Director's View | Article
Nurturing the seeds of Jewish education
This fall, The Covenant Foundation launched The Pomegranate Prize, rewarding and recognizing excellent educators who have been in the field less than ten years, and offering them added support as well as new experiences.
Much like the Foundation’s Ignition grants, the Pomegranate Prize is an early-stage investment.
Its purpose is to recognize new leadership and enable young professionals to pursue their dreams. Recipients receive $15,000 for professional development, and an opportunity to become part of a cohort that will learn together for three years.
Theoretically, the initiative is an exercise in positive deviance - bringing people together who are behaving in a way that makes a difference, encouraging them to interact, and then supporting the results.
A teacher’s passion can spark generations and encourage positive social growth. We firmly believe that the Pomegranate Prize will be a unique and powerful tool to identify and support new levels of excellence and specific innovations.
And, we believe it will lead to changing wider perceptions, creating a community of problem-solvers, building the skills of individuals, and mobilizing new talent.
Many excellent professionals leave the field at the nadir of their careers. Perhaps, with this added encouragement, some of them will remain and even go on to receive a Covenant Award.
For sure, modest investments can make a large impact.
It’s been gratifying to watch this concept prove itself with the Foundation’s Ignition grants, launched in 2007. These one-year grants of up to $20,000 for a good idea are catalysts time and time again, as recipient organizations can try out an idea to see if it has potential, and project directors can access the human and financial resources of the Foundation.
Essentially, it is an early-stage investment meant to nurture a possibility. Each year, we have seen institutions like IKAR, Teva Learning Center, and The Center for the Jewish Future at Yeshiva University – all of which received Ignition grants – take a risk and prove that this investment is rewarded exponentially.
One shining example is Banot Buddies, a St. Louis-area program that pairs girls in grades 2 to 5 with high school girls for activities that exemplify and fortify Jewish identity and values. Nishmah, an organization that seeks to strengthen the St. Louis Jewish community through the involvement and empowerment of girls and women, received a 2008 Ignition grant to develop and expand the program, and it is now a national model of Jewish youth engagement and experiential education.
The Foundation is committed to igniting innovative approaches to strengthening Jewish identity. Our grants and prizes are intended to deliver change and growth by identifying and rewarding excellence, acting as a catalyst for inspiring ideas, and encouraging human inventiveness and exploration.
The Pomegranate Prize is our newest initiative in this realm and we are proud and excited about our first cohort of recipients and fueling their future successes and impact.
Harlene Winnick Appelman