Articles and Resources
If you are a Jewish leader or interested in bringing Positive Judaism to your community, please feel free to use these growing list of resources. Please share your curriculum, programs, articles, sermons, etc., that relate to Positive Judaism so that we may share your work broadly. Please submit your content to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Positive Judaism Resource” in your subject line. Thank you!
“Positive Judaism: A First Look for Clergy and Educators”
by Rabbi Darren Levine, Published in the CCAR Journal, Summer 2017
Positive Judaism lives at the intersection of Positive Psychology and Judaism. This article is the first effort to articulate the connection between Jewish practice, thought, and philosophy; and, the science of human achievement and character strengths. Drawing on Torah, Talmud, Mussar, prayer, ritual, and ancient and modern commentary, the author shows that the core tenets of Positive Psychology and Jewish living are not only perfect compliments, but will lead enrich the lives of the people we serve and strengthen our communities.
Click here for the full article in PDF format
“Into the Heart of Jewish Resilience”
by Rabbi Deborah Waxman, PhD, delivered at the 2019 Positive Judaism Summit
How has the Jewish people survived for millennia? It’s an age-old question, asked by Jews and non-Jews alike, from Pascal to Goethe, Tolstoy to Twain. One answer is resilience. The capacity for resilience has been woven into the fabric of Judaism over thousands of years. Judaism’s focus on helping people to get on with living in the face of challenges, pain and tragedy has helped the Jewish people to survive and, indeed, to thrive. Self-conscious awareness around this orientation toward resilience can serve us extremely well today – if we take advantage of it.
Click here for the full keynote address
“Deep Listening: Lessons from Spiritual Imagination”
By David Bryce Yaden, Published in Scientific American, January 8, 2018
Near the holiest site of one of the world’s oldest religions, a small group of scientists, scholars, writers and religious leaders gathered to discuss the psychology of religion and spirituality.The location was Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock), a geological wonder in the middle of Australia. This place is featured in the creation myth of the Anangu people, an Aboriginal tribe that forms one of the world’s oldest continuous cultures. The event’s host was the Imagination Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to making progress on the measurement, growth, and improvement of imagination across all sectors of society.
Click here to read the full article
“The True Purpose of Jewish Education”
by David Bryfman, PhD, Jewish Education Project, New York
If I was to be audacious enough to write a comprehensive goal for Jewish education in 5777 it might go something like this…The purpose of Jewish education today is to ensure that Jewish tradition empowers people to thrive in today’s world. For Jewish education to be successful, it must hold at its core, the mission to make people happy. If we don’t strive for this, Jewish education – and by extension living a Jewish life – will remain irrelevant for the vast majority of Jews today.
Click here to read the full article
“Shabbat Unplugged: Pathway to Happiness”
by Rabbi Rick Litvak, PhD, Temple Beth El, Aptos, CA
Voices from the pulpit: “What do I see this year as I watch your lives unfold before me? I see more than ever, whatever your age, you are more rushed, pushed, and stressed than ever before. I see you weary from years of deep economic recession working harder and longer than ever. I see children younger and younger, worn out from constant activity and the pressure to do well in school to get into a good college.
Click here to read the full sermon
“Positive Judaism > Happiness”
by Rabbi Darren Levine, ejewishphilanthropy.com
In the past year, among leading Jewish educators, there has been considerable attention given to the issue of Happiness in developing Jewish Identity among young people. In this article, Darren argues that a happiness is important, but incomplete. What about when living hurts? Educators would fail if they only equipped people with “happy” because they would not have the tools to face real life challenges. In addition to happiness, educators and clergy should also teach the range of strengths and values offered within Positive Judaism, such as gratitude, optimism, hope, courage, resilience, and forgiveness.
Click here for the full article and download a PDF
“Happiness on Campus”
Following the work of Rabbi Ben Shefter
At Hillels of Westchester, a healthier lifestyle starts with the Happiness Campaign. Rabbi Ben Shefter, senior Jewish educator at Hillels of Westchester, launched the campaign in January 2017. The initiative is based on the Jewish concept of middot, or character traits, and Vanessa King’s “Ten Keys to Happier Living,” a guidebook to creating a healthy and meaningful life. “It has encouraged me to be a better a person and take the time to reach out more to others,” said Naomi Shimunov ’20, a Happiness Campaign participant and student at Sarah Lawrence College. Every day, two Hillel professionals send students text messages or emails to help connect Jewish teachings to their everyday lives. Read the full article
“Applying Positive Psychology in Synagogues”
by Rabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu, CLAL, for ejewishphilanthropy.com
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing. The field has been pioneered by Martin Seligman and other psychologists over the past couple of decades. They seek to understand what helps people thrive in their lives and have discovered many indicators and actions which can lead to a life filled with meaning and purpose.Ostensibly, one of the main goals of religious life is to provide people with meaning and purpose. If this is so, then, we at Clal’s Rabbis Without Borders thought it would be interesting to teach rabbis about positive psychology and see if and how they can integrate it with their work as rabbis. Click to read more.
“Sukkot: A Living Expression of P.E.R.M.A”
by Rabbi Uri Allen, Temple Beth Sholom, New York
Let’s explore the biblical relationship between the High Holy Days and Sukkot. Sukkot comes at the end of the harvest cycle. The land has been harvested clean and it is a time of great celebration. But it is also a time of great anxiety. Will the winter bring enough rain so that next year’s harvest will be a success? Will my crops grow so I can sell enough to support my family? Will the coming year be prosperous or the opposite? Click to read more.
“Who by strength? Not who by fire . . .”
by Rabbi Darren Levine for Tamid: The Downtown Synagogue
Leonard Cohen’s, “Who By Fire,” was based on a traditional prayer said on the Jewish New Year called, Unetaneh Tokef. We sing both versions at our synagogue. “And who by water, and who by fire? And who in her lonely slip and who by barbituate? Why by brave ascent and who by accident, and who shall I say is calling?” The lyrics are both beautiful and haunting. Cohen took the theme from notion that on the High Holy Days, Jews pray to be sealed into the Book of Life. Click to read more
The Best Hanukkah Gift: Positivity and Happiness
Hanukkah offers the perfect opportunity to give a present that will last a lifetime: the gift of positivity and happiness. While it may be customary to give gadgets and toys, studies show these types of presents do not actually raise a person’s level of joy and happiness. Material gifts may boost positive emotions, but only temporarily. A more permanent gift would be to teach and identify one’s signature character strengths. . . . Click to read more.
Two Positive Passover Seder Guides
Passover is about stories and rituals and lends itself naturally to the core teachings of Positive Judaism: gratitude, hope, awe, inspiration, courage, love, and joy. Regardless of your background or level of Jewish observance, these guides pair the essence of the Passover Seder with universal human strengths and values. The same strengths and values displayed by the Israelites in the ancient day are the very same strengths that we can draw on today to lead positive lives.
Click here for the Character Strengths Based Passover Seder Guide
Click here for the 15 Minutes Passover Seder Guide
Six Positive Judaism Study Sessions
These study guides have been designed for those seeking to have a Positive Judaism conversation in your community. Each two-page study guide is designed to for a one-hour group session for people of all backgrounds. The group leader is encouraged to offer a five minute guided meditation on the topic of each session at the beginning and end of the group study experience and to bring their own personal experience to their teaching. Each guide is a stand alone session and can be experienced in any order.
Click here for the Guided Sessions for Group Study
Positive Judaism From the Pulpit
There is much that Jewish professionals should know about the field of Positive Psychology as it deals primarily with research and findings related to well-being, happiness, and the proven factors that lead people to living lives of meaning. Since clergy and educators have the well-being of the individuals and communities we serve at the center of our work, a knowledge of this field is critical. . . Read more
The Positive Judaism Classification of Traits and Strengths
by Rabbi Darren Levine, posted at beliefnet.com
Judaism and Positive Psychology make the perfect pairing. Both are focused on living a life of meaning and achieving higher levels of well-being. The categories that lead people to achieve optimal living and the values that make life more fulfilling are comprised of 24 character strengths that fall under six broad virtue categories: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence. I use this framework (VIA Classification of Strengths) as the basis for the core traits and values of Positive Judaism by pairing each strength with their corresponding Jewish values, biblical teachings, and Jewish practice.
Click here for the Positive Judaism Classification of Strengths