The Covenant Foundation Announces Recipients of 2024 Covenant Award

New York, May 30, 2024 – The Covenant Foundation is proud to announce the recipients of this year’s Covenant Award, honoring three outstanding Jewish educators for their immeasurable contributions to the field of Jewish education.

The 2024 Covenant Award recipients are: RABBA YAFFA EPSTEIN, senior scholar and educator in residence, The Jewish Education Project, New York, NY; SHIRA KLINE, co-founder and spiritual leader, Lab/Shul, New York, NY; and RABBI JUDD KRUGER LEVINGSTON, Ph.D., director of Jewish studies and advisor to the Derech Eretz Honor Council, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, Bryn Mawr, PA.

“Yaffa, Shira, and Judd each engage with the field of Jewish education in different settings and in different ways,” said Deborah S. Meyer, chair of the Board of Directors of The Covenant Foundation.

“And yet, when we consider their practices together, we see three exceptionally soulful, genuine, wise, and enthusiastic Jewish educators,” she added. “This is what the field needs: educators who seek to connect and build relationships with their students and their communities. All three Award recipients understand that these bonds are the essential foundation for Jewish experiences with meaning and impact.”

Along with the recognition that accompanies the Award, The Covenant Foundation will honor the recipients with $50,000 each, and each of their institutions will receive $10,000.

“Highlighting the work of Yaffa, Shira, and Judd by honoring them with Covenant Awards this year, in particular, feels like an extra blessing,” said Joni Blinderman, executive director of The Covenant Foundation.

“Because the Jewish community needs them now more than ever. All three of these exceptionally talented educators lead their communities with love. They are open-hearted, and they are committed to teaching from a place of vulnerability and sincerity. One needs only to glance at their biographies to understand the depth of their accomplishments. But in their presence one becomes aware, first and foremost, of their humility and warmth. This is what our community—and our world—needs right now.”

Rabba Yaffa Epstein

RABBA YAFFA EPSTEIN is the senior scholar and educator in residence at The Jewish Education Project, where she has worked since 2022. In this capacity, she provides Jewish textual guidance and support both to colleagues at the agency and to Jewish educators in the field by developing innovative educational programs and trainings to deepen Jewish textual knowledge and experience. She also works with Jewish educators in the K-12 part-time Jewish educational space to help them create new programs and enhance their own knowledge.

At The Jewish Education Project, Epstein also created the Deep Rich Jewish Content Practitioner Think Tank, which gathers practitioners in part-time Jewish educational spaces who excel in bringing deep Jewish content to their students. Together, these practitioners consider how the field might utilize their methodologies to expand Jewish content and elevate Jewish education. Rabba Epstein earned rabbinic ordination in 2015 from Yeshivat Maharat.

“Yaffa is a true teacher’s teacher, and her students—professional educators, lay leaders, and community members at large—are transformed by her teaching and presence,” said Dr. David Bryfman, CEO of The Jewish Education Project, who nominated Rabba Epstein for the Award.
“With her characteristic wisdom and warmth, she makes Torah and Jewish learning accessible and relevant. Her generosity of spirit, inclusive nature, and deep commitment to truth and justice are just a few of the traits that distinguish her.”

“Being recognized with a Covenant Award is a testament to our shared belief that deep, rich, Jewish learning can transform our students, our communities, and our world,” Epstein said, upon learning that she had been selected for a 2024 Award.

“I am honored and deeply humbled to receive this Award, and incredibly grateful to be a part of the holy work of Jewish education. We are in a time of immense loss, pain, and divisiveness for the Jewish people, and there is nothing more powerful than Torah to inspire us, help us to build bridges, and allow us to heal.”


Shira Kline

SHIRA KLINE has served as the spiritual leader and director of family education at Lab/Shul in New York City since she co-founded the institution in 2013. At Lab/Shul, Kline assumes responsibility for both ritual leadership and the visioning, design, and implementation of all of Lab/Shul’s family education initiatives.

In her role as director of family education, Kline has envisioned, designed, and facilitated dozens of family programs. Some notable programs include FamilyLab, a program which empowers families with young children to create rituals using food around each Jewish holiday, and Shabbat ShaMorning, a weekly virtual worship gathering for families with young children, which features an original translation of each Torah portion to connect families to concepts present in Jewish wisdom and tradition.

In her role as spiritual leader, Ms. Kline is responsible for the sacred music elements of Lab/Shul services. She officiates communal worship gatherings and oversees a ritual team in preparation for holidays. In addition, she writes curricula for rites of passage programs.
“Upon meeting Shira, I was immediately struck by her ability to captivate the room with her passion, priming her class to learn not from her but with her,” wrote Beth Shafer, Bunzl Family Cantorial Chair at Temple Sinai in Atlanta, GA, who nominated Kline for the Award.

“She seamlessly wove history and liturgy into a soul-stirring and thoughtful teaching, propelled by music that invited enthusiastic participation. I had never met a teacher like her before.”
“This honor is a tremendous affirmation in my core belief that the creative Source from which I play is in fact the raw material in all of us,” Kline said, upon hearing that she had been selected for a 2024 Award.

“This Award uplifts the power of the arts, via our liturgical poetries and mythologies, to release fear and bring about our highest heart selves. Empowered by this reminder, I wake up each day even more motivated to create opportunities for folks of all generations to find positive human identities through the ancient wisdom of radical imagination.”


Rabbi Judd Kruger Levingston, Ph.D.

RABBI JUDD KRUGER LEVINGSTON, Ph.D. is the director of Jewish studies and advisor to the Derech Eretz honor council at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr, PA. In this role, Levingston supervises and mentors Jewish studies teachers and serves as a member of both the school’s senior administrative team and the department heads’ team and he is a passionate middle and upper school classroom teacher. In addition, he oversees all Jewish life programming in the school for holidays, experiential education, community service, and Shabbaton programs.

As the author of two books on moral education and director of Jewish studies at Barrack, Levingston developed a 6th through 12th grade Jewish studies curriculum to align with research about the 21st century skills students need and to emphasize moral education and character development. This curriculum includes Jewish history and Israel education, Tanakh, Jewish peoplehood, medical and business ethics, theology, philosophy, and more.

Levingston is most well-known at Barrack for being the driving force behind the school’s derech eretz (“the way of the land”—acting with honor and integrity) values and culture. He also launched the Derech Eretz Honor Council—a group of elected grade representatives who serve as role models, and cultivate and promote the derech eretz values.

“In each of the settings in which Judd has served, he has brought his commitment to make students ‘good as well as smart,’” said Dr. Carol Ingall, Dr. Bernard Heller Professor Emerita of Jewish Education at The Jewish Theological Seminary, who nominated Levingston for the Award. “And I look forward to seeing how the establishment of an institute for moral leadership further deepens Judd’s already profound impact.”

“Life is filled with these rich, complex, and multifaceted moments where the mundane brushes up against the magical, and we experience so many things at once,” said Levingston, reflecting on the moment when he learned he’d been selected for a Covenant Award.

“I received news of this Award on Yom Ha’atzmaut, which made for a wonderful cap to an important day at school that mixed so many emotions, mimicking life itself. I am grateful to the Foundation, for the people who nominated me, and for all of my colleagues at Barrack. I feel grateful to have the opportunity to live such a full life in community with all of its beautiful complexity.”

The Covenant Foundation and the Jewish community will honor the 2024 Award recipients at a celebration in the fall.

For guidelines on nominating an educator for a 2025 Covenant Award, and to read biographies of past recipients, visit

The Covenant Foundation is a program of the Crown Family Philanthropies.