URJ Staffer Receives Prestigious Covenant Foundation Award for Excellence in Jewish Education



We at the URJ are proud to announce that Michelle Shapiro Abraham, our director of program development for the Campaign for Youth Engagement, is the recipient of a 2015 Covenant Award for her work creating change and driving impact in Jewish education. Abraham joins 74 other Jewish educators honored by the Covenant Foundation since the award was established in 1991. Mazal tov, Michelle!

In her role for the Campaign for Youth Engagement, and before that as a consulting partner, Abraham creates unique programs and experiences that transform the lives of thousands of Reform Jewish youth, teen leaders, camp staff, and congregational educators. Working in partnership with youth and camp leadership, her achievements at the URJ include:

  • Directing Service Corps Fellows, placing college-age camp staff in congregations year-round to lead innovative camp-inspired programs, an effort which has contributed to 700 new camp enrollments.
  • Supporting and developing Olim Fellows, a two-year staff fellowship focusing on leadership skills for five URJ camps that takes place year-round and includes two retreats annually.
  • Overseeing the launch of NFTY678, an expansion of NFTY programming to involve younger participants (6th-8th graders), resulting in a 15% increase in NFTY registration last year.
  • Designing Jewish values-based curricula customized for URJ specialty camps, including 6 Points Sports Academy and 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy, which now boasts a 70% return rate.

Says Abraham of her work and this award,

“Creating youth engagement opportunities for the URJ takes me from synagogues, classrooms and offices, to camps, retreats, conferences, and preschool programs. The settings are varied but the goal is the same. My purpose as a Jewish educator is to connect, empower, partner, and cross over the boundaries, and it is truly a blessing to do this work. For the Covenant Foundation to honor my work is truly a validation of all of these settings and the many places Jewish educators can make an impact.”

URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs said,

“By recognizing exceptional Jewish educators, the Covenant Foundation helps ensure a strong future for the Jewish people. Michelle’s outstanding work exemplifies what the URJ does best for 900 congregations, our 19 NFTY regions and 15 camps throughout North America—as they create innovative educational and leadership opportunities that engage every cohort, and deliver strong and lasting impact. She consistently enacts bold, new ideas that represent the URJ’s vision. The entire Reform Movement wishes yashar koach to Michelle on receiving the prestigious Covenant Award. No one is more deserving.”

From URJ Vice President for Youth, Miriam Chilton:

“The URJ’s Campaign for Youth Engagement seeks to inspire more young Jews to embrace Jewish life as a path to meaning, purpose, and joy. Michelle takes this effort to new levels, engaging minds, souls, and hearts in a way that inspires and excites, connects and motivates. Michelle makes our sacred tradition and history central to the lives of groups, individuals, and entire communities. Her passion for this work is shared by everyone who contributes to the URJ’s robust youth engagement initiatives. This includes Israel travel and educational programs, international service learning through Mitzvah Corps, and other immersive social action opportunities in conjunction with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.”

And from Harlene Winnick Appelman, executive director of the Covenant Foundation:

“We are proud to recognize dynamic Jewish educators, like Michelle, whose inspired teaching makes an impact along the entire Jewish educational spectrum—from the classroom to summer camps to public space.”

Abraham has spent nearly two decades as a Jewish educator in varied roles including author of children’s books, author of curricula, director of a synagogue school, and creator of summer camping programs. In addition to her role at the URJ, Abraham is also a consultant for the Foundation for Jewish Camp, and a clinical faculty member in the HUC-JIR Executive Masters Program. Abraham served as Director of Education at Temple Sholom in Fanwood, N.J., for 12 years and is a graduate of HUC-JIR Rhea Hirsch School of Education.

The Covenant Foundation, a program of the Crown Family Philanthropies, and the Jewish community will honor Abraham at an awards dinner in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 8, during the General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America. This event follows immediately after the URJ Biennial 2015, the largest Jewish gathering in North America, taking place in Orlando, Florida from November 4-8. Abraham will play an important and visible role at the URJ Biennial, leading innovative learning sessions about youth engagement for 5,000 Biennial attendees. Learn more about the Covenant Award and other award winners and leave Michelle a note of congrats on the Covenant Award’s website.

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  1. 9 Jewish Education Lessons from the Field | RJ Blog - June 16, 2015

    […] Campaign for Youth Engagement, Michelle Shapiro Abraham, is a 2015 recipient of the prestigious Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. Here, she draws on her extensive experience to offer this sound […]

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