The Covenant Foundation Announces Recipients of 2020 Covenant Award

June 24, 2020

Source:  The Covenant Foundation


The Covenant Foundation has announced the names of three Jewish educators who are the 2020 recipients of the Covenant Award. Maxine Segal Handelman, Director of Family Life & Learning, Anshe Emet Synagogue, Chicago, Illinois; Russel Neiss, Senior Product Engineer, Sefaria, St. Louis, Missouri; and Amanda Pogany, Head of School, Luria Academy of Brooklyn, Brooklyn, New York, are the recipients of the Award, which is among the highest honors in the field of Jewish Education.

“This year, we find ourselves in an altered landscape as we consider what Jewish education looks like,” said Cheryl Finkel, Chair of the Board of Directors of The Covenant Foundation and a 1999 Covenant Award recipient. “But this cohort is indisputably up for the challenge, for they each provide an access to Jewish knowledge and connection that transcends the traditional learning space.”

Along with the recognition that accompanies this award, recipients will each receive $36,000 and each of their institutions will receive $5,000.

Maxine Segal Handelman is the Director of Family Life & Learning at the Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago, Illinois. At Anshe Emet, where she has worked for almost 25 years, “Max” Handelman has strived to create meaningful opportunities for families to build lifelong relationships with each other and the wider Jewish community. In her current role at the synagogue, Handelman oversees High Holiday youth programming and leads the Young Family High Holiday services for several hundred people each year. In collaboration with the Educational Steering Committee, she strengthens the educational experience for all children in the community, from birth to high school age. This work includes leading Tot Shabbat, monthly Kabbalat Shabbat services and dinners, and family services. Handelman teaches young family classes as well, including Connecting the Expecting, a Jewish learning class for people expecting their first child. She supervises youth family service leaders and trains a pipeline of teens to lead youth tefillah experiences. In partnership with the clergy and educators at Anshe Emet, Handelman created, and now implements, Family Education Days for Anshe Emet families, between 300 and 400 people in total.

Russel Neiss is the Senior Product Engineer at Sefaria, a national organization. Since 2015, Neiss has been responsible for the development of Sefaria’s groundbreaking educational resource—a free living library of Jewish texts and their interconnections, in Hebrew and in translation. Neiss creates interactive platforms that enable learners to engage with Jewish textual tradition from anywhere. As Senior Product Engineer, he spearheaded the development of Sefaria’s Source Sheet Builder tool, which has enabled tens of thousands of educators to create their own source sheets and share them with students, colleagues, and the wider community. In collaboration with his colleagues, Neiss also envisioned, developed, and built Sefaria’s first mobile app, putting Jewish learning and Sefaria’s tools into the hands of users everywhere.

Amanda Pogany is the Head of School at Luria Academy of Brooklyn, in Brooklyn, New York. For the past eight years, Pogany has been responsible for all aspects of the day-to-day functioning of the Luria Academy. She supervises the school’s educational and administrative leadership, which includes 60 faculty members, 10 administrators, and 15 Board members, provides the educational mission and vision for the school, and oversees the curriculum. She has also played an integral role in the implementation of Luria’s five-year strategic plan. In addition, Pogany oversees Luria’s inclusion program for students with special needs. Pogany has also played a key role in growing the school’s population, which during her tenure has tripled, from 97 students to over 300.

The Covenant Foundation and the Jewish community will honor the 2020 Award recipients at a virtual celebration in the fall.

Updated: Jul. 12, 2020