Director's View | Article
60 Challenging the Status Quo
Recent press reports explore what has come to be known as “prize philanthropy.” Many foundations and other organizations are finding award giving to be “in vogue,” articles say.
Since its founding nearly 20 years ago, The Covenant Foundation has acted on the belief that investment in Jewish education comes not only through dollars supporting innovative and promising ideas and initiatives, but also by recognition given to those who are quietly making a difference every hour of every day.
Counting three innovative Jewish educators just named as recipients of a 2010 Covenant Award,60 outstanding individuals have received this prestigious distinction since it was established in 1991.
To borrow from Marian Zeitlin of the EREV Institute and Tufts University, Covenant Awardees can be characterized as “positive deviants,” those with the unique attitudes, practices, strategies and mindsets allowing them to improve outcomes and inspire others within their environments.
Every community or group of people performing similar functions with like resources has “positive deviants,” she has suggested.
We know the community of Jewish educators is no different.
As a whole, Covenant Award recipients are a varied, diverse and accomplished group of educators driven by an urgency and belief that Jewish education is a necessary and potent force in changing and challenging times for our community.
Powered by a “can-do” attitude and a tenacious determination to bring new ideas, solutions and energy to Jewish learning and living, they are situated on the cutting edge of Jewish communal life. As practitioner-activists, they challenge the status quo, take risks to push aside boundaries, and boldly seek out and experiment with new possibilities and approaches.
Who is in this group? They are classroom teachers, musicians and choreographers, heads of school, tzedakah professionals, camp directors, and leaders in early childhood education, to describe just a few of them.
All 60 have had an immeasurable effect and impact that has and will continue to ripple across theJewish educational and community landscape for decades through the thousands of students and fellow educators they have individually and collectively touched, molded and inspired. In letters of nomination for this year’s award, writers noted that an educator had “enriched,” “changed,” or even “saved” their lives.
The work of these incredible role models is chronicled in A Covenant of Dreams, our eighteenth anniversary publication, and in videos capturing them in their own environments.
These, and the Covenant Award itself, shine a spotlight on outstanding educators, as well as Jewish educators everywhere who are committed to their field and the role of Jewish education in community growth and continuity.
For us, that’s not to be dismissed as being merely “in vogue.” It is serious recognition that those educators with unusual talents and vision – the “positive deviants” among us – have something incredibly important to say and teach us about making change and having impact in our communities, and beyond.
Harlene Winnick Appelman