Project Directors’ Meeting 2011

The theme of the gathering – an annual event connecting participants from across the country – was Be Bold, and the Foundation’s executive director, Harlene Winnick Appelman, challenged participants to “make big ideas happen.”

The Foundation enables grantees to realize the potential of their big ideas and to develop the capacity to make them real, she said, and the gathering of the grantee community once a year creates an environment for big thinking about possibilities.

He offered directors techniques and effective methods to harness support for new initiatives. According to Scott, “Today, creative minds have the opportunity to solve problems and even change the world, but only if they can overcome the common obstacles that plague the creative psyche, such as disorganization and perfectionism.”

In “A Conversation on Being Bold,” Eli N. Evans, chair of the board of The Covenant Foundation, Margot Stern Strom, executive director of Facing History and Ourselves, and Jonathan S. Woocher, chief ideas officer, JESNA, and board member, The Covenant Foundation, explored their own efforts to break molds to accomplish their objectives.

Dedicating much of his career to Jewish life, community, and education, Evans has made a significant impact in the realms of philanthropy, academia and letters. He spoke specifically to the challenges facing project directors, advising them to build partnerships, learn from past mistakes and successes and to seek funding on the basis of strong ideas.

“Be yourselves and dream big,” he said. He also cautioned about “becoming stuck in your own narrative. Every once in a while the story needs to be retold and recast.”

Strom addressed her experience in building Facing History and Ourselves, an international organization that promotes education about social justice and civic engagements. She told participants to ask themselves: “How do we walk in the shoes of others? And, how can we encourage teachers to be bold in their classrooms and to encourage their students to think deeply about the lessons history teaches us?”

Moving from inspiring leaders and group conversations, directors also got out on the town. They visited the Morris Museum, featuring an exhibit, “Musical Machines and Living Dolls: Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata from The Murtogh D. Guinness Collection.”

The evening closed with a surprise performance by energetic drummer Scott Kettner’s Maracatú New York, a Brooklyn-based band that combines music from the Louisiana swamps with maracatú, the little-known rhythm from Recife, a city in Brazil’s music-rich northeast. Participants joined the Brazilian folk dancing and played the drums, cowbells, and colorful rattles.

Jakir Manela, director, Kayam Farm at Pearlstone, and a recipient of a 2010 Covenant Signature grant, summed up the Project Directors’ meeting most eloquently: “It’s so refreshing and inspiring to sit around the table with Jewish leaders who aren’t afraid to question everything in order to refine and reimagine Jewish education as we know it.”

Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR echoed him, and added that presenters were the best examples of “leading by inspiration.”

By Marcia P. Neeley for The Covenant Foundation

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