Akiba-Schechter Announces 1st Basketball Team in 3 Decades

Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School is thrilled to announce the formation of a basketball team, the Akiba-Schechter Stallions. The story of the team's creation starts several months ago, when several 7th and 8th grade boys approached Miriam Schiller, Head of School, with their idea: a basketball team. They had already polled their Middle School classmates to make sure there was support for a team, as well as spoken to faculty members to see if they could find a coach. By the time they walked into the office, all they needed was a “yes."

Next on the agenda was deciding on a mascot. For this, they created several designs and then submitted them to the entire Middle School for a vote. The verdict: The Akiba-Schechter Stallions. The team is open to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students and tryouts are not required.

Coaching the team is Justin Millner, who also teaches 5th and 6th grade Language Arts, among other subjects. Millner plays himself in several local sports leagues. The Stallions won their innaugural game against GEMS World Academy on January 25th. Learn more about game schedule, purchasing Fan Gear, and how to join the team, on our Stallions page.

Check out the Hyde Park Herald's article on the Stallions HERE.



Akiba-Schechter Welcomes New Head of School

The Board of Directors of Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Eliezer Jones as Head of School commencing with the 2017-2018 school year. Dr. Jones's selection is a result of the unanimous decision of the Board and enthusiastic support from the Head of School Search Committee, current Principal Miriam Schiller, the faculty, and all our school's stakeholders.

Dr. Jones is currently General Studies Principal of Valley Torah High School (VTHS) in Valley Village, California. He also currently assists EMEK Hebrew Academy (K-8, Sherman Oak, CA) as an educational consultant. Dr. Jones is a sought-after speaker and recognized innovator in Jewish education; most recently he was selected to join the HaKaveret: JEIC Team Challenge focused on developing multiple innovative and engaging models for delivering Judaic education in Jewish day schools.

Dr. Jones and his wife Cori and their five children are excited about moving to Chicago. They are thrilled that four of their children will be enrolling at Akiba-Schechter (the fifth is in high school) next school year. "It is one thing to want to lead an innovative and excellent school like Akiba-Schechter, but it is another to feel completely confident, it is where your children belong," Dr. Jones said. "My wife and I are excited to call Chicago home and even more excited to call Akiba-Schechter home."

The appointment of Dr. Jones concludes a comprehensive and competitive search. The Head of School Search Committee began its work in July 2015, assisted by consultants at Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools. The Committee facilitated an inclusive process in which students, parents, faculty, and staff gave input into both process and priorities, as well as met with our final candidates. The Search Committee members included teachers and administrators (Rhea Basa, Susan Carton, Carla Goldberg, Miriam Kass), and parents, alumni parents, and Board members (Leslie Landman, David Lowenthal, Julia Parzen, Jamie Roitman, Debbie Schwartz). Rabbi Avrohom Moller, Superintendent of Education for Associated Talmud Torahs of Chicago, also served on the Committee.

Miriam Schiller, who has served as Akiba-Schechter's principal for nearly 30 years, will continue to lead our school for the remainder of this school year. David Lowenthal, Chair of the Head of School Search Committee and Dr. Amanda Lorenz, President of the Akiba-Schechter Board of Trustees, said in an email to the community, "We speak for the entire Akiba family in saluting Miriam's exceptional efforts in shaping Akiba into the phenomenal school it is today.” Dr. Amanda Lorenz, went on to state “The Akiba Schechter Board of Trustees greatly appreciates Miriam Schiller for her many years of service and commitment to establishing a Jewish institution which has succeeded in providing a superior education within a strong community for all Jews.  We express our gratitude on behalf of all the students and teachers who have benefited throughout the years from her vision and guidance.”



2015-2016 News

Congratulations to our Middle School students, many of whom have received some pretty prestigious awards.

  • Sarah Campbell (8th), on placing 1st in the regional division of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Sarah will compete in Washington, D.C.
  • Shira David (7th) on advancing to the national level of the Chidon HaTanach (National Bible Contest). Shira will compete in New York City. Shira also came in 3rd place in Project Shine, a national Tikkun Olam Contest that grants seed money to teens with service projects. 
  • Aaron Faier (6th) on advancing to the State Level of the National Geographic Bee.

To read more about our students' awards, please read the article that appeared in the Hyde Park Herald newspaper.



On July 19, 2015, incoming 7th grader Shaina Grossman produced and danced in a performance at the University of Chicago’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. Shaina’s show, called “Piece by Piece,” was a mixture of different types of modern dance and ballet, featuring the troupes of many different dance companies throughout the Chicago area. The money raised from ticket sales will go directly to Chicago Public Schools’ Beard School, which services student with special needs—primarily those on the Autism Spectrum. Shaina’s brother, Spencer, attended Beard School for several years, and when it came time for her to think about her bat-mitzvah, raising funds for the institution seemed a perfect way for her to marry her two loves: dance, and her brother Spencer. Check out the media coverage of Shaina’s performance on our Media page. Check out photos of the performance on our Facebook page.


Congratulations to Shira Friedman-Parks, 7th grader (third from left), on advancing to the National Level of the History Fair. Shira’s project, “It’s Not Easy Being Clean,” was a website on the life and legacy of Josephine Cochran, inventor of the dishwasher. Shira presented her project during a week of festivities and judging in College Park, MD. Only 70 projects from the potential 10,000 in Illinois advance to the national level. We are so proud of you! Together with Shira are posed the other students who advanced to the state level in Springfield:

Sarah Campbell, paper: Bruno Bettelheim, Refrigerator Mother Theory
Shira Friedman-Parks, website: Josephine Conchran, Inventor of the Dishwasher
Isabel Kucher, exhibit: Jane Addams: Legacy of Legal Reforms
Bina Wilens, paper: Robert Mendelsohn, Medical Heretic
Zoe Weiner, website: Natasha Goldowski Renner, Woman of the Manhattan Project
Sarah Winitzer, paper: Ida B. Wells and her Anti-Lynching Campaign

Humanities Teachers Received Grant for Curriculum Development from the National Endowment for the Humanities

Akiba-Schechter 7th/8th grade Humanities teachers Mindy Schiller and Neil Landers were both accepted into a 4-week summer institute sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). While NEH Summer Institutes are held across the globe, this specific seminar, “Rethinking the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era: Capitalism, Democracy, and Progressivisms, 1877 to 1920,” will be held at the University of Illinois at Chicago during the month of July. Its topic is directly relevant to a critical part of the Year II Humanities curriculum. As participants, Mindy and Neil will each receive $3,300 stipends. Each NEH seminar accepts roughly 10 participants. Because the space is so limited and the demand so high, it is extremely rare for more than one educator to be accepted from the same institution. Mindy and Neil were also accepted at two other NEH seminars—on the role of the news media in the American Revolution and the Reconstruction Era, respectively.

Award-winning historian Robert Johnston (University of Illinois at Chicago) will guide the institute’s academic content, with the help of renowned experts in history, art, and architecture. Seasoned high school veterans will focus on pedagogy and integration of materials into the classroom. The NEH approach to teaching history—that is, placing themes at the center, starting with an “inquiry,” and using multiple disciplines to explore that inquiry—parallels the design of Akiba-Schechter’s Humanities course, where every unit begins by establishing the themes students will grapple with, forming “essential questions” to help them with this process, and then immersing students in as much primary-source material as possible.

Mindy and Neil are very excited to be able to participate in such an opportunity, and to be able to bring such excellent material back to the Akiba-Schechter community.

Learn more about the NEH Summer Workshop Program here.