2012 Double Chai in the Chi

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Ilana Marczak

Ilana Marczak is having a profound impact on the next generation of Jews, according to Rabbi Robin Damsky and Lee Lazar, who each nominated Ilana for Double Chai.

Ilana has been director of the Early Childhood Program at West Suburban Temple Har Zion, where she "is a master at turning her students' interests into comprehensive multifaceted learning experiences that inspire their minds and make school fun," according to Lazar, whose children attend the school. "She has only begun what will be a long career in starting children down the path of learning in a fun, comfortable, challenging and Jewish environment."

"She inspires the children to be more than one imagines children can be in both Jewish and secular contexts, giving them authority, challenging them intellectually, igniting their creativity and giving them responsibility," said Damsky. "Ilana is educating Jewish children ages 2 to 5. These are the future leaders of the Jewish community. With a start such as this, with someone believing in their capacity and ability, the children that are in the program are completely transformed … What a great foundation for healthy, creative, innovative Jewish adults!"

Ilana Marczak


Pays the bills:
Director of Early Education Program, West Suburban Temple Har Zion, River Forest

Relationship status:

How do you Jew in Chicago?
My family and I do what is fun for us. Most of the time we 'Jew' outside of Chicago as I work in River Forest and grew up at Temple Chai in Long Grove. It is where we feel connected and welcome.

My passion is always my family first, but my job, which I feel is more fun than a task, is where I put the rest of my heart.

How do you give back?
I think I give back in the day-to-day life of working with children. Sometimes I laugh as the children give back more to me than I do to them, I think. They are always happy, fun, eager to learn. 

Fill in the blank: If time and money were limitless, I would:
create a school where partnerships and relationships are top priority and where children are allowed to be who they are, not what we want them to be. The motto: We want children to be thinkers, not doers.

Chicago's Jewish community in 10 years:
I think we have a good sense of community. Just to remain strong and supportive of one another, no matter what.

Me in 10 years:
Running the school I mentioned above - and having more children of my own. Hopefully two more. Seeing my children and those I have taught grow up to be independent, happy and confident.