The Hillel Happenings
The Official e-Newsletter of Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh
5685 Beacon Street ~ Pittsburgh, PA 15217 ~ (412) 521-8131
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Parshat Vayechi
December 25, 2015 - 13 Tevet 5776

Shabbat Candle Lighting - 4:40pm
Shabbat Ends - 5:49 pm
Dvar Torah by alumnus, Robert Itskowitz, in honor of the silver anniversary of his bar mitzvah
Parshat Vayechi, the last parsha in Sefer Bereshit, provides an incredible amount of information and lessons that we use on a daily/weekly basis. From the pasuk of "Hamalech Hagoel" that we say nightly in kriat shema al hamita (as well as the night before a brit) to the blessing that we give to our sons on Friday night, "May Hashem make you like Ephraim and like Menashe," to the importance of burying the dead as Yaakov instructs his sons (as well as Yosef's request regarding reburying his bones in Eretz Yisroel) before he dies. There is truly a lot packed into this parsha of 85 pasukim.  
In reality, one needs to look no further than the placement of the first words of this parsha, "Vayechi Yaakov" to find something distinct and unusual about this parsha compared to the other 53. There are generally three ways in which the Torah delineates and divides between its sections: 1) With a space, a minimum of nine letters width between its sections, 2) With a new line (similar to a new paragraph), and 3) With a multi-line space which is reserved for a division between the five books of the Torah. The beginning of Parshat Vayechi is the only parsha which is "closed" and thus there is no spacing between it and the end of the previous parsha, Vayigash.  Rashi offers two answers for this fact. First, he notes that as soon as Yaakov passed away, the eyes and hearts of his descendants were "closed" (i.e. it became dark for them) because of the misery and slavery that the Egyptians brought upon them. Another explanation, he offers, is that Yaakov attempted to reveal the end of the exile to his sons but it was "closed off" (concealed) from him.  

The Midrash Ha-bi'ur notes that the "closed" introduction to the parsha suggests that the Torah does not like to publicize the death of a righteous person. Although it appears that the death of Yaakov seems to constitute the primary theme of the parsha. It's ironic that we refer to this "closed" section as "Vayechi Yaakov- Yaakov lived." In the Gemora, Ta'anit 5b, it says, "Yaakov Avinu lo met - Yaakov our father never died." What exactly does it mean when it says our father Yaakov never died? 

The Rashba, a leading authority in Spain during the 13th century, noted that Yaakov stood apart from Avraham and Yitzchak in that all of his children followed in his example of piety and helped to form into Hashem's chosen people.  The piety of all twelve of Yaakov's sons testified to Yaakov's spiritual completeness, such that spiritually speaking, he never "died." According to the Abarbanel, 15th century Portugal and Italy, Yaakov's eternal life is manifest in the fact that our nation "Bnei Yisroel" bears his name. As Am Yisroel which descends from the entirety of Yaakov's household is eternal, so is Yaakov. Therefore, the parsha that is devoted to his death quite appropriately bears the title,"Vayechi Yaakov"- "Yaakov lived. "
Shabbat Shalom!

Rob Itskowitz
Josh Sindler, z'l, Creative Classroom Art & Music Program 

Second graders paints the watercolor background to their solar system drawings. 
Wire sculpture projects explanation.

Finished wire sculpture projects. 
Alumni Updates
Shayna Stiebel: Mazel tov to Shayna Stiebel on her engagement to Moe Wolf! Mazel Tov to the entire Stiebel and Wolf families!

Baruch November 
Was honored to read some of his poetry and to judge a poetry contest put together by the Yeshiva Poetry Society. Well over a hundred high school students were in the audience.
 The schools competing were Kushner, Frisch, TABC, Ma'ayanot, YUHSG, Shalhevet, SAR, DRS and SKA. Baruch notes, "I am happy to say poetry has a bright future."  
New! - FAB GHS Newspaper - Humans of Hillel

Second semester club registration will open NEXT WEEK and will stay open for two weeks. Most of the clubs that were offered during the first semester, will again be offered during the second semester. 

Clubs that will be added are tennis, additional art for younger grades, music, chess, tech shop, and a few others.

HAIHL Standings 
Team ~ Captain
Team A ~ Pinny 
Team D ~ Yitzy 
Team C ~ Zalman 
Team B ~ Reuven 

Mitzvos & middos club. 
The members of the ballet club practice their toe flexes. 
Mitzvos & middos club.

The hockey league continued this week with two exciting games.  The second game ended in a shootout. The game winner came from 4th grader Nate Itskowitz

Please consider joining and/or donating to the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Western PA. They are one of our generous donors who help make clubs possible.
Go Figure

Toddlers potty trained in our toddler program. We are shooting for 100% by June. 

Feet (unofficial) of police tape used to seal off the area during Wednesday's lock down. 

Followers on Twitter, two more than last week. 
Follow us on Twitter
Minutes (2:20 pm - 3:31 pm) we were in lock-down on Wednesday.

Facebook likes, one more than last week.
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Family Feature: Tal and Sagi Perel
Hi, and welcome to Hillel Academy, what made you chose us? A lot of our friends recommended Hillel as a friendly and warm place, so we decided to give it a try! 

What is your favorite part of the fastest growing Jewish day school? The staff is great: they are great with the children, very warm and full of love. The best proof is that our little one is very happy to go there every morning. 

What has been a surprise for you? How open and welcoming the community is, even though we were not part of it before.  The after-school events really help bring families together.

Where do you like to spend your Sundays? We enjoy playing soccer with the boys in the park :-)

What do you both do professionally? Sagi is a software engineer and Tal is a Hebrew teacher. 

What do you do with all the wonderful projects Michal brings home? We take photos of all of them. We keep most of them, it's a great memory.  We send some to the grandparents in Israel.

Any winter break plans? We will be going to an indoor water park! 

What makes Shabbat special in your home? Every Friday we have friends coming for Kiddush and we spend quality time together on Shabbat. 

Quick Pick:

Real snow or man-made? Real snow - there is nothing like the real thing! 

Warm winter or cold winter? That's a hard one... but warm winter. 

Star Wars 2015 or Star Wars 1977? Star Wars 2015 was good, but 1977 wins! 

Neil Walker at 2B or Josh Harrison? Neil Walker, he has more experience and he is the hometown kid. Too bad we lost him. 

Coke or Pepsi? Coke, let's be honest, it's a better product. 

Mac or PC? PC... Mac hardware is great, but love PC software!

Shabbat Shalom!
Weekly Photos

First graders getting ready for their big day, receiving their very first Chumashim. 

Josh and Yishai program their Finch robot. 

Yael and Chedva were guest story tellers at last week's Oneg.  
This week, in honor of the letter 'F,' pre-k learned about feet, fingers, and thumbs. First, we looked at a cat's paw. The students learned that another name for fingers and toes is 'digits.'

Cats have four digits on each foot. Bears have five. The students compared their own hands with the animal paws.  Students have five digits on each hand like the bear, but unlike the bear's, our digits aren't all bunched together in a line. We have thumbs that stick out to the side. Our thumbs are 'opposable.' To understand what this means, the students created a cat's paw with four child-sized digits, all next to each other. Chimpanzees also have opposable thumbs and big toes, as do gorillas and orangutans. Note that chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans are apes, not monkeys. Monkeys have tails. Apes do not.

Extraneous tangent: When Curious George gets in trouble and starts running away and people are chasing him and yelling, "Stop that monkey! Stop that monkey!" he never stops. George does not have a tail. He's an ape, not a monkey. Maybe that's why he keeps on running. 

The best way to learn why opposable thumbs are important is to not be able to use them for a while. The students prepared to do several tasks without using their thumbs by putting Super-Scientific-Thumb-Immobilizers on their hands. Then they tried picking up pattern blocks and writing their names or drawing a picture with crayons -- no thumbs allowed. The students then took off the thumb-immobilizers, made patterns, and used the crayons some more. All the students were extremely relieved when they were allowed to use their thumbs again! Now they understand why cats can't use crayons very well -- no thumbs.

-Morah Elaine

Adam Kugleman from Yeshiva University came to school on Wednesday to present to our high school students on Wednesday and to talk with parents in the evening. 

Kindergarten making bread and learning the bracha of hamotzie.

This is what we do during lock down - family style Oneg! 
Hillel Pop Grid by Liora Nimchinsky 
In honor of the 1st grade Chumash presentation that will be taking place on Friday, Liora decided to find out what is on their minds.

Students in the Mix
If you could be president for the day, what would you do?
What's something you're most proud of?
What do you want to be when you grow up
Yosef Levari
Tell everyone what to do  
Ben Davis
I would give everyone $1000
Owning guinea pigs
Yehoshua Levy
Put everyone in Jail
Our classes guinea pig, Snow
Gavi Poznanski
Tell everyone to give me $1000
Football player
Eli Nimchinsky
I would make myself president forever
Our store in class
Hannah Goldwasser
I would let everyone have free Rita's
That my name is Hannah
I'll decided when I'm older
Kayla Goldwasser
Make 1000 cakes for my parents
That I'm in 1st grade
Chani Milch
Eat ice cream
Being in 1st grade
A teacher
Liba Weisswasser
Tell everyone to give me $1000
That I have a little sister
A morah
Sarah Avishai
I would go shopping
I'm proud that I'm in art

Tomchei Shabbos

If you are interested or know someone who might be interested in volunteering, please contact me at
HYPE - Are you HYPED?!

HYPE offers a variety of classes during the day and in the evening. Including this one with Rabbi Sam Weinberg: Exploring the Maharal on Pirkei Avot Thursday 1:30-2:15 pm  We also offer:
  • Rabbi Daniel Yolkut: Fresh Looks at Familiar Stories: Chumash through the eyes of Rav Yaakov Medan Wednesday 1:30 pm - 2:15 pm
  • Rabbi Oren Levy: Introduction to Talmud Monday 8:30 pm -9:15 pm
  • Rabbi Wasserman on Navi: The Book of Joshua - Mondays from 8:15 am until 9 am, main office. 

Mazel Tovs
Mazel Tov to Hillel Academy parents Robert and Cecilia Banks on the birth of Brianna Mya!

Mazel Tov to big brother Charlie and big sister Sandy!

Please send Mazel Tov notices to
Hillel Gear Spotted Here!
Hillel Gear stretches near and far. Each week we feature photos that families send into the Hillel Happenings with different items of Hillel swag. If you are looking to purchase Hillel Gear, it will be on sale soon. 
The Pens may not be so hot right now, but that did not stop Rob and Yona from cheering them on.  What's even better is that Rob was seen wearing his Hillel Academy full zip fleece jacket. 
Teacher Feature: Morah Teyonta Hudgins
Welcome to Hillel! How did you first learn about Hillel?I learned about Hillel from my friend Jasmine who is the basketball coach and is a one of the toddler teachers.  
It feels good when someone offers you a job, right? What was the first thing you did? Yes, sir it does! I called my mom and then I replaced my wardrobe with skirts. 

What room do you work in? I worked in the younger infant room, but I am currently a floater for all of the ECC. 
What's the best part of the day?  Nap time, because I get to eat my lunch.  But, seriously, I enjoy morning time because the children come in with such smiles, it warms my heart. I also enjoy teaching them something new.  The look on their faces is priceless. 

It's an exciting time in Hillel, so much growth and unique programming.  I love Hillel!  We have so many students. I heard there are ECC waiting lists. We need more SPACE!

What do you do when you are not at work? When I'm not at work I go from a morah to a mommy. 

What's your teaching philosophy? Learning is student centered. They learn best through hands on activities.

What are your hobbies? Being a cool parent.

Your birthday is coming up. Any big plans?  I'm going to New York to see the ball drop for New Years.

That's exciting! I have always wanted to do that. I just saw a segment on Fox and Friends on the NYPD mounted unit.  Can you take a Hillel gear photo with one of the officers and his horse, please? Of course, I will one up you. How about get on that thing?!
Quick Picks:

Skiing or snowboarding? Snowboarding, it is more challenging.

Bahamas or Cancun? Bahamas, even though Cancun is a shorter flight (3h 35min  vs. 4h 25min). My Spanish is not so good right now, I am working on it. 

Alligator or Camel?  Alligators, they are more dangerous and anyway, camels spit. 

Hoodie or crew neck?  Hoodie, I like to be prepared for anything, rain, cold, or even someone I don't feel like talking with at that point.  

Thanks for your time!

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 doing. 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.

This week's Photo:

Debating Ethics - We are now on winter break and will resume Jan. 5
Open Beit Midrash with Dinner for Teens at Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh

Together with J Line, Hillel Academy is proud to offer the Torah for Teens
What: Study Texts Over A Great Meal with Your Friends
When: Tuesdays, 6:20 pm - 7:20 pm - Jan 5 - guest lecture, Rabbi Sam Weinberg
Who: Teens
Cost: FREE!

Bring a Friend and Your Appetite - this week we will be serving pizza.

For questions please email
Hillel Gym Schedule 
There are many athletic classes offered in our gym, most are free of charge. They are not school sponsored so please contact the person in charge of that group with questions. If you are interested in using our gym please contact Danny Shaw -
Around Town 
  • APPLES FOR THE STUDENTS: Please be sure to register your Giant Eagle Advantage Card by clicking HERE and enter our school ID - 0454. 
  • BNEI AKIVA:Who: All 2nd-8th graders When: Shabbat Kodesh at 3:30 pm (note the time change). Where: Shaare Torah
  • GIRL'S ONEG: Oneg Melava Malka Motzei Shabbos December 26th 7-8pm at Pfeffer 5840 Beacon st.
    Shabbos Program is January 9th at PZ from 3-4pm. Looking forward to our next exciting event! Check out our blog
  • GYM & SWIM FOR BOYS: The program will begin this week on Motsoei Shabbos at Allderdice High School. The pool will be open for all students the entire time. The gym will be assigned as follows:1stGrade through 4thGrade: 7 pm - 8 pm 5th grade through 8th grade: 8 pm - 9 pm. The cost of the program is $4 per student. There is a family maximum of $12.Please note the program will take place on the following dates: December 19, January 9, January 16, January 23, February 20, and February 27.

camp flyer

Applications for need-based college scholarships for the 2015-2016 school year are available from the Central Scholarship & Loan Referral Service (CSLRS) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. This program is administered by Jewish Family & Children's Service. The funds are made available through the generosity of families who have established endowments through the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Jewish Community center, National Council of Jewish Women, Jewish Women International of Pittsburgh (formerly B'nai B'rith Women), The Pittsburgh Foundation, and Rodef Shalom Congregation.All awards are distributed on the basis of demonstrated financial need. Depending on the scholarship fund, other factors such as academic achievement, field of study, school attending, and Jewish and general community involvement will also be considered. In addition, the applicant must be Jewish, reside in Allegheny, Westmoreland, Beaver, Butler or Washington County for at least two years, and need financial assistance to attend an accredited institution of higher education We would appreciate your assistance in aiding local students by publishing an announcement about the work of the Central Scholarship committee. The 2016-2017 CSLRS on-line application is available at All applications are due February 11, 2016.
First-time applicants must be interviewed. Students whose applications are received by 
December 11, 2015 may be interviewed during winter vacation. All of the limited number of 
after school, evening, spring break and Sunday appointments will be assigned on a "first 
come, first served" basis to those whose applications are submitted by January 15, 2016. If 
students have scheduling needs (such as work, or attending school out of town) it is 
important to submit as early as possible, by 1/15/2016. All applications should be submitted 
as early as possible to ensure processing.
If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at (412) 422-5627 or e-mail me at

5685 Beacon Street - Pittsburgh, PA 15217

Please send condolence notices to