Alana Rifkin Gelnick, SAR associate principal and Early Learning Center (ELC) director in Riverdale and Aryeh Laufer, The IDEA School’s head of STEM learning, were among five emerging Jewish educators who received the 2021 Pomegranate Prize recently at a virtual ceremony hosted by The Covenant Foundation. The 2021 recipients join a cohort of 50 others who represent the most promising rising leaders in Jewish education.
The Pomegranate Prize, inaugurated in 2011, is designed to honor rising leaders who have been in the field of Jewish education for up to 10 years. Gelnick and Laufer were honored alongside four rising stars in Jewish education—Rabbi Tiferet Berenbaum, rabbi of congregational learning and programming at Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, Massachusetts; Rabbanit Leah Sarna, associate director of education and director of high school programs at the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education in Riverdale; and Tony J. Westbrook, Jr., activist, freelance Jewish life consultant and the assistant director of Hillel at Washington University in St. Louis.
“Alana has always been a leader, inspiring and challenging others, from her colleagues to her students, to always think big. Since becoming director only seven years ago, she has artfully balanced preserving the longstanding legacy of the ELC, all while infusing it with a fresh, creative approach to early Jewish education,” said Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, Principal, SAR Academy. “Alana’s positive mindset and loving and nurturing warmth has gifted the ELC, and its children, with the foundational tools they need to build a lifelong love of learning.”
“Each morning I wake up grateful that I get to live my dream of supporting the growth of all children and giving them the tools they will need for life. It is humbling to be part of that work, as I watch children do hard things and I learn from them, listen to them. They have the most insightful things to say and it’s my goal to always recognize their individual spark and take them the distance,” said Gelnick.
“My vision for the ELC is of a place that fosters a love for learning, is progressive in thought, allows for differences, respects the voice of young people, and ensures that every child has a team of professionals that nourishes personal growth. My goal as an educator is fulfilled here at SAR, a home where I, along with my students, feel empowered, nurtured, safe and challenged to always grow and take risks,” Gelnick continued.
Head of School at The IDEA School Tikvah Wiener shared, “We are so proud of Aryeh for this acknowledgement of the innovative and meaningful work he has done for the school and for the field of Jewish education, and are grateful to The Covenant Foundation for recognizing it. Congratulations to Aryeh and to all the award recipients on this prestigious accomplishment!”
“It takes a village, and I am so privileged to educate with an incredible team of educators in a forward thinking and innovative school. (And) more than anything, I continue to learn the most from my students every single day,” said Laufer.
“It is fantastic that The Idea School is being recognized as an incubator for new ideas and leaders in the field of education, and I’m looking forward to continuing what we’re creating!” added Laufer.
Laufer has been a member of the faculty of The Idea School in Tenafly, NJ, since its inception, and currently serves as Head of STEM. He previously served as head of Engineering and the Inquiry Beit Midrash, and continues to create democratic and inquiry-centered learning spaces in which student voices and passions drive the learning process. As a self-taught programmer, Laufer empowers students to create, play, and solve real-world problems with technology. He created and now facilitates The Idea School Makerspace, in which students engage in painting and drawing, clay sculpting, woodworking, 3D modeling and printing, digital design, coding, electrical engineering, and more. Laufer believes a meaningful Judaism embraces questioning and is passionate about nurturing students’ natural curiosity through the rich texts and practices of Jewish tradition.
By Jewish Link Staff