Press Release: AIGYA Founder Phyllis Folb Receives Cohon Memorial Award


AIGYA Founder Phyllis Folb Receives Cohon Memorial Award

Previous Winners Include Stand With Us and Museum of Tolerance

Phyllis Folb, the American Israel Gap Year Association’s (AIGYA) Founder and Executive Director, received the Rabbi Samuel S. and A. Irma Cohon Memorial Foundation Award for individuals who have made a significant contribution to the entire Jewish people. This award comes on the heels of Folb being named on the Jewish Journal’s 2019 Mensch List.

In addition to Ms. Folb, this year’s Cohon Memorial Award winners include founders of Kavod, and Leket Israel. These all join a list of prestigious past winners including Roz Rothstein of Stand With Us, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Museum of Tolerance, and recently deceased Rabbi Eckstein, of the International Federation of Christians and Jews. All the organizations honored reflect the four areas of focus for the Cohon Foundation: Unity, Education, Rescue, and the Creative Arts. The award was presented in Tucson, Arizona, in early February at Beit Simchah Synagogue. The synagogue is headed by Rabbi Samuel Cohon, the grandson of the Cohons and President of the Cohon Foundation.

“It is so exhilarating to be acknowledged by the community for our work,” says Ms. Folb. Folb founded AIGYA in 2013, and it’s dedicated to the Jewish continuity through making the breadth of the gap year experiences known and relevant to students across the denominational spectrum. Educational professionals agree that a gap year is a proven road to academic and personal success. For a Jewish student, a gap year in Israel is a life changing experience where they take ownership of their Jewish identity, deepen their relationship to Israel and the Jewish people, and become more engage in Jewish life on campus.

Rabbi Baruch Cohon, who created the foundation in the name of his parents, says AIGYA takes students at their most vulnerable age and gives them a great opportunity to become active and valuable members of Klal Yisrael.

The Cohon Memorial Foundation was founded in 2003 to honor the memories of Rabbi Samuel S. Cohon and his wife Irma, both leaders in the Reform movement and champions of the totality of the Jewish people. Organizing the only cross-denominational Israel gap year fair in the country, AIGYA personifies what the Cohons stood for. Rabbi Samuel Cohon said, “The honor of Judaism is entrusted to the Jewish community as a whole and to each individual Jew to demonstrate its truth, dignity, and beauty.”

Folb concludes, “With the Cohon Award, we hope to deepen our work engaging students, from all philosophical points of view, to make use of our services to find their right direction on a gap year in Israel.”

For more information on American Israel Gap Year Association see

For more information about the Cohon Memorial Award, visit