By Joni Blinderman, Executive Director, The Covenant Foundation
In mid-May, The Covenant Foundation hosted its first in-person gathering since the start of the pandemic and in addition, we sponsored The Collaboratory: Grow the Good.
For three days at our annual PD meeting, we met outdoors with our grantees, award recipients and Pomegranate Prize recipients for a chance to connect, learn, and dream.
The past two and a half years have been challenging but being in community for those three days was a joy. Holding the meeting outdoors was energizing and promoted creativity, connection, and calm, and being together in person — after two years of planning virtual events — was healing.
While together, we listened to captivating talks and held workshops that ranged in subject matter from theater and studio arts to DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) and social justice. We took guided nature walks, experienced a new theatrical performance, and engaged in text study.
Above all else, we aimed to truly engage with our grantees — to sit next to them at lunch, to pore over a text together, to make art side by side, to collaborate in a workshop. To learn from them as they learned from us.
We are a teaching and learning foundation. That means our understanding of philanthropy goes beyond dollars to include open and wide-ranging dialogue with our grantees and award recipients. By nurturing these relationships we hope will break down the power dynamic that often exists between grantee and funder. We very much want to learn from our grantees—we know they have so much to contribute. And we know they can learn from us, too. The teaching and learning goes both ways, and that is always most evident at gatherings like the one we just experienced.
The Covenant Foundation sponsored the Collaboratory for similar reasons. We wanted to give a wide range of organizations that are working to build just, vibrant, and inclusive Jewish communities the opportunity to connect virtually with colleagues from around the country and in-person through local meet-ups. We wanted funders, grantees, and prospective grantees to have the opportunity to meet in small groups and one-on-one to forge authentic relationships.
At the Covenant Foundation, we believe this give-give relationship helps to create the conditions necessary for professionals to take risks and seize opportunities. We aim to nurture our grantees and award recipients. We want to hear from them about what’s possible and what they think is impossible because maybe, just maybe, it’s not. Ultimately, we want to work together to help our grantees realize their dreams.
We are a small Foundation, but we try to make an outsize impact on the field. That happens because of the extraordinary talent of those in our network, some of whom are part of the Upstart network, too. Last month, we were lucky enough to share meals and conversation with Jory Hanselman of Bamidbar, Elizabeth Mandel of jGirls, Jessie Gindea from Kahal, Beverly Socher-Lerner of Makom Community, Dori Kirshner and Meredith Polsky from Matan, Rebecca Minkus Lieberman and Jane Shapiro from Orot, Laynie Solomon, of SVARA, Tikvah Weiner and Aryeh Laufer from The Idea School and Institute, Rabbi Jessica Kate Meyer from The Kitchen and Aaron Henne from theatre dybbuk.
These grantees and award recipients, and the many others who joined us at our meeting, work in diverse Jewish settings and hail from myriad places across the country.
The Covenant Foundation recognizes the value of gathering to build and nurture relationships. For three days in May, we opened our minds and elevated the conversation around Jewish education. By sponsoring the Collaboratory, we enabled hundreds more to have this precious opportunity. With open hearts, we allowed ourselves to be inspired and dream together. And now, we get to work to make those dreams a reality.