Philanthropy, Voluntarism, and Grantmaking


All We Need to Do is Listen

Stamford, CT


The Polyphony Foundation aims to bridge the divide between Arab and Jewish communities in Israel through music. Using Western, Arabic and Jewish works as the basis of its education and appreciation programs, Polyphony supports cooperation and understanding based on cultural exchange, dialogue and partnership. Its advanced performance-based activities aim to develop a cadre of future leaders committed to advancing civil society through the performers’ common passion and shared accomplishment.

Ruling Year


Executive Director

Mr. Nabeel Abboud Ashkar

Chair, Vice Chair

Craig and Deborah Cogut

Main Address

750 East Main St., Suite 600

Stamford, CT 06902 USA


music, education





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Philanthropy / Charity / Voluntarism Promotion (General) (T50)

Music (A68)

Youth Development Programs (O50)

IRS Filing Requirement

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Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

Relationships between the Arab Palestinian minority and Jewish majority in Israel have been deteriorating in recent years. This has resulted in increased tensions, which were witnessed across the country, including in Polyphony's hometown of Nazareth, where rioting occurred on several occasions. Beyond the animosity since the last war in 2014, there also remains an ongoing social and cultural separation that, unless addressed, will contribute towards the perpetuation of conflict. While there are attempts to deal directly with the conflict, through contact groups and other interactive settings, they have not always yielded positive outcomes, with academic and governmental research highlighting the danger of emphasizing differences and even antagonism. Rather than creating common ground for shared achievements at a social level, one of the greatest impediments to reconciliation lies in the failures of both groups to interact positively.

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Alhan Music Appreciation Curriculum

Conservatories in Nazareth and Jaffa

Scholar-In-Residence Seminar

Galilee Chamber Orchestra

Where we work

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

In the cultural sector, where Polyphony works, we have witnessed that prior to engagement and collaboration, the respective groups had little understanding or appreciation of each other’s cultures. They perceive themselves to be different with few commonalities. It is unlikely that either group would expect to enjoy each other’s music together. Polyphony’s relentless effort and success in bringing classical music to the Arab community in Israel has created a common ground which musicians from both communities feel comfortable coming together. Polyphony’s programs use this cultural platform as an initial step towards learning about the other, discovering how much they have in common, breaking stereotypes and advancing reconciliation.

Polyphony's approach expands and extends direct people-to-people interactions and reaches out to key persons who influence policy and public opinion in the educational and cultural arenas. It enables the participants to see the social and political context of their musical activities in the conflicted society of Israel. Moreover, it encourages key persons to adopt and/or encourage institutional interventions, policies and practices that foster ongoing Jewish-Arab cultural interaction and collaboration. The Scholar in Residence Seminars provide opportunities for Jewish and Arab musicians to reach the highest caliber of performance ability, to enable them to work, rehearse and perform together with equal standards. In particular, the seminars provide participants with a heightened understanding of music and its role in encouraging inclusivity and equality of opportunity. With these skills and personal experiences of integration with the “other” they are equipped to transmit important social messages through a medium that has the capacity to unify rather than divide. Performances by these groups reach the greater community, media, critics and the decision makers, while positively shaping public perceptions and attitudes. The progression of increasing Jewish-Arab communication and interaction is not limited to the participants themselves but also takes place among the students' families and in their communities as well (multiplier effect). Family members interact throughout the seminars, during rehearsals and performances. Similarly, public exposure to Jewish-Arab collaboration and creativity increases as a result of the program. At the policy level, Polyphony is breaking entrenched institutional barriers to Jewish-Arab contact and communication. The structural and programmatic barriers and even resistance to educational processes that support mutual understanding and respect among youth are being questioned by the work we undertake. The Polyphony program has support from both educational and cultural establishments at the national and regional levels in order to bridge this separation. Polyphony has and will continue to engage local authority officials, elected and professionals who acknowledge and support its programs.

Since 2011 Polyphony Education has implemented music education and Jewish-Arab music programming from elementary school music appreciation to the scholar in residence seminars and conservatory performance training as well as the creation of a professional orchestra that includes Jewish and Arab musicians. Polyphony programs, including those previously described, have engaged over 10,000 Jewish and Arab elementary school students, over 140 elementary school teachers, dozens of Jewish and Arab musicians and teachers working together to produce educational and cultural activities, other music and academic institutions and government officials. Examples of the contribution of these activities to creating a common ground and legitimizing Arab-Jewish collaboration can be seen in: 1) Adoption of Polyphony's Alhan program in school curriculum, including funding of teaching hours and teacher training by Israel's Ministry of Education and local authorities and plans to expand the program to additional Jewish and Arab schools; 2) expansion of seminars from 20 to 50 students, erasing apprehension of Jewish parents to send students to Nazareth; 3) Acceptance of Jewish-Arab music groups in schools and public concerts around the country including a major venue in Tel Aviv; 4) Positive coverage of Polyphony's Jewish-Arab programs in mainstream Israeli media.

Polyphony constantly gathers qualitative evidence about program impact and focuses on the growth of cultural knowledge. Polyphony provides ample opportunity for cultural interaction and transmission through its initiatives like Alhan, the Scholar-in-Residence program, the Conservatory, and the Galilee Chamber Orchestra. As all of the participants are there due to their shared interest in music, they have a much larger common ground from which to begin their interactions with one another. Additionally, the impact of the program extends beyond participants due to its performative elements. Polyphony's performances attract audiences of Arab and Jewish families who also have a shared experience because of their children’s interest in and pursuit of music. By attending performances and engaging in Polyphony's programs, the families can recognize that they have much more in common with each other.

External Reviews




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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Board Leadership Practices

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?