In 1942, leaders from Associated Talmud Torahs and Hebrew Theological College came together to create the first Jewish day school outside of New York: Ida Crown Jewish Academy (ICJA). Its founders were determined to provide a rigorous curriculum dedicated to intensive Jewish study, in addition to secular subjects.
Seventy-five years later, the school continues to stay true to its founders' mission while offering a cutting-edge 21st century education. In addition to studying Torah and Talmud, students can enroll in a full range of Advanced Placement (AP) courses, as well as utilize the Maker's Lab, a space equipped with modern STEM technology, such as a 3D printer.
"The mission of our founders was to create a school where students could be both educated in the full curriculum of Jewish studies and general studies, so they could be members of the Jewish community and American society to the fullest," said Rabbi Leonard Matanky, ICJA's dean. "We have stayed true to our mission if you look at the products of Ida Crown. They are the leadership of youth movements in our city, and they volunteer in organizations that provide community services."
More than 4,000 students have graduated from ICJA, and nearly half live in Israel. Following graduation, more than 80 percent of graduates spend a gap year at a yeshiva or seminary studying Judaic studies, and many go on to top colleges in America and Israel. Matanky considers ICJA's alumni the school's "greatest accomplishment."
"We have created three generations of outstanding alumni," Matanky said. "What Ida Crown has done is fulfill the dreams of our founders 75 years ago. We have that sense of history, tradition, and community."
Matanky, an ICJA alumnus and former head of the Orthodox Union's Rabbinical Council of America, and his wife Margaret will be honored at a gala on March 18 celebrating ICJA's 75th anniversary.
"If there's one person that would represent the long history of leadership and success that 75 years represents, it's Rabbi Matanky," said Jacques Gliksberg, a member of ICJA's Board of Directors. "Rabbi Matanky, besides being the current dean, is an alum of the school and has been a teacher at the school. He represents the history of the school."
According to Gliksberg, Matanky's leadership was crucial as the school transition to its new Skokie campus two years ago.
"The new campus has brought the school to a whole new level in terms of physical facilities and the curriculum that it enjoys today," Glicksberg said. "Rabbi Matanky has been instrumental in making the school what it is today."