Recipients, representing a range of educational settings and approaches, are: Rabbi Marc Baker, Head of School at Gann Academy – The New Jewish High School of Greater Boston; Robert Beiser, Campus/JConnect Repair the World Director at Hillel at the University of Washington in Seattle; Anna Hartman, Director of Early Childhood Education at Greenfield Hebrew Academy in Atlanta; Gilah Kletenik, Congregational Scholar at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York; and, Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein, Associate Rabbi at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, NY.
The Foundation announced the establishment of the new prize – and the inaugural recipients – at its annual award ceremony here during the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.
“We know that encouragement early on in a person’s career can make all the difference in their success,” said philanthropist Lester Crown, as he introduced the Pomegranate Award and its first recipients to hundreds of Jewish lay, communal and educational leaders gathered at the event.
“Our goal with this new Prize is to provide the means for these already remarkable educators to further develop their skills, fulfill a dream or two, and have the chance to get to know others who, like themselves, are bringing fresh new ideas and abundant energy to the field of Jewish education.”
The Pomegranate Prize takes its place next to The Covenant Award, which since 1991 has honored three exemplary Jewish educators each year for their records of innovation and impact across Jewish education settings. This new Prize, recognizing passionate, emerging leaders in Jewish education, goes to those in the field for 10 years or less.
“The Pomegranate Prize represents both a solution and an opportunity for The Covenant Foundation,” said Eli N. Evans, Chairman of the Board. “It is a solution because as we looked back on the 21-year history of The Covenant Award, we realized that the next generation of teachers could not compete with the experience and accomplishments of more seasoned nominees. This new award program is designed to nurture the seeds of emerging talent and publicly recognize their potential to contribute to a more promising future for Jewish education.”
It is the intention of The Covenant Foundation to create a growing network of Pomegranate Award recipients and provide a laboratory and platform for them as they immerse themselves in foundation-supported professional development and leadership programs, peer-to-peer gatherings, mentorships and other educator initiatives. Each recipient will receive a $15,000 fund to fuel educational projects and their development as change agents in their communities and in Jewish education.
“The Pomegranate Prize recognizes that ‘from generation to generation’ includes not only crossing the generations from teacher to student, but also nurturing the next generation of teachers and honoring the work of those in the early stages of their careers in Jewish education,” said Martha Minow, Dean of Harvard Law School and a board member of The Covenant Foundation.
“This effort allows the Foundation to celebrate great and imaginative efforts by people relatively new to Jewish education and, we hope, inspire others to follow in their paths.”
Establishment of the new prize, and the resources dedicated to the recipients, is an investment in the future and dynamic nature of Jewish education, said Harlene Winnick Appelman, Executive Director of The Covenant Foundation.
“We believe deeply that a teacher’s passion can spark generations and encourage positive social growth. The Pomegranate Prize will become a unique and powerful tool that can support that passionate growth, not only by identifying new levels of excellence and by encouraging specific innovations, but also by changing wider perceptions, creating a community of problem-solvers, building the skills of individuals, and mobilizing new talent.”
Biographical snapshots of the 2011 Pomegranate Prize recipients:
Rabbi Marc Baker, Head of School at Gann Academy – The New Jewish High School of Greater Boston, is a graduate of Yale University, Hebrew University, and Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. He spent four years as a teacher and administrator at The Weber School in Atlanta and served for a year as Associate Head for Student and Jewish Life before becoming Head of School in 2007.
Robert Beiser, Campus/JConnect Repair the World Director at Hillel at the University of Washington in Seattle, worked as a project coordinator and operation analyst at Microsoft Corporation before becoming a social justice organizer in the Jewish community and directing volunteer, advocacy and educational programs for hundreds of Hillel participants. He is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and holds certificates in advanced international affairs, independent media production and multimedia design.
Anna Hartman, Director of Early Childhood Education at Greenfield Hebrew Academy in Atlanta, is a former research assistant at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Judaics/Hebrew teacher at the Jewish Primary Day School in Washington, DC, and educational research associate at the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel at Emory University. She holds a degree in Middle Eastern studies from Emory University and from 2007 to 2011 held a fellowship from the Jewish Early Childhood Education Institute and The Covenant Foundation.
Gilah Kletenik, Congregational Scholar at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City, is also a Talmud and Judaism instructor at Ramaz Upper School. She received a Masters degree in Biblical and Talmudic Interpretation at Yeshiva University and is completing a second Masters degree there in Jewish Philosophy. Last year, New York Jewish Week named her as an upcoming Jewish leader.
Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein is Associate Rabbi and Director of Youth and Family Education at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, NY. She is a former associate director at the Association of Reform Zionists of America, and a former family educator at The Reform Temple of Forest Hills in Queens, NY. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University and she received her rabbinic ordination at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
The Covenant Foundation is a program of the Crown Family Foundation and the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA).