steelers bandwagon the whole season or did you jump on once they clinched?
A: I'm going to sound like the worst PE teacher ever, but I don't really watch football that much. I'm much more into hockey. Go Pens :D

Q: Share with us your P.E. philosophy.
A: I think the most important thing I would like to accomplish is to instill a love of exercise in the students. It's such a passion of mine and I would love to pass that gift to the students here. Another goal is to just get the students moving every day and to enjoy themselves while they're doing it!

Q: The last P.E. teacher we interviewed, gave notice right before the interview went to print. You're not planning on doing that are you?
A: No way!

Q: Twix of Snickers?
A: I've never met a candy bar that I didn't like.

Q: Winter or Summer?
A: Summer by far!

Q: Seven Springs or Hidden Valley?
A: Seven Springs!

Q: What can we expect from P.E. this year?
A: Different sport and activity units with an emphasis on physical fitness! I want to try some different activities that students might not have tried like Yoga and Pilates. One of my goals is to have each student leave my class at the end of the year a little more fit than they were when they started!
Do you HYPE? 

HYPE Chanukah Family Learning - 12/21/14
HYPE Chanukah Family Learning - 12/21/14


October 2014 - January 2015 Clubs

Check the Google Calendar or the Website for the schedules.      

We will have a make-up drama club on Tuesday, Dec. 30 since there isn't one on Jan 1.  
 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: 

Dark Wizards - 8 - 
Cavs - 2
MAZEL TOV Dark Wizards on winning the                                             Championship! 


Sparks 4 Game 1:
Lynx 2
Game 2:
Stars 12 
Liberty 10


Alumni Updates
 We welcome any news from alumni; please send it to

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!
Days from today until the Opening of GHS production, Peter Pan
Facebook "likes" of the Hillel Academy page. One more than last week. We are pushing for 500.                          Like us on Facebook
Views of the Chanukah "Happy" video.
Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh presents
Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh presents "Happy" Chanukah!

Cupcakes picked up from Giant Eagle on 12/23 & 12/24 (132- Rosh Chodesh Treat k-3, 110- Rosh Chodesh Lunch 5-12, and 70- siddur party)
21 Days until winter break!

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, Mrs. Aronson, and Bobbi (Wasserman) Gordon - '10 for correctly answering last week's photo challenge. Can anyone help out on the Photo B?


Photo A: Mrs. Plotkin and Mrs. Fisher
Baby is Yehuda Plotkin. The blonde girl is Penina Francus. Brown haired girl is Miriam Plotkin. I don't know who the boy is.

Photo B: L-R: Marissa Golden, Levinson,   

Last Week's Photo A & B
This Week's Photo 


Chanukah Ice Skating



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 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.

Aviva went with her family to the recent University of Pittsburgh basketball game against Manhattan. She is sporting the new 2014 Hillel hoody. 

 Photo Gallery 
Mitzvah Day

First Grade Chumash Presentation

The SLIP winners received their gift cards last week.


Both Nursery classes Devorah*2 and pre nursery classes. 
 Fire Saftey - Monroeville Style 

7th day of Chanukah - 12.23.14 @ 10:05am
Parking lot (known as the playground for all the alumni - cir. '05).
Charlie asked his dad to bring his truck to school. And what do you know, one of the Monroeville Fire Department trucks showed up in our parking lot this past Tuesday. Notice, it's white as opposed to red. The men explained to the children about the truck's capabilities, fire safety and they let Morah Ruth try on a mask. 

Mazel Tov!



Aron and Guila Pfeffer on the birth of a baby girl!

Rabbi Yisroel and Chana Pfeffer  on the birth of a granddaughter!

Murray and Elvira Pfeffer on the birth of a 
great granddaughter!


Rabbi Oren and Rena Levy on the birth of a baby girl, and to big brothers and sister, Yehuda, Yehoshua and Adira, and to the entire Levy and Leskowitz Families!

Shira and Yehuda Leib Abberbock and big brother Avraham on the birth of a baby boy, Eliezer Shmuel!



Please send any Mazel Tovs to
Condolences - Please send condolences to
With heavy hearts and great sorrow we mourn the passing of 

Ruth Levi, ob"m,

beloved mother of  Dr. Tova Weinberg, 

and beloved mother-in-law of Dr. Joel Weinberg


beloved grandmother of Shira, Elana, Josh, Tamar and Ephriam.

Around Town 


  • MORDY BROWN CATERING: 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. Save the date for the NCSY Casino Night fundraiser on January 10th.  This fundraiser will begin at 8:00 p.m. at PZ.
  • GIRLS ONEG: No Girls Oneg this week. 
  • PZ Partners in Torah Recruiting Teachers and Students now. No cost - Contact Shmuel Angel 412-897-6888 or email

 Please send information by Sunday to
5685 Beacon Street - Pittsburgh, PA 15217 
  (F) 412-521-5150

Please send condolence notices to