5685 Beacon Street | Pittsburgh PA, 15217  |  (412) 521-8131
Follow us on TwitterView on InstagramLike us on Facebook
Parshat Shoftim
September 9, 2016 - 6 Elul 5776

Shabbat Candle Lighting - 7:20 pm
Shabbat Ends - 8:26 pm
DVAR TORAH- Thoughts from the Principal & Educational Director
Parashat Shoftim presents the basic laws relevant to the future kings of Israel including the obligation for a king to write a sefer Torah which the Torah then tells us, "shall be with him" ("ve-hayeta imo" - 17:19).  The Gemara in Masekhet Sanhedrin (21b) explains that this verse means that "when he goes out to war he should take it with him; when he returns, he brings it with him."

The obligation to bring the Torah scroll out to battle serves as a reminder of the Torah's relevance and authority even under abnormal and difficult conditions. The Torah, therefore, requires the king to bring the sefer Torah with him when he goes out to war, reminding him and all of Bnei Yisroel, that the Torah remains relevant even under unusual circumstances and times of hardship.

It is interesting that there is a requirement for the king to bring the Torah with him when he returns from battle. Is it not obvious that the king should return with the sefer Torah? Here the Gemara addresses the reverse tendency mentioned above.  When the crisis subsides, and when the normal routine is restored, people might feel overly secure and neglect their relationship with Hashem. The king brings the sefer Torah back from warfare to indicate that the Torah must govern our lives through both thick and thin, in times of crisis and in times of tranquility. 

At Hillel our mission is to imbue the feeling of the centrality of Torah in all that we do. Whether in dire times or in the rote routine of daily life, we should realize the importance of Torah and Mitzvot.  One way to instill this into our students is to make the learning that they do here extend beyond the classroom. One example of this is that in the weeks preceding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, our K-4 has started their Walk Beside Me Initiative which includes activities in kindness, judging others favorably, honesty, showing appreciation, and speaking nicely.  Posters and plays highlight the students' work in these areas, as they learn about and instill these character traits in their being. Through incorporating the lessons learned at Hillel Academy into their everyday lives our students will carry Torah values with them wherever they go. 

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Sam Weinberg

Rabbi Weinberg can be reached at [email protected]

Advanced Placement Program Expanded for Upcoming School Year
Spencer Kingman teaches the AP Computer Science course. 
Advanced placement courses are taken in high school to prepare students for college courses.  APs, as they are more commonly known, have always been popular in high schools, and the college board website claims they can "broaden your college and career choices."  AP courses are usually more challenging than non-AP courses.  Students who choose to take an AP course also have to decide if they want to take the AP exam at the end of the school year. If they do take the exam, they need a score of four or five (out of five) for it to count towards college credit.

Hillel Academy high school students have been taking AP courses for years. Elky Langer, who has worked in Hillel as an administrator and teacher for over ten years remarks that, "AP's have been offered at Hillel for about ten years, but consistently for the last six (years)."  

Rina Itskowitz, mother of four current Hillel students and one alumna is no stranger to APs. Her daughter Yael ('16) took one AP class (along with three courses at Chatham University) while at Hillel, and Shira, who is in twelfth grade this year, took one when she was in tenth grade (English Literature and Composition), three last year and is enrolled in three this year. "I feel very strongly about APs," Rina said.  "Not only are they a good way to get college credits, they are also a good way to start training your children, while they are still under your roof, to manage these more difficult courses. I want to help them manage the workload, the stress and the time management so when they get to college, they are better prepared.  The negative results that can occur if they are ill prepared could be detrimental."

Hillel students usually score well on the AP exams. Last academic year the students in the girls' high school scored exceptionally high on their exams, with an average score of 4.1 on 7 different exams.  "I am very proud, but not surprised because I witnessed how incredibly hard they all worked throughout the year." recounted Assistant Principal Yikara Levari.

The success of last year's AP program inspired some of our current students to request a wider variety of AP courses. This year's high school students saw an AP flyer hanging on a bulletin board.  They took it down, circled the courses they wanted to study, and dropped off the flyer on Mrs. Levari's desk.  When Mrs. Levari she saw the flyer on her desk she remarked, "I was excited, seeing inspired students makes the job worth it. We immediately started talking to teachers to help them prepare, which is not easy.  We want to give the teachers as much notice and support as possible." One of the benefits of Hillel's teachers is their desire to grow and make Hillel the best school it can be. Mrs. Levari (and Rabbi Yisroel Smith) had no problem finding teachers to teach these new courses. Some of these courses have never been taught at Hillel, such as AP Physiology and AP Computer Science.       
Twelfth grade, Leah Joshowitz in enrolled is AP Biology this semester.

"I wrote the syllabus and then I sent it into the college board for approval," said Mia Meepegama, who is teaching AP Biology along with General Biology and physics this year. "The college board consists of college professors who read new syllabi to determine if the new course is up to par with college level courses. If they determine it is not, I will have to revise it."  

This year Hillel has 14 students taking AP courses.  "Some are even taking multiple course, as many as four at once," Rabbi Smith explained. "I feel like it really prepares me for college and my results on the exam tell me how I compare to other students around the country," says Shira Itskowitz who is currently taking AP US History, AP Statistics, and English Language and Composition.  Mrs. Itskowitz adds that, "AP courses make students more competitive when applying for colleges. The admissions officers look for students to challenge themselves in high school and APs do just that."

Steven Kohane ('13) who is working on his undergraduate in Chemistry from Yeshiva University explained that,"Taking AP Calculus allowed me to get ahead of the curve in the math components of my college major, saving me time and stress. While I did not receive college credit for my AP English Literature exam, Hillel's course exposed me to great classic works while the concepts that I learned and applied gave me confidence in my ability to perform careful literary analysis."

Hillel Academy students have always challenged themselves whether it be in general or Judaics courses.  Advanced Placement courses are just  another way Hillel prepares its students for the collegiate world  and is a key component  in fulfilling part of the school's mission statement, "to graduate young men and women with unlimited capacity to compete in a superior manner in any challenge they undertake..."

Danny Shaw can be reached at [email protected].

Weekly Photos

With Rosh HaShana right around the corner, what better way to prepare for the birthday of the world than by learning that Hashem created the world.   This past week the entire ECC learned about the seven days of creation.

Part of the ECC creation week - these students learned about the heavens and the earth. 

They also learned about the Day of Rest, Shabbat!

Mazel Tov to the MSG GO winners, (l-r), Shoshana, Tali and Rivka! 

Minyan is packed now at the JCC with the addition of the seventh and eight graders. 

The 8th grade girls in Ms. Letters' class are hard at work prepping for the SATs! Students are slowly integrating SAT vocabulary into their writing because you can never start preparing too early!

Research shows that when children smile and laugh, they are exploring and learning.

We celebrated elementary school birthdays in the upcoming month: Aharon Russell, Hila Azaria, Shaindy Cook, Daniella Poznanski, Elkie Apfel, Rena Brocha Rodkin, Eliana Elvgren, Rachelle Eisenberg, Rafi Belman, Chana Katz, Julia Ziff, Zeke Ufberg, Perel Langer, and Penelope Henteleff. Thank you to the following families for sponsoring this months birthday celebration: Ziffs, Bernsteins, Poznanskis, Eisenbergs, Belmans, and Russells! Happy birthday and Chodesh Tov!

The Art Department-
Joshua L. Sindler, z"l Creative Classrooms Art and Music Endowment Programs
To kick off the school year, every student in art class drew a self-portrait using a monochromatic color scheme. This means that they chose one color to draw their entire self-portrait. Using markers, crayons, and colored pencils, the students created a variation of tones by layering or varying the pressure of their pencils and crayons.

The portraits have been arranged in a color spectrum to symbolize the unity of our student body. We are all special individually and together we make the amazing Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh. These wonder works of art, made possible by the Joshua L. Sindler, z"l Creative Classrooms Art and Music Endowment Program, are on display in the main hallway. Please stop by to have a look at them.

Rita Gauscheman can be at [email protected] 

The Club Department 
Club confirmation emails were sent out and most clubs begin Monday! We are excited to have, alum, Viti Felder on Club Staff this year. She will lead the Violin Club and one of our two Music Clubs. Together with Ms. Natalie Tomaro from Duquense University, they make up the Music Department here at Hillel. Another program made possible by the Joshua L. Sindler, z"l, Creative Classrooms Art and Music Endowment Program.

The Following clubs DO NOT begin next week:
- Girls basketball
- Boys' basketball
- Tuesday sports club
- The intramural Hockey League 

The Cross Country season began in August with preseason workouts at the Oval.  This year's girls' team has 15 runners!  Both teams had their time trials on Thursday and will have their first meet on Monday against CDS, the Ellis School, and Shaydside Academy. The race starts at 4pm at the Bartlett Street Park.  Come out and support both teams!
Tomchei Shabbos

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

Alumni Updates

Mazel Tov to Tova Mendelson on her marriage to Naftaly Herskovic of Brooklyn, NY!
Mazel To Matthew Sax on his marriage to Jennifer Draiman of Rockville, MD!
Mazel Tov to Eden and Dalia Einav on the birth of their daughter Nava Esther on August 12, 2016!
Mazel Yov to
Jared Stufflebeam on his IDF swearing in ceremony. 
Around Town
Girl's Oneg: Starting this Shabbos!  For all girls in grades K-6.  3:30-4:30 in the PZ Educational building.  Hope to see you there! 

Shaare Torah Kiddish: 
We will celebrate an early Bar-Mitzvah for Elisha this Shabbat and will have a Kiddush for the birth of Tayir Eretz. We invite you all to join us at Shaare Torah (after Shachrit). 
-Sygal & Amos Azaria

Our school Google Calendar is accessible from our website - www.hillelpgh.org  and you can add it to your own Google calendar by clicking here and then clicking the "+" icon at the bottom right hand side of the page.    

When you #StartWithaSmile, Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price to Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh. Bookmark the link https://smile.amazon.com/ch/25-1067130 and support us every time you shop.

Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh

Please send condolence notices to [email protected].