Our People - Polyphony
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Our People

Our People

Creating meaningful social change in one of the most volatile regions in the world calls for visionary leadership, innovative methods and a deep commitment to young people—qualities that define the people behind Polyphony.




Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar

Executive Director, Polyphony Education

A visionary champion for youth and community development and a gifted violinist, Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar has led and inspired people from all walks of life across Israel, Europe and the U.S. He performed with and was a spokesperson for the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra for a decade.


In 2006, Nabeel gave up his music career and returned to his hometown, the Arab-Israeli city of Nazareth, to answer the need he saw in the community for quality music programming. He founded and led the Barenboim-Said Conservatory there. As his efforts expanded, in 2012 along with Craig and Deborah Cogut, he co-founded PF in the USA and Polyphony Education in Israel and the Conservatory was renamed the Polyphony Conservatory.


Having begun his violin studies at age eight, he graduated from Tel Aviv University in both physics and music, and completed his master’s degree at the Hochschule für Musik, in Rostock, Germany.


For his groundbreaking work, Nabeel has been honored with the Charles Ansbacher Music for All Award (2015), Yoko Ono Lennon Award Courage for the Arts (2012), and an Honorary Doctorate from Washington College (2012).

Craig Cogut

Craig Cogut has spent his career building successful investment businesses. He founded Pegasus, a private equity fund, in 1996 and serves as its Chairman and President.  Through Craig’s leadership, Pegasus has focused increasingly on areas influenced by global resource scarcity and the need for resource efficiency, as well as on the growth in demands for human wellness. In 1990 Craig co-founded and was one of the original partners at Apollo Advisors L.P., a position he held for five years preceding the creation of Pegasus.


Craig is an active philanthropist in the fields of education, civil society and environmental and health issues. In addition to their work with Polyphony, Craig and Deborah helped establish The Cogut Center for the Humanities at Brown University. He also served as a trustee there for several terms.


Craig currently serves as a board member for The McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University, for the R-20 Regions of Climate Action, for Six Senses (a luxury hotel and resort chain focused on sustainability and wellness), for Lighting Science Group (an LED company focused on using science to improve the health of humans and the planet)  and for PanTheryx (a medical nutrition company whose primary product, DiaResQ, was chosen by The Innovation Countdown 2030 as one of the top 30 lifesaving innovations with great promise to transform global health by 2030) and as a board member emeritus for the Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability. He is an alumnus of Brown University and Harvard Law School.

Deborah Cogut

Deborah Cogut is a lawyer and civic leader involved in organizations focused on education and child advocacy. She currently serves as a member of the Children’s Defense Fund Board of Directors. Chair of the Children’s Defense Fund New York Advisory Council and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Children’s Hormone Foundation. She has also served as a volunteer for Project C.U.R.E. on medical aid missions to third world countries.


Previously, Deborah was an attorney with Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton LLP, Vice President at RKO Pictures and Associate Counsel at HBO in New York and Los Angeles. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania and as a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar from Columbia Law School.

Board of Directors
Polyphony Education

Dr. Adi Francis, Chairman

Dr. Adi Francis serves as the Head of the Cardiology Services and Intensive Cardiac Care Unit at the Holy Family Hospital in Nazareth. He is also a member of the Israel Medical Association and Israel Heart Society. Dr. Francis received his M.D. from Hebrew University.

Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar, Executive Director


Nini Achinoam 

Nini Achinoam (also known as NOA) is Israel’s leading international singer and songwriter. She is also Israel’s first Good Will Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.


Bassila Bawardi

Dr. Bassila Bawardi is a senior lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and Oranim College, specializing in modern Arabic literature and literary genres in the nineteenth century. He is the author of The Lebanese-Phoenician Nationalist Movement: Literature, Language and Identity, 2016.


Hanna Gaifman

Dr. Hanna Gaifman is Director of the 92nd Street Y’s Tisch Center for the Arts in New York. She has a Master’s degree in Slavic Languages and Literature from Stanford University and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Hebrew University.


Hank Havassy

Dr. Hank Havassy is the co-founder and joint executive director of Eshhar. He earned a Master’s degree in Social Work from Bar-Ilan University and Ph.D. in Public Administration from the University of South California.


Singana Qassem

Dr. Singana Oassem is a well-respected family and geriatric doctor at the Maccabi Health Services in Nazareth, the second largest health maintenance organization in Israel. She studied medicine at Tel Aviv University and received her M.D. from the Medical University in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.



Lynn Holstein

has served in institutions such as the Jewish Museum, the Harvard Design School, and the Israel Museum. She earned an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. In 2000, Lynn made aliyah and directed Stef Wertheimer’s New Marshall Plan for the Middle East.


Aviad Meitar

A co-founder and active Chairman of Music for Dialogue (MFD), which uses music as a tool for fostering communication and mitigating conflicts. Senior executive with Quadrant Management, New York for over 25 years. Received his Bachelor of Law degree from Tel Aviv University and his MBA degree from Boston University Graduate School of Management; 2016 fellow of the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University.

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