Dr. Gregory Beiles, Sally Grazi-Shatzkes and Risa Strauss Receive the 2019 Covenant Award at Annual Ceremony in New York

New York, NY – Nov. 5, 2019 – Three Jewish educators received The Covenant Foundation’s 2019 Covenant Award this evening, adding their names to an ever-expanding cohort of uniquely inspired Jewish educators in North America.

Dr. Gregory Beiles, Head of School, The Toronto Heschel School and Director, The Lola Stein Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Sally Grazi-Shatzkes, Registered Drama Therapist, Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, and Theater Director, Yeshivah of Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York; and Risa Strauss, Education Director, Beth Shalom Synagogue and Founding Director, Camp Gesher, Katie and Irwin Kahn Jewish Community Center, Columbia, South Carolina, are the recipients of the Award, which is among the highest honors in the field of Jewish education.

“We continue to marvel every year at the exceedingly diverse gifts that our Covenant Award recipients possess,” said Barbara Goodman Manilow, President of The Covenant Foundation Board of Directors.

“Greg, Sally, and Risa bring with them fresh talent in scholarship, the arts, and community building, and we are confident that their work will continue to enrich the field of Jewish education for many years to come.”

The Covenant Foundation is a program of the Crown Family Philanthropies and members of the Crown family, including Dan Crown, Danielle Rudas Goodman, and Sara Crown Star introduced the three recipients and bestowed the Award. Each of the 2019 recipients received $36,000 and each of their institutions, $5,000.

Established in 1991 to honor and celebrate those who have made an impact on Jewish life through innovative educational practices and models, the Covenant Award is presented to three educators every year after a rigorous selection process. Recipients have transformed the field in countless ways, including community engagement, family education, dance, music, visual arts, social action, informal and environmental education, inclusion, curriculum design, leadership, and professional development.

Dr. Gregory Beiles – 2019 Award Recipient

DR. GREGORY BEILES is the Head of School at The Toronto Heschel School and the Director of The Lola Stein Institute in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

At The Toronto Heschel School, which nurtures intentional Jewish pluralism, Beiles ensures that tikkun olam, daily acts of chesed, and ethical practices based on the weekly parsha are woven into the school’s daily curriculum. As Director of The Lola Stein Institute – a think tank associated with the school – he designs professional development workshops on topics including metaphor and God, tefillah as the art of wonder, teaching mathematics for understanding, democracy in Jewish sources, and more.

Accepting the Award from Dan Crown, Beiles remarked, “What does it mean to be a religious school, like the one we strive to be at The Toronto Heschel School? It means to be a school that nurtures and trains the capacity for amazement; that regards Jewish practices not as mere homages to tradition or mysterious obligations, but as ‘sources’ of emergent meaning in which children can discover their own place and voice.”

Sally Grazi-Shatzkes – 2019 Award Recipient

SALLY GRAZI-SHATZKES is a Registered Drama Therapist, Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, and Theater Director at Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn, New York.

At Yeshivah of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School Flatbush, Grazi-Shatzkes facilitates the Witness Theater program, which brings together Holocaust survivors and high school students to memorialize stories of survival. She also created two curricula for younger students, which focus on social and emotional awareness and character development. At Congregation Bnei Yitzhak, Grazi-Shatzkes teaches weekly Shabbat classes, mussar, and other Jewish topics to girls ages 5-13, using the tools of Bibliodrama, theater games, interactive reading of texts and role playing. During the summer, she serves as the Head of the Drama Department at Camp Morasha, a modern Orthodox residential summer camp in Lakewood, Pennsylvania, where she teaches drama classes and integrates drama into camp-wide programming.

Upon accepting the award from Danielle Rudas Goodman, Grazi-Shatzkes said, “being able to give this kind of theater experience to others has become the most exciting possibility. The idea of educating others through theater – healing others through theater – teaching empathy through theater…this is my calling.”

Risa Strauss – 2019 Award Recipient

RISA STRAUSS is the Education Director at Beth Shalom Synagogue and the Founding Director of Camp Gesher at the Katie and Irwin Kahn Jewish Community Center in Columbia, South Carolina.

At Beth Shalom Synagogue, Strauss has increased enrollment and reinvigorated the Religious School through enhanced teacher training and meaningful interaction with parents, and worked to develop positive connections with adult learners and the synagogue Board through outreach and creative programming. Strauss guides her teachers to utilize multiple approaches when teaching a topic: reading, writing, music, art, drama, dance, and movement are employed to engage children of all ages and abilities. Strauss also redeveloped the Columbia JCC Camp Gesher, creating an educational curriculum that includes Hebrew, Israeli Music, Bible Stories, Israeli Dance, and Shabbat.

Accepting the award from Sara Crown Star, Strauss said, “Our goal as Jewish educators is to open the doors for our students to the wonders of Jewish life – to fill them with knowledge and experiences so they can discover for themselves how they want to live their precious Jewish lives.”

To view full biographies of current and past Covenant Award recipients as well as guidelines for nominating an educator for the 2020 Covenant Awards, please visit www.covenantfn.org. The deadline for nominations is November 21, 2019.

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