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 Behar
May 27, 2016 - 19 Iyar 5776
34th Day of the Omer

Shabbat Candle Lighting - by 8:22 pm
Shabbat Ends - 9:31 pm
Dvar Torah - Thoughts from the Principal & Educational Director 
In Parshat Behar the Torah presents the prohibition of "ona'a"  which literally translates as "oppression." The Torah cites this prohibition in two different ways.  Rashi famously cites from Chazal that these commands refer to two different offenses, specifically, ona'at mammon - charging or paying an unfair price for merchandise; and ona'at devarim - speaking hurtfully to one's fellow.  The Torah here emphasizes how important it is to be mindful of how we speak and that we don't hurt anyone else with our words. While conceptually this precept is easy to understand, it is a much more difficult obligation in practice. Occasionally we meet someone who exemplifies this character trait, who can serve as an inspiration for all of us. This week we mourned the sad and untimely passing of our beloved Ivrit teacher, Morah Irit Taasan, z"l. Morah Irit exemplified these middot. 
For over seventeen years Morah Irit served as an Ivrit teacher at Hillel Academy. She brought her passion for Ivrit and her love of Israel to every class that she taught. Morah Irit oversaw the transformation of our Ivrit curriculum from a hodgepodge of materials to our current Tal-Am and Neta curriculum. However, my lasting memory of Morah Irit will be the respect with which she treated every student, parent, or fellow faculty member. In the seven years that I knew her, I cannot recall Morah Irit ever saying a negative thing about anyone. She was careful to respect all of the different Hashkafot of our school and never once made a disparaging remark about everyone. 
In today's society it is hard to find people who have different world views yet still treat one another with respect. One only needs to follow the current elections, and more importantly read the comments below any election article, to understand my point.  But, Morah Irit was not like that. Morah Irit truly respected everyone and was careful to never hurt anyone with her actions or words. This week we celebrated Lag B'Omer with a unity celebration with CDS and Yeshiva. In Irit's merit may we continue to use our words to bring people closer to one another and grow together as a school and as a people.
Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Weinberg

Rabbi Weinberg can be reached at [email protected]

Morah Irit Taasan 
"Morah Irit was one of the kindest, sweetest, and  most sensitive people that I have ever met. She cared deeply about her students and her loss will be  greatly felt," Rabbi Weinberg.

With the usual sounds of a Monday morning and the sun shining brightly, we held a memorial service for Morah Irit, z"l, before her aron was driven to New York and evenly loaded on a plane bound for the Holy Land. Rabbi Smith began the service with Tehilim. Rabbi Nimchinsky followed with recitation of Tehilim. Then Rabbi Weinberg gave a very moving eulogy and Rabbi Admon concluded the service with another eulogy and Kel Maleh Rachamim. As the car exited the parking lot and make a right onto Beacon Street, all those gathered, including students, faculty, staff, family members and friends walked behind the car. 

"While we may never be able to fully replace Morah Irit, z"l, her memory and impact will forever be part of the fabric of our school. In that way, her life will continue to affect those children for whom she cared so deeply," Rabbi Sutofsky.

מורה אירית ,נזכור אותך תמיד עם חיוך וסבלנות לכל תלמיד ותלמידה.בזכותך נזכור: ״אירית בת מנחם״ ת.נ.צ.ב.ה

Reb Shaw can be reached at [email protected]  
Message from Rabbi Weinberg
Life is full of difficult and complex choices. Navigating through these choices is not always easy.  At Hillel
Academy we give our students the tools necessary to think clearly and make thoughtful and sound decisions. On the surface this video is about our robotics program at Hillel Academy, but this video is really about decision making. Enjoy this video, and please join us at our annual dinner 
this coming Tuesday night at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Centerto see how all of these videos come together. If you have not already RSVP's please do so by calling the office at (412) 521-8131 or email [email protected].

Shabbat Shalom!
#1 - Painting a Brighter Future 
Building a Brighter Future
#2 - Building a Brighter Future

Josh Sindler, z"l, Creative Classrooms Art & Music Program 
The Night of Art and Music is for students in grades 3-12, their parents, and the community. Admission is free. Email Dan Shaw at [email protected] or call (412) 521-8131 for more information


"Akiva Silver using one-point perspective to draw a street scene."
Alumni Updates
Many people worked or attended Hillel and really became a part of our family, but for various reasons moved to other cities. Here are updates on some of them.

Mazel Tov to Deenie Wasserman on upon earning her medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She will begin her residency in Philadelphia. 

Mazel Tov to Zalman and Yaakov Moses on earning their undergraduate degrees from Yeshiva University!

Mazel Tov to Viti Felder, Leora Posin and Sari Joshowitz on earning their undergraduate degrees from Stern College!  

Mazel Tov to Elyssa (Brent) Faigen upon her graduation from Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University! She will be starting at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital at Case Western for her pediatrics residency.
Senior Profile - It's time to bid farewell to our 12th graders & welcome our newest alumni.
The academic year is rapidly coming to an end, which means it is time for the Hillel Happenings to profile our senior class. This week we featured Yael Itskowitz.

What are your favorite memories? Our eighth grade pranks on various teachers (you know who you are).
How will you remember Hillel? As the place I grew up.

What college do you plan to attend? Shaalvim for Women in Yerushalaim and then Sy Syms School of Business at Yeshiva University 

What advice can you offer to the underclassmen? Remember that high school doesn't last forever 

Any final thoughts?  I am so excited for my future and want to thank everyone who helped me get to this point, especially my parents.

Clubs - Are now over for the year, see you next year!
In celebration of their HAHL Championship, Milky  Way treated the team to a pizza party! 

This past Wednesday, in the spirit of Lag B'Omer, the BHS team played a friendly game against the Yeshiva.  Hillel won 50-23. And with that game, senior Ben Ungar concluded his Hillel Academy basketball career which began back in fourth grade.  Thank you Ben for your commitment and your fire.  Good luck in the future!

The Jewish Day School Lag B'Omer Unity Event

The magician Weird Eric entertained our younger ECC at a Lag B'Omer special event.  Imagine slight of hands, card tricks, levitation, tricks with scarves and rabbit tricks of course!  The children's faces were priceless as he amazed them and the audience participated too! Weird Eric encouraged the children to learn more tricks on his website.   

The Unity Wave
The Unity Wave


Alumni Feature: Tobi Siebzener - 1994 - 2009
Hello, and thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Let's start with a favorite memory from your days as a student in Hillel. Some of my favorite times at Hillel were spent with my classmates. For example, going the high school retreats, participating in color war, and the productions were some of my best moments. I think the fact that we were so small in numbers really made a difference. We always felt really close to one another. One of the greatest things about my time at Hillel was having these teachers who actually cared about each individual student. The teachers would seek out a student if he or she was doing poorly and try to come up with solutions to help him or her.
What organizations are you currently involved in? I'm mostly involved with the Givat Shmuel Community. It's an organization in an area near Tel Aviv called Givat Shmuel where a lot of young Olim live. The organization hosts events to help young people with little family in Israel feel more at home.
How do you earn a living? I work at an animation studio in Tel Aviv called Snowball Studios. We create a lot of commercials, TV shows and some movies in Israel. It's an amazing and wonderful studio filled with immensely talented people. I really look forward to coming to work every day.

What got you into this business and what is your role in the company? It all started from when I was in my first year of college. I had this class with an amazing teacher who let us use different programs to create our projects. We used a 3D program and I was fascinated. I wanted to do more with 3D and my teacher encouraged me to pursue computer animation. My role in the company is more on the technical side. The word for what I do is called "rigging". It's basically creating the mechanics for allowing anything to move in 3D space.

What's the most interesting part of the job? There are lots of interesting parts to my job but I really look forward to interesting characters that challenge me to think of creative solutions. 
One of the commercials Tobi worked on. This one if for health insurance.
One of the commercials Tobi worked on. This one if for health insurance.

What advice can you give others who may want to go into animation? I would have to advise people to work and learn outside the classroom. There's so much to learn in animation that you can't just learn everything in school. There's a lot of free information online that can easily be accessed. 

How did Hillel Academy prepare you for the future? I think it gave me a lot of skills that I use daily.

How do you spend your down time? I try to go on hikes and explore this beautiful land with its rich history.

Who was your first Hillel teacher? I'm not really sure who my first teacher was. I was 3 when I first came to Hillel so it's a bit foggy.
Another commercial.
Another commercial.

What was your favorite class? Probably בראשית with Mrs. Langer.

Did you have a favorite teacher? Who was it and why? I think I had a few favorite teaches for different time periods of my growing up. I know Mr. Werber was one. I always remember his joke of the day. It was so exciting to hear the joke each each day. Mrs. Z was also a favorite. She always had a way of making what we were learning funny. I remember she had these really cool chachkies on her desk.

What are your Shavuot plans? I'll be spending Shavuos with my relatives in Ra'anana.  

Besides the hikes, what else brought you to Israel? The shwarma

Are you still a Pens fan? Always and forever 

 Did you know you nephew, Josh's, team won the Hillel Cup? Of course I know! I heard and I saw his picture in the Hillel Happening. Mazel tov!

What's it like being the sister of the most popular restaurant in Pittsburgh? Well I've held this title for about 14 years now. It's on my resume right at the top.

Quick Pick: 

Pita or Lafa? Lafa no question!

Kvish Echad or Emek? Emek
Kraft Stadium or Heinz Field? Heinz Field

Hillel now or Hillel then? Hillel now 


Go Figure

 Straws used to create mini-greenhouses connected to our current novel - The City of Ember.

2 fiddler crabs in fourth grade molted.
GHS students that beat Rachel Cohen in air hockey during retreat. 

GHS students who went rafting.  

Facebook likes, 3 more than last week.

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Weekly Photos

The 5th grade girls went on a field trip to Weinberg Village where they helped residents plant flowers and vegetables.  It was a meaningful experience for both the girls and the residents.  Friendships were quickly formed and the girls received high compliments for being able to include all the residents by offering them a choice of flowers to plant and asking them where they would like to place them in the gardens. Some residents were having so much fun that they decided they would be honorary 5th grade Hillel students for the morning.

Morah Rivka's students enjoy the outdoors.

The Mattress Factory Gallery visited the pre-k to present an art installation that focused on lines. As a follow-up to our visit during March, the children had the opportunity to sit inside a tent like dome, we have with yarn, and create individual clay/pipe cleaner artifacts. The educators brought to life at a child's level of understanding how lines are present in art. They also read the story Harold and the Purple Crayon which complimented the morning activities perfectly!  

This year's FAB GHS retreat was a meaningful experience. The trip included outdoor activities that encouraged individual strength and collaborative encouragement. Throughout retreat, members of the GHS shared memories of beloved teacher, Morah Irit, z"l, and discussed ways to honor her memory and the school's commitment to Israel, which she helped to foster. Retreat was a special occasion that brought the GHS close as students comforted each other and laughed together. 

The fourth grade is working on Ancient Mesopotamia in Social Studies.  While discussing the Sumerians, we learned about their development of writing.  A cylinder seal was usually carved out of clay or precious stone and featured a unique pattern to verify someone's identity and "seal" important documents.  We used air dry clay and cuneiform to create our own seals.  We used ink pads to try them out.  Some worked better than others, but it was fun to try!

Second chances (left): In honor of Pesach Sheni the elementary grades eat matzah. Instead of eating sacrificial lamb with the mazah, Mr. Brown donated powdered sugar. 

The kindergarten (right) worked on a project which taught about Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son in the cave in honor of Lag B'Omer.

Six girls who earned the reward of a davening trip went with Mrs. Itskowitz to Color Me Mine where each girl got to decorate her own mug. 

Hillel Pop Grid by Liora Nimchinsky 
This week Liora caught up with skydrivers at the Lag B'Omer Jewish Day School event. Enjoy this week's grid.  You can always email us questions you would like asked in an upcoming issue,

Skydiver in the Mix
When did you start jumping?
What's your favorite part about sky diving?
What made you want to start Skydiving?
Have you ever had an injury?
How many jumps have you made?
Cory Smith
Since I was 18. I made my first tandem jump then I started really getting into it when I was 22.
The view of everything from a different perspective. I'm so used to being on the ground, some time in the sky is nice.
I grew up around it all my life, My dad has been a jumper since I was born, and once I took that first dive I never stopped.
I once stubbed my toe on a rock but that was after my jump
378 Jumps
Craig Cushion
In 1989
Feeling like Superman
A friend of mine asked me and I've been here ever since
Just over 7,000
Kara Wright
I made my first jump when I was 4, and it was on my bed.
Its very calming
My left pinky toe
I once saw one, but was never injured

Around Town
Teen Scene: Girls in grades 6 & 7 Shabbos afternoon group May 28th at PZ, 3:30-4:30. Girls in grades 5-8: The Shabbaton is June 3-4!  

Girl's Oneg: Girls in grades K-5 meet in the PZ Educational Building from 3:30-4:30.  There will be no Oneg on June 4th due to the Teen Scene Shabbaton.  The final week of Oneg will be June 11th.  Details on our closing activity coming soon!

Bnei Akiva: Snif - Mifkad begins at 4:30pm All kids in grades 2-8 are invited.

Mordy Brown Catering - June Menu and Order Form
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.

Leslie Itskowitz guessed correctly that last week's FBF was Dr.  Esther Shkop.

Last week's FBF.
This week 's Photo:


Hillel Gear
Hillel Gear stretches near and far.  Each week we feature photos that families send into the Hillel Happenings with different items of Hillel swag.  

The Yolkuts recently traveled to Keystone State Park with the Kaminsky family. Part of their adventures included building a sand castle complete the with Hillel magnet. 

Mazel Tov
Mazel Tov to Dave and Susanna Crish on the birth of a baby girl, Lyria, this past Friday!

Mazel Tov to Rabbi and Mrs. Silver on the birth of a granddaughter, Leeba, to alumnus, Yehuda Yona and Chava Silver also on Friday!

Please send Mazel Tovs to [email protected].
Tomchei Shabbos

If you are interested or know someone who might be interested in volunteering, please contact me at [email protected].


5685 Beacon Street - Pittsburgh, PA 15217

Please send condolence notices to [email protected].