Covenant Foundation Marks 18th (“Chai”) Anniversary


(Editors note: Photos available)


Glenn Rosenkrantz, 646.245.8975,



Spotlight on Innovation and Excellence in Jewish Education as Awardees are Honored and Non-Traditional Concepts are Explored

New York—Oct. 28, 2008 – Hundreds of Jewish educators, philanthropists and community leaders from throughout the country gathered here this week to mark The Covenant Foundation’s 18th anniversary and its support of initiatives and ideas and the practitioners who have harnessed them to change Jewish education across the span of a generation.

Two major events highlighted the 18th (“Chai”) anniversary of the Foundation – the presentation of the 2008 Covenant Awards in recognition of honorees who have had significant impact in Jewish educational settings, and a symposium featuring discussion and examination of bold ideas in the realm of Jewish education and engagement.

“Our Jewish tradition puts significance on this particular anniversary, as it corresponds to the Hebrew word for life, ‘chai,’ ” said Eli Evans, chairman of the Foundation’s board of directors. “And so we are gathered to celebrate that Tree of Life that we planted 18 years ago and to marvel at all the wonderful fruit that it has borne.”

Three exceptional educators from across the spectrum of Jewish life received a 2008 Covenant Award: Diana Ganger, Program Director for the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative in Glen Ellyn, IL and New York; Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, Dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey, NY; and Susan Werk, Educational Director at Congregation Agudath Israel in Caldwell, NJ.

The symposium – “Uncommon Connections: Conversations about Big Ideas” – convened speakers and presenters chosen for their relatively non-traditional and cutting-edge approaches to Jewish education and community building.

Among them was Liz Lerman, founder of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange and recipient of a Covenant Foundation grant, and her ensemble, which led symposium attendees through the composition of an original movement reflecting the assimilation of new ideas into personal and professional lives.

The ensemble also presented excerpts from “Small Dances about Big Ideas,” a dance commissioned by Harvard Law School to mark the 60th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials and reflecting the notion of using unconventional tools to provoke thought, interpretation and education.

Other presenters included Carlton Evans, educational coordinator for The Moxie Institute in San Francisco; Martha Minow, professor at Harvard Law School; Rafi Santo, senior program associate at the Global Kids Online Leadership Program in New York; and Daniel Sieradski, a Jewish website developer and director of digital media at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in New York. The four engaged in discussion about how educators can and must harness technology and new media tools to engage students and build Jewish community.

“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,” said Harlene Winnick Appelman, The Covenant Foundation Executive Director. “They are creators, to the benefit of Jewish education, of engagement and vitality. In those respects, they represent exactly what The Covenant Foundation stands for and supports in the realm of Jewish education.”

Nearly 200 people from across the country – working in and committed to Jewish education and related fields – attended the symposium, which was viewable live around the world via a webcast hosted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The three Jewish educators honored with a 2008 Covenant Award represented the 18th group so cited since 1991, and they were recognized at a gala anniversary dinner attended by more than 400 people from across the Jewish community.

“The Covenant Award was created to recognize the people who do extraordinary work on the ground, in classrooms and synagogues, across all denominations and in all settings,” said Appelman, herself a 1991 Covenant Award recipient. “We highlight people with special souls, whose work directly touches Jews of all ages seeking inclusion and fulfillment in Jewish life.”

Ganger, a native of Argentina, was born to a German-Jewish family that fled the Holocaust. With a degree in Social Work from Washington University in Missouri, she began a career in Jewish early childhood education in 1985 as Director of the Moriah Childcare Center in Deerfield, IL. There, she created a model of a family-centered school that gained recognition throughout the country.

Appointed in 2004 as Program Director of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative (JECEI), she has spearheaded efforts to redefine how families and institutions can become co-visionaries of Jewish life.

“We must unleash the aleph – the full potential – of families, making sure to see the family as a whole, as a system, as we cannot see children in isolation if we are to have an impact,” Ganger said in accepting the Covenant Award. “Jewish early childhood education is our bereshit – the way we unleash this potential.

“Connecting with families at this stage needs to be an empowering beginning of a long Jewish life journey. Jewish educators and leaders need to continue to work to make this journey a seamless one.”

Rabbi Horowitz began teaching at age 18, when he volunteered to work with underachieving, at-risk pre-teens at a summer camp. Since then, he has made a mark on the Jewish educational landscape by being an advocate for – and teacher to – teens at risk.

He founded Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey, NY in 1997. He is also National Director of Project Y.E.S. (Youth Enrichment Services), a program he created 11 years ago to help Orthodox teens-at-risk lead productive, meaningful lives. Through his books, website and CDs, he has reached a national audience of troubled teens, parents and educators with inspiration, advice, training and professional development tools.

“I have dedicated my adult life to amplifying the still, soft voices of these children by assuming the often lonely task of writing and lecturing about the root causes of their cries and by creating programs that can help our teenagers regain their footing and resume productive and fulfilling lives,” Rabbi Horowitz said as he accepted the Covenant Award. “However, I am an educator at heart and my passion lies in creating a school culture where every single child feels valued and nurtured, and in developing the technology-enriched educational tools to make their learning rich, enjoyable and meaningful.”

Werk holds a Master’s degree in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary and has served as Educational Director of Agudath Israel in Caldwell, NJ for nearly 20 years. There, she has created a national reputation for creating innovative and meaningful educational programming – both formal and informal – for congregants at all levels and at all ages.

She has held national leadership positions in the Jewish Education Association, the Conservative Movement Jewish Educational Assembly, and CAJE – The Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education.

“We here know that a career in Jewish education can at times feel chaotic,” she said as she accepted the Covenant Award. “This award is a recognition that we are all fulfilling a ‘blessed rage for order’ through creativity, innovation and heartfelt commitment to the enhancement and edification of generations of Jewish learners. I am filled with an ‘attitude of gratitude’ that I have had the opportunity to participate in this sacred mission and pray that I can continue working with my wonderful colleagues and friends in furthering its ideals and goals.”

To mark the Foundation’s 18th year, many of the 54 educators who have received the Covenant Award since 1991 attended the symposium and awards gala, as well as a retreat during which participants exchanged ideas and experiences in an effort to drive and advance effective practices in Jewish education.

The Covenant Foundation is a program of the Crown Family Foundation and the

Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA).

Related Content
Filter byPost type
Sort by