And The Winner Is

Covenant Foundation presents annual award, boosted cash prizes to three Jewish educators

Rabbi Tamara R. Cohen, Allison Cook and Nicole Nash earn 2023 award, as Crown Family project significantly increases monetary reward

The Jewish education-focused Covenant Foundation awarded its annual prize this week, along with $50,000 each, to three educators: Rabbi Tamara R. Cohen, Allison Cook and Nicole Nash.

The award honors “three exemplary Jewish educators who are each meeting a complex moment in Jewish communal history with a powerful blend of courage, commitment, and compassion,” according to the foundation, which is a program of the Crown Family Philanthropies. The recipients, who must be nominated by someone familiar with their work, are typically mid-career educators.

In addition to the cash prize that each awardee receives personally, each of the institutions where they work was also given $10,000, the foundation said.

The cash prizes awarded to the recipients and their institutions this year are significantly higher than in the past. In previous years, recipients received $36,000 and their institutions $5,000. The increase is meant to “signify an ongoing and steadfast commitment on the part of the Foundation to elevate the work of Jewish educators and highlight their invaluable contributions to the community and field,” the foundation said.

“Allison, Tamara and Nicole are each deeply engaged in creating new contexts for learning for people of diverse backgrounds and identities,” Deborah S. Meyer, the chair of the Covenant Foundation board of directors said in a statement. “These educational leaders are in relationship with teachers and students and families, welcoming, respecting, and inspiring them in a deeply Jewish way.”

Two of the winners – Cohen and Nash – were particularly praised for their commitments to “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” while Cook was hailed for her impact on the educational practice of hundreds of educators and the learning of thousands of students around the country,” the foundation said.

Cohen, a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, serves as the chief program officer at the Moving Traditions Jewish youth group, which is based outside of Philadelphia. In the past, she has served as the assistant dean of students at the University of Florida, associate dean of students at Gratz College and program director of Ma’yan: The Jewish Women’s Project at the JCC in Manhattan, as well as spiritual leader of several congregations.

“Being recognized with a Covenant Award at this moment in my life and in our country is so affirming of my vision for what Jewish education is and can do,” Cohen said in a statement.

Cook is the founder and co-director of the Pedagogy of Partnership, an initiative affiliated with Hadar, which is run out of Cambridge, Mass. Drawing on the concept of the hevruta (study partner), the partnership works with educators and students to teach them how to learn more effectively through the dynamic of studying with another person.

“Allison teaches that ‘how we learn is what we learn,’ and that we should not falsely separate intellectual learning from social-emotional, ethical, and spiritual learning,” said Rabbi Laurie Hahn Tapper, the associate dean for religious and spiritual life at Stanford University, who nominated Cook for the award, in a statement.

Nash serves as head of the Hannah Senesh Community Day School in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she has worked since the school was founded in 1995. At Hannah Senesh, Nash has focused on the issue of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” at the K-8 school, according to the Covenant Foundation.

“Creating a space that feels like home for a diverse community of families and children has been my life’s work, and it truly fills me with joy to know that the Covenant Foundation values our efforts to create welcoming and responsive spaces for Jewish families, something so crucial to our Jewish future,” Nash said in a statement.