The Hillel Happenings
The Official e-Newsletter of Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh
Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei
Parshat Parah
 March 13, 2015  

Candle Lighting
7:06 PM

 22 Adar 5775

Shabbat Ends
8:15 PM
Dvar Torah 


Vayakel and Pekudei
 discuss the fulfillment of the earlier directive to build the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. After Moshe announced that the collection will be taking place, the Torah tells us (36:5) that Bnei Yisroel responded too generously, and they in fact had extra materials. This generosity is even more impressive when you consider the context in which it was donated. The Torah says in Devarim that it was only an eleven-day journey from Har Sinai to Kadesh Barnea. From there, Bnei Yisroel sent the spies and were supposed to enter the land forty days later. Instead, after the sin of the spies, they wandered the desert for forty years and ultimately had to conquer the land of Israel, and the Mishkan lasted 480 years. In reality, the Mishkan was originally only supposed to last a few months, not hundreds of years.  
     Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky points out that the temporary nature of the Mishkan highlights the incredible gifts of the Jewish people at this time. They could have easily excused themselves from sizable gifts based on the temporary nature of the Mishkan. Instead, they gave in excess, never questioning the importance of their gifts. Bnei Yisroel realized that the Shechina resting among them in the Mishkan is of the highest priority, so they donated materials generously and enthusiastically, despite the temporary nature of the Mishkan. 
    With Purim behind us and Pesach approaching, we begin to think about the preparations which we need to make for the holiday and it is easy to wonder why we go through all this fuss for only eight days. In reality, even though Pesach is temporary, we must put forth our best effort to invite spirituality and holiness into our lives, even if it is only for eight short days. 


Shabbat Shalom                          


Rabbi Sam Weinberg


Joshua Sindler, z'l Creative Classrooms Art & Music Program 


Hillel Academy in the Local News  
 Unified message in Washington presses Israel's case
As one who constantly pores over news of Israel and keeps abreast of nuances and changes in Middle East politics, Lou Weiss found himself among good company at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this week.

"It was great to get to D.C. and to see 16,000 other people who are obsessing just like I am," said the Squirrel Hill resident.

Noting that attendance was up from previous AIPAC conferences, Weiss, a 15-year veteran of the annual three-day event, believes that now, more than ever, people feel the need to lobby their representatives on issues critical to the Jewish state.

"I think people realize it's a harried time for the Jews," he said.

Weiss was one of about 80 Pittsburghers who attended the March 1 to 3 AIPAC conference, including a group of 30 college students and young adults who joined a delegation organized by the Hillel-Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh.

"This was the biggest delegation Hillel-JUC has ever taken to AIPAC," noted Dan Marcus, Hillel-JUC's executive
director and CEO, adding that last year, the organization took just eight delegates.

Members of the Hillel-JUC contingent had the opportunity to hone their lobbying skills, Marcus said. Many lobbied U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-District
14), while some lobbied representatives from their home districts.

"It's an incredible skill set for students to learn: how to lobby for principles they believe in," Marcus said. "And to learn to do that on Capitol Hill is powerful."

Weiss, who is a member of the AIPAC National Council, organized a bloc of about 30 people to lobby Doyle. Their meeting with the congressman was all about Iran, Weiss said, and they urged him to sign the Royce-Engel letter, which calls on the Obama administration to engage congressional oversight on Iran sanctions relief.

"Mike [Doyle] is strong on this issue," Weiss said.

Those attending the AIPAC conference represented a wide range of political and religious ideologies, said Gregg Roman, director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh's Community Relations Council.

"It was good to see Americans from all different political stripes and colors, and Jews from every denomination, and from the left and the right, getting together under the same tent to show support
of Israel," Roman said.

Rabbi Daniel Yolkut, spiritual leader of Congregation Poale Zedeck, felt a sense of connectedness to the Jews and non-Jews present who joined together in support of the Jewish state.

"People who love Israel often feel beleaguered and adrift," observed Yolkut, who had once before attended an AIPAC conference. "But there were all these people united together, including non-Jews, those from the African American community, and the Hispanic community, and the evangelical community. And all stripes of Jews. There's an unbelievable energy being with so many people who have such a passion for Israel. It was enormously meaningful."

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed AIPAC on Monday, "you really could feel the dynamism in the crowd," Yolkut said.

Yolkut was also moved when four of the parents of the boys who were  
kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists last summer - an event that precipitated Israel's Operation Protective Edge in Gaza - addressed the crowd.

"It felt like the longest standing ovation of the entire convention," Yolkut recounted. "They talked of faith, and of unity and of love, and what our support meant for them. That experience shakes you."

Also compelling, said Yolkut, was an address by Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, at a luncheon arranged specifically for rabbis and cantors. Although Lankford does not hail from a home state with a large Jewish constituency, Yolkut was impressed with the senator's connection to Israel stemming from his upbringing in a faith-centered household that was inspired by the narratives of the Bible concerning the land and people of Israel.

Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh sent a delegation of two students, Ezra Kraut and Mendel Blumberger, who were chosen to attend the conference based on essays they wrote. They were accompanied by Rabbi Yisroel Smith, assistant principal of the Boys' High School, and Daniel Kraut, the school's CEO.

"It was great to see the diversity of religious groups that felt the same way I do about the importance of a continued strong relationship between Israel and America," Ezra Kraut said in an email. "I will never forget the feeling of pride I felt as a Jew watching the prime minister's address delivered both at AIPAC and his speech before congress, which we watched from Congressman Doyle's office." 

Blumberger was grateful for the opportunity "to express my love of America and Israel with so many other like-minded individuals," he said in an email.For many of the Pittsburghers at the conference, highlights included the speeches delivered by Netanyahu, first to AIPAC on Monday, then to Congress the following day.


Along with his wife, Amy, Weiss sat in the House of Representatives gallery for Netanyahu's address to Congress, about six seats away from Elie Wiesel. "It was electric," said Weiss. "Netanyahu came in, and the Congress of the United States gave him a standing ovation. The gallery was full, and there was Netanyahu talking about the first Jewish state in 2,000 years. How can you not be moved by that?" Although Netanyahu was focused on Israel and Iran in his speech, Weiss said, "It's not hard to extrapolate from that the whole challenge of Islamic extremism to the rest of the world. It was an historic address from a man who has become, through his moral clarity and eloquence, the leading advocate for the Western world. ... And the thought that he is from Israel and Jewish is great. He definitely speaks for me."In both Netanyahu speeches, as well as addresses from White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and comments from President Barack Obama in interviews, Israel and the United States consistently delivered a common, three-pronged message, Roman observed.


The relationship between the United States and Israel is unbreakable; both the United States and Israel are opposed to Iran getting a nuclear bomb; and the strength of all the fields of commonality between the two countries is greater than "the arguments over process," Roman said. He cautioned against giving too much credence to media pundits trying to stir the pot. "The thing is, we have a lot more in common than we do apart," Roman said of the long-standing allies. "If we pay attention to the pundits rather than the policy-makers, that would be a mistake."

While at the conference, the entire Pittsburgh delegation, as well as alumni from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, were invited to a dinner hosted by Hillel-JUC and AIPAC. Both Marcus and Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International, addressed the 75 people at the dinner about Hillel's work in helping young adults strengthen their Jewish identities and find meaning through Israel programs.Toby Tabachnick can be reached at

Reprinted with permission from The Jewish Chronicle. 
Camp Hillel!
Click HERE for information and HERE for registration. 

At last, a 'mission-driven' summer camp with Hillel values in mind

For years, it has been a recurring phenomenon at Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh: As summer ends and children file back to school, administrators of the Orthodox day school receive emails from several parents all asking for the same thing - a summer camp that reflects the values of Hillel, said Rabbi Sam Weinberg, the school's principal and education director.

This summer, that camp finally will be launched, he said.

The new camp, which will serve those in preschool through eighth grade within three separate divisions, "will be educational, but fun," Weinberg said. "It will provide a productive environment for kids to grow and to participate in Hillel-like activities."

The camp, which is open to Jewish children from throughout the community, regardless of whether they are enrolled as students at Hillel Academy, is "mission-driven," according to Weinberg.

"We want to provide Jewish camping experiences for all kids in Pittsburgh, including those in public schools," he said. "We want it to be an affordable camp that nurtures kids."

Relying on recent research conducted by the Foundation for Jewish Camp that shows a strong correlation between attendance at Jewish camp and later adult participation in Jewish activities, Weinberg said that Hillel Academy aims to create a Jewish camping experience that would be accessible to much of the community.

"We have priced ourselves lower than a lot of other local camps," he noted. 

The camp will consist of three separate divisions: early childhood, kindergarten through fourth grade and fifth through eighth grade. While Hillel has offered an early childhood camp in the past, this will be the first summer in which older kids will have the opportunity to attend camp at Hillel.

Camp for the oldest division will be a travel camp, according to Weinberg. The children will travel to different sites three or four days a week and will also have some overnights. 

"The theme of the camp will be team-building and adventure," he said, and activities will include canoeing, kayaking, biking and trips to such venues as Heinz Field. 

A "chesed," or good deeds, component will also be a cornerstone of the program, with campers working on projects at various food banks in the city.

Boys and girls in the older camp division will be separated by gender, Weinberg said.

Children will swim at the nearby Irish Centre of Pittsburgh pool on Forward Avenue each day they are not traveling, Weinberg said.

So far, about 55 children are already enrolled in camp for this coming summer, according to Weinberg, but Hillel has the capacity to accommodate many more campers.

Second-grade teacher Tovi Admon will serve as the camp director.

Toby Tabachnick can be reached at

Reprinted with permission from The Jewish Chronicle. 

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Hillel Academy Student Blog 

 Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh Student Blog.  GHS student Rivka has posted new topics, check them out and let us know what you think.


Visit our blog 

Congrats to the BHS basketball team on their second victory of the season. 

Art Club

The portraits are finished and signed! Before the Awards Luncheon in June there will be an Art Exhibition Night to meet the artists and view their work.

The girls used graphite to draw teddy bears! (No erasers allowed!)

Staff Interview: Meet Morah Brianna Johnson
Hi, welcome to Hillel! Last week we interviewed Morah Aliya.  You work with her in Hadar's Teeny Tiny Tots room. What's that like? It's very unique and amazing. Being able to watch the little ones learn new things daily and seeing how smart they are at such a young age 

How did you hear about Hillel? I heard about Hillel through one of my good friends Jasmine Williams.

Tell us about yourself. My name is Brianna Johnson. I'm 20 years old, I graduated high school in 2014. My birthday is September 2. I plan to go back to school soon to get my cosmetology license. I am a fun, outgoing, hard working person.

What's your favorite part of the week? One of my favorite parts is Friday morning when all of the kids come together and Morah Dori sings with them and plays her guitar.

How was your first Purim at Hillel? It was very interesting experiencing something new. I loved seeing all the kids in their costumes. 

Snowmobile or RV?  RV

Cutch or JhayJhay

Long ball or suicide squeeze?  Long Ball

Southwest Airlines or USAir? USAir

Who would win in a dodgeball game, ECC staff or Elementary staff? ECC because we rock!

What makes Hillel unique? We have such a friendly staff and our students are cute and smart.
Alumni Feature: Elhanan Abrams 
When did you attend Hillel Academy? 1995 - 2001

What was your favorite class? History

Why did you enjoy History class? I have always enjoyed history and I continued my studies in history through undergrad and graduate school. Additionally, we had good teachers who were able to bring history to life. 

What's it like to have your kids enrolled in Hillel? It is interesting having my children going to the same school I graduated from.

What do you do in your free time? Golf

What's your best score and on what golf course? While I play golf I don't keep score for the most part, I just enjoy playing the course. 

What are the chances for a hole in one? 12,500 to 1 - so not all that good.

Where are you studying and can you give us a little more explanation on the career you hope to go into. I am a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh - Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA). My degree program is for an MPIA (Masters of Public and International Affairs) and I am concentrating on Security and Intelligence Studies. I am looking into the intelligence and security apparatus as a part of the Federal Government, as well as an open source intelligence expert and a qualitative analyst. 

Share a favorite memory or two with our readers?  Adar pranks in high school.


How did Hillel Academy prepare you for the future? The intensive Judaic and General studies programs prepared me for the rigors of higher education.

Share some info about your family. Our children all have an extraordinary interest in flight.


Who was your first Hillel teacher? Rabbi Loebenstein


Did you have a favorite teacher? Who was it and why? I am not good at picking favorites.


Most interesting person in your contacts? Senator (Rick) Santorum.

Alumni Updates
Ben Pollack - Mazel tov to him and his wife, former employee Rebecca on the birth of their son Yaacov!

Baruch November's - latest poetry event in the Upper Westside. Tickets can be bought by clicking here.

Come out and enjoy a great evening of comedy and poetry as J.A.C.K and ISRAMERICA present JComedy and Poetry Fest at Stand Up NY. Performers include, Modi, Baruch November, Sivan Hadari, Yehoshua November, Jessica Schechter, Philip Terman, David Warshaw, Dina Plotch and Moshe Kravitsky. The MC for the night will be Sivan Hadari. Doors open at 4:30. 

Yochi Naditch ('11) - Mazel Tov to he and his wife Pia on the birth of a boy on Sunday. 
Family Feature - Meet Ilan and Yael Kafka
Where did you move from? Israel

Your son, Tal is enrolled in the Teeny Tiny Tots classroom. What made you choose Hillel Academy? The wonderful staff!!!!

What's your favorite part of Hillel Academy, thus far? Teeny Tiny Tots!!!!!!

What's the best-kept secret of Hillel Academy? Morah Hadar and Morah Aaliyah!

Do you have any special family traditions you would like to share with our readers? We love skiing together :)

Share something about your family that makes you unique. We all LOVE to cook!!

What do you do with all the school projects? Separate into their individual boxes and keep them.

Arrival or Dismissal? Arrival :)

How did you hear about Hillel? We live near the school and we also have friends who send their children to Hillel.

How does it differ from schools in Israel? It's in English :) Other than that, we don't feel that there is a significant difference.

Tell us more about your family. We are an international family, I am from Israel and my husband, Ilan, is from Mexico. We have 3 lovely children and are in Pittsburgh for the duration of Ilan's fellowship at UPMC. We enjoy traveling and exploring new places together and are trying to see as much as we can while we're on this side of the globe :)

What was the best part of Purim? HAMENTASCHEN!!
Weekly Photos

MSB Purim trivia game - Zelig preps the board. 

Aaron also prepares the game.

Let the games begin. 

The middle school girls prepare for the Purim carnival. 

The 2015 Purim carnival in full swing. 

The 3rd Grade made a Purim Museum.  

GHS Purim photos. 

BHS Art Elective students display their final projects.


"After reading our first novel,  "The Velveteen Rabbit" 3rd grade created our very own Velveteen Rabbit. We designed, chose accessories, sewed and stuffed our creative friends. Wait until you read our creative short stories about them!" - Mrs. Faigy Chapley

HYPE Purim Dancing 2015
HYPE Purim Dancing 2015
The Banot's Latest Video -
The Banot's Latest Video - "Switch"
The Hillel Pop Grid - Mr. Steve Werber


If you could change your first name to anything, what would it be?

What one word best describes you?

When you are feeling sad what makes you feel better?

Chedva S

I like my name!



Shelly I.

Michelle, so if people asked me if my name stood for Michelle, I could say "yes."


My kids

Rachel L.

I'd change my last name to Sharp.



Elisheva R.

Anything shorter than Elisheva.


Talking to my nieces and nephews.

Maddy F.



Llamas with hats.

Michal T.



Funny baby videos.

Liz G.



Hugs from my kids.

Selma A.

I wouldn't change it.

Bubbe (to 355 students)


Steven W.




What Do You Miss Most?
Daniel Hertzberg ('11) - The relaxed environment that was conducive to learning and the dedicated teachers.

Josh Weinberg ('03) - I miss Ms. Oz's capital tests and the super happy fun slide. I miss playing basketball on 8 foot hoops in our wonderful gym.



Third Grade
Morning lessons

Tuesday - 3.10.15 -8:58 AM

Room # 208

After davening third graders either have math or Chumash. 
The Production - A  Night in Never Land

Last week, Hillel Academy High School Girls, along with members of the middle school girls drama club, performed "A Night in Neverland" in front over 300 guests at the JCC Katz Theater.  This performance was the product of months of hard work, hundreds of hours spent late at night at school, lots of

choreography, costume design, scenery design, etc... - and when it was all over, Mrs. Levari and Ms. Brett asked the girls - was all this work worth it?  What did you gain from the grueling work of production?  Here are some of the answers that we got:


1. "Production is important for the unity of the high school. We are a very small group and therefore it is important for us to get to know each other. Production allowed us to work together and bond after and during school. I definitely can say that I am a lot closer with everyone in the high school because of production. I can't wait for the next production year!" -Shira Itskowitz ("Wendy")


2. "The feeling of accomplishment when it was all over. Knowing we were responsible for upholding a tradition that women and children in the community look foward to each year." - Rachel Cohen ("John")


3. "Seeing it all come together after all the challenges that came up". - Chedva Silver (Production Head)


4. It united all of us -  we were all equal and gained respect from each other" -Rivky Saxon ("Captain Hook")

5. "We learned the important value of hard work". - Yael Itskowitz (Dance Head)


6. "My favorite part about production, was seeing all the girls coming together (on stage and off). For example, right before showtime  I saw girls getting worried and anxious that they will mess up, but girls from other grades came and calmed them down. It was a comforting sight to watch". - Liora Nimchinsky ("Mr. Darling" and Lost Boy)


7. "It's an interesting experience, and very different, and since we could do it in a group everyone can work through the challenge together. Having everyone united towards a common goal is a nice thing that happens less than it ought to, and unity is awesome, so there's that. It's fun to be able to stop being yourself for a little while and just become someone else. Everyone now has an entire set of references/inside jokes/whatever, that everyone knows! Friendship!  Myself, I think that it gave me an excuse to go out of my comfort zone, and that's definitely for the better. I've never been one for public speaking, but now I can say "Hey, at least you're not wearing a bright red hat during this speech." (Unless I'm wearing a bright red hat, of course. Then I'd have an issue.) It's really amazing at the end to be able to say that we did it." -Rivka Mandelbaum ("Mr. Smee")


8. "Thank you so much for bringing us into your production. This has truly been an amazing experience. Between Sophia and I, we have worked over 7 different associations/companies and you have been our favorite to work with. You all were fantastic off and on stage. The audience was roaring." -Jordan Schultz-McArdle and Sophia Kosowsky (Light and Sound Design)


9. "While it was hard and stressful at times, I cannot even begin to tell all of you how proud I am of each and every one of you.  I am so proud of the way you rose to the occasion, accomplished unbelievable feats, figured out how to work together as a team, and each and every one of you were forced to go out of your comfort zone. You were all awesome." -Mrs. Levari


10. "Getting to see every single member of the GHS (and some of the middle school as well) work together to create something from start to finish and to be truly proud of the result.  Each girl used some special skill set (painting, practicality, singing, dancing, humor, rationalism, creativity, to name a few) to participate in a collaborative effort for the community, and each other, to appreciate." -Ms. Brett


11. Production has created something that didn't just affect us during the time it was being made but also affected us afterwards bringing us closer and enjoying our high school experience more.- Shira Nimchinsky


12. It was a really unifying experience and it brought us all together as a high school and as friends. We now feel more connected and yes, have more private jokes! It was really good to go out of our comfort zone and push our limits and it felt really amazing when we were able to break down those boundaries and saw how far we were actually able to go. We saw how important teamwork is and how solving problems together makes them seem much smaller! I love production!!! :) :)  - Chedva Silver


Suffice it to say, we are all looking forward to Production 2017 (but are happy to take a break and rest from the theater for the time being!).  Thank you to everyone who helped, supported and watched our play!

Go Figure 

People who attended the HYPE Purim Megila reading and activities.  
points scored (including five 3 pointers) by 7th grader Aaron Kraut this past Sunday night in the MSB game.  

Facebook "likes" of the Hillel Academy page. NINE more than last week. We are pushing for 500. 
Who is going to be our 500th?!? 

                        Like us on Facebook

Walkie talkies used during the day which includes dismissal, recess duty and day-to-day operation. 


BHS basketball team's record going into the
buy week.
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. 



Last week's flashback Friday's photo is of Ilana (Balaban) Kanal and Rena (Margolis) Apt.

Well done Rena (Margolis) Apt and Jesse Mendelson for correctly guessing the photo. 

                                                         This Week's Photo 


Hillel Gear Spotted Here
Alum, Daniel Sax shows off his 2015 Alumni basketball jersey in DunedinFlorida at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Daniel is hanging out with "Ace," the Toronto Blue Jays Mascot. This was the first game of the 2015 Grapefruit League.  The Pirates prevailed and raised the Jolly Roger. Alverez and Kang both hit home runs that day.  Well done Dan and Let's Go Bucs!
Pittsburgh Tomchei Shabbos 


WE ARE LOOKING FOR INDIVIDUALS, COUPLES OR FAMILIES THAT WOULD BENEFIT FROM THE TOMCHEI SHABBOS PROGRAM! If you are interested or know someone who might benefit from the program, please contact Rabbi Wasserman at All inquiries are strictly confidential.


Mazel Tov!




Condolences - Please send condolences to

Around Town 


  • KIDDISH: Rabbi Oren and Dr. Rena Levy would like to invite the entire Hillel Academy Family to a kiddush in their home, 6429 Bartlett St., in honor of their daughter, Ayelet Rivka. The kiddush will be following services at Poale Zedeck. 
  • BNEI AKIVA: Snif this week is back at it's new time, 4PM - 5PM at Shaare Torah Cong. On Murray Ave. 
  • KESSER TORAH: Sunday mornings at 8:30am. Davening followed by learning, coffee and cake at Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh. All are invited!
  • GIRLS ONEG: Girl's Oneg every Shabbos from 3-4 in the PZ Educational Building.  All girls in grade K-6 are welcome!  Join us for a special Pre-Pesach program, "Makos Madness" on Shabbos March 28th!  No Girl's Oneg on April 4th and 11th. 
 Please send information by Sunday to



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

Please send condolence notices to