Rabbi Tully Harcsztark, founding principal of SAR High School in Riverdale, N.Y., was among three Jewish educators who received the Covenant Foundation’s 2017 Covenant Award.
The Covenant Foundation is a program of the Crown Family Philanthropies. Members of the Crown family, including Steven Crown, Keating Crown, and Steve Robinson, presented the awards. Each of the 2017 recipients received $36,000 and each of their institutions was awarded $5,000.
Established in 1991 to honor and celebrate educators who have made an impact on Jewish life through innovative practices and models, the Covenant Award is presented to three educators every year. The winners are chosen after a rigorous selection process. Recipients have distinguished themselves in many realms, including classroom teaching, family education, dance, music, visual arts, adult education, tikkun olam, storytelling, inclusion, work on college campuses, curriculum design, leadership, and professional development.
Guided by the leadership of Rabbi Harcsztark, the founding principal, SAR High School has become a national model of Jewish education. At SAR, the integration of general and Judaic studies reflects Rabbi Harcsztark’s ideal of education as a “fusion of horizons.” Each activity at SAR, from Israeli dancing to discussions of midrash mixed with literary theory to pick up games of field hockey and soccer, are imbued with a climate of deep respect as students, faculty, and staff are invited to engage in open and honest intellectual exploration.
As he accepted the award from Steven Crown, Rabbi Harcsztark talked about that integration of theory and practice. “The Torah that we learn shapes the way we see the world, and the world within which we live shapes the way we understand our Torah,” he said. “This is a vibrant and dynamic process that makes all members of our ‘community of learners’ into forgers of Jewish life and culture, responsible for the future of the Jewish people and our own communities.”
The other awardees are Meredith Englander Polsky, national director of institutes and training at Matan in New York and developmental support coordinator at Temple Beth Ami Nursery School in Rockville, Md., and Dr. Jane Sherwin Shapiro, co-founder of OROT: Center for New Jewish Learning in Skokie, Ill.
“We are so inspired by the work of our 2017 Covenant Award honorees,” Barbara Goodman Manilow, president of the Covenant Foundation’s board of directors, said. “Each one is transforming the world of Jewish education with creativity, optimism, and dedication to moving the bar forward. It’s a tremendous privilege to support their work and count them amongst an illustrious cohort that has now grown to 78 educators strong.”