Celebrating Innovation And Leadership

This article was published in The Jewish Week. Read the original article here.

by Harlene Appelman

Each is committed to educating, pushing forward new ideas, shaking up dated mindsets, and harnessing a cross section of mediums and strategies to do so. They are creators, to the benefit of Jewish education, engagement and vitality.

In those respects, they represent exactly what The Covenant Foundation stands for and supports in the realm of Jewish education: leadership, innovation, creativity, community building, professional development, inclusiveness, diversity, commitment, excellence, and perhaps most importantly, impact.

For the record, who are these five? There’s Liz Lerman, founding
director of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, Tiffany Shlain, whose latest film traces the interrelated histories of the Jews and the Barbie doll, Daniel Sieradski, digital media director at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and social networking entrepreneur, and Barry Joseph and Rafi Santo, who have designed interactive teaching methods and high-tech tools to engage youth in civic concerns.

They form a diverse group, for sure. But by bringing these five together before an influential group of Jewish educational and communal leaders, The Covenant Foundation underscores and highlights their seemingly disparate realms, yet recognizes a common thread of creative innovation and leadership.

In this way, The Covenant Foundation is true to its role as convener -of people, perspectives and ideas.

This event in itself reflects our founders’ desires to not only honor the best among Jewish educators through the Covenant Award, and to support, with Covenant grants, those with the promise of making a mark or moving in experimental, yet promising modes, but also to provide a forum where educators and others can learn from and be challenged by each other, whether they be immediate peers or practitioners of more distant disciplines.

In 1991, I was honored to receive a Covenant Award, one of three inaugural honorees being recognized by a nascent foundation dedicated to reaching below the surface and onto the playing field of Jewish educators. The aim then, as it is now – nearly two decades later -was to publicly recognize that the most innovative practices and ideas are most often generated and developed by those meeting the challenge of doing the day-to-day educating, in its many definitions, realms, levels and venues.

At the beginning of this decade, noted author Margaret Wheatley wrote: “It is through conversations in which individuals openly share their stories that communities cultivate conditions for change and find ways to collectively explore the edges of uncertain – even unknowable -times.”

This is an apt description of the time we live and work in today. But through the fog of challenges, The Covenant Foundation seeks a road to clarity and advancement by acting as a catalyst of redefinition. That is, we aim to solidify Jewish education by revolutionizing it, and through that, having a profound impact in realms beyond it.

So, as we mark the establishment of The Covenant Foundation 18 years ago, we celebrate it as a platform for ideas and dreams, a nurturer of glorious work, and a source of optimism for our community’s future.

Harlene Winnick Appelman is executive director of The Covenant Foundation.

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