Posts Tagged 'Mussar'

Unplugging to Connect

– This week my colleague Kate O’Brien wrote a great in eJewishPhilanthropy sharing our work . Enjoy.

 

As the world races by at the speed of technology, it becomes harder to live into moments of joy and beauty, or even of sadness and longing. With nothing to ground us, we miss out on opportunities to form meaningful memories that will sustain us over time. Jewish wisdom has a response to the urgency of human existence – slow daily counting. Since the second night of Passover, Jews have been counting the Omer (sefirat ha-omer). Each evening, we number the days from Passover and the exodus through the sea to Shavuot and the arrival at the foot of the mountain. Jewish mystical tradition aligns each week and each day of the Omer with aspects of the Divine, which speak to our relationships with God and our neighbors. This week’s Divine attribute is Yesod: creating a bond. Today’s count of the Omer, Day 36, challenges us to reflect on the Chesed Yesod – the loving-kindness of bonding. This day teaches us to extricate ourselves from the external bondage of slavery and to reach for the internal bonds of friendship and the promise of covenant. Bonds of friendship let us know that who we are – what we think and feel – is important. As we count the Omer, we reflect that it is our friends who make us feel that we count.

Among the many issues with which we struggle today is the ability to develop authentic friendships. We cannot blame Facebook alone for transforming “friend” into a verb that means “to form a generally superfluous connection mediated though a screen.” Children and young adults exert far more effort interfacing in real time, but seldom in real relationships. The consequence is that we are raising a generation plagued by emotional illiteracy. The crisis of impersonal communications has arrested our ability to create strong connections. Perhaps this day of the Omer is begging us to slow down just a bit to remember how special that sacred bond of friendship can be to children and adults alike.

Based on research – and nearly two decades of experience – the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) has found that camp is where Jewish youth establish enduring friendships, connect with role models, and create lasting memories. At camp, we unplug in order to connect. If the experience of Jewish summer camp is about anything, it is about putting screens aside to bond in friendship through shared experiences. That could mean bunkmates cheering you on as you put your head underwater for the first time, or the spirit of the Maccabiah team who keeps fighting from behind, or a Shabbat with hundreds of campers, dressed in white, chanting ancient melodies with a special camp twist. It might also be the bonding between a counselor and her campers or between a unit head and his staff. And how do camps facilitate this environment? By eliminating the screens, bringing campers together face-to-face, and explicitly valuing the bonds of friendship. We know that camp friendships are often lifelong because of the intensity and the intentionality of the in-person interactions.

Feeling big feelings and growing emotionally are essential parts of Jewish summer camp. So is making core memories. While camp may be an ideal educational framework in which to cultivate emotional intelligence, it is all of our jobs to help nurture our youth through experiences that will help them grow physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. These experiences are the building blocks of character. Building on the success of the Making Mensches: A Periodic Table and inspired by the animated film, Inside Out (Disney, 2015), FJC has created the Inside Out package of resources for camps, children, and camp families. Made possible by Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, the purpose of this project is to help our youth learn to identify, understand, and express their feelings in order to make room for lasting friendships and core memories. FJC’s toolbox includes imaginative, printable posters that explore the links among feelings and between Jewish wisdom and basic emotions. All educators and parents can use experiential lesson plans to help youth to recognize their feelings, to articulate what they are experiencing, and to make good behavior decisions. These tools can be used in the moment, as a regular check-in, or even as a pre-Shabbat activity to help people move into a sacred time with full awareness.

When we speak the language of feelings, we expand our capacity for friendship. If we can build these experiences in intentional ways, we may well have lasting lessons, as well as lasting memories to build lives that matter. Just as there are many ways to manifest the counting of the Omer to deepen our lives, there are many ways we can use our power to help raise a generation that is responsive to and responsible for the world around us.

FJC is excited to share these and other materials with the field. We invite your feedback and stories about the ways in which you use them. Your insights will help us as we continue to develop and refine the array of resources we offer.

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Making Mensches 2.0

As someone who personally takes parenting seriously and professionally has the pleasure of working with Jewish camps, I can proudly say that I am in the business of making mensches.

Camp offers an ideal environment for character development.  To harness the potential of this, we created a periodic table back in 2014 to develop a common language for this holy work. This was met with a great deal of excitement and creative initiatives by many educators in camps, synagogue schools, and Jewish Day schools, and parents alike.

Inspired by their response and an amazing website on the Periodic Table on TedEd, we’re thrilled to announce an expanded, interactive website version of Making Mensches, a project of FJC’s Hiddur Initiative, made possible by The AVI CHAI Foundation, Jim Joseph Foundation, and the The Maimonides Fund.

Image result for ted ed periodic table

We developed this project to help people explore how to communicate each of these values through text, programs, and different media.  Like the process of actually making mensches, this tool will continually be in progress as a living resource bank.  We encourage you to help us grow this resource by sharing your programs, as well as text and media inspiration for these values.

 VIEW THE MAKING MENSCHES SITE! 

Like the original poster version of the table, there’s no wrong way to use this. We can’t wait to hear about the moments of intentional character development you create for your campers, staff, students, parents, board members, peers, and children!

If you have any questions or are open to sharing additional resources, please contact Teri McGuire at teri@jewishcamp.org. For other inquiries email me at hiorlow@gmail.com  . Happy Mensch-Making!

The Loudest Noise: The Sound of Rosh HaShanah

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As we get ready for Rosh HaShanah, we get ready to hear the blasts of the Shofarassociated with the Jewish New Year. In comparison, I think about the ruckus I hear every time I go visit a Jewish summer camp. Both are loud and disruptive. But while the sound of camp always fills my heart with joy, the shofar often evokes a negative feeling. It is something my 9 year old son would call “judgative.” Yes these are the days of Judgement, but why do I need to feel so judged? What is the meaning of all of this noise on the Jewish New Year?

For some of us, the sound of the Shofar might be a new thing and a strange sound. For others it may remind them of growing up and hearing it at synagogue. And for yet others it might remind them of the way they aspire to live their lives. Some people might hear the walls of Jericho tumbling or the coronation of the King while for the people sitting next to them, it might be a blast to the past hearkening back to the ram at the binding of Isaac when Isaac was almost killed by his father Abraham. For some it might be the sound of Sisra’s mother at seeing the death of her child. And yet for others, it might just be disruption and an annoyance. I imagine the Shofar blast is supposed to evoke a combination of all of these feelings and more.

The sound of the Shofar makes me stop and ask myself am I fully realizing my potential? Am I in a groove or in a rut? It is less about being judged and more about comforting the uncomfortable and discomforting the comfortable. Rabbi Israel Salanter, the founder of the Mussar Movement, commented that the loudest sound in the universe was the breaking of a bad habit. Are creatures of habit or are we living with intention? If we listen closely to the sound of the Shofar this year we might figure out if we are indeed (and in deed) the best people we can be. Similarly, Jewish camp is a place in which we get to try on new persona and practice new habits. Maybe the ruckus of camp and the sound of the Shofar are not so different. In both we might hear the call to realize our inner Mensch.

Becoming a better person is not just about breaking bad habits, it is also about doing the hard work of making good habits. For more on answering the call of that inner Mensch check out Let it Ripple’s The Making of a Mensch on September 18 – Character Day 2015. The film, directed by Tiffany Shlain, and accompanying resources takes a look at character through the lens of these ancient Jewish teachings. Over 5,000 screenings are scheduled globally in schools, synagogues, JCCs, nonprofits, Jewish camps, and other community organizations. After the 10 minute film, engage with a range of learning materials designed to spur conversation and reflection. What better time to dive into questions around morals, personal growth, and character development? Gmar Chatima Tova – May we all have a sweet New Year. Who does not like the sound of that?

-Reposted from eJewishPhilanthropy and the Canteen.

Backpocket Jewish Wisdom

So there are campers down at the pool and the life guard is not there yet. What do you expect the counselor to do? At one level we would just be thrilled if the campers do not drown. On another level we do not want to waste a moment. So your stellar counselor starts them off on a group activity or improv game. This shtick is the bread and butter of camp. But would we give our counselors an A+ for this?

  • In these interstitial moments we build group dynamics, the bunk forms, and most importantly we have fun. While there is no doubt we should not overthink having fun, what would it look like to use these moments to have meaningful Jewish moments of reflection? This seemed like a fitting question for the Backpocket Education’s blog.

To this end I wanted to share ImProverbs . It is a low cost guide to Jewish wisdom that every counselor can have in their back pocket. ImProverbs is a playful mashup of form (see folding instructions below) and content (lessons on being a Mensch).  The idea of a mashup of Proverbs and improv comes from Danny Messenger, a friend from Camp.  I imagine you might have comments or suggestions regarding the content or other uses for the form. Please send either or both to Rabbi Avi Katz Orlow at avi@jewishcamp.org

backpocket

 

And the best part is if they lose it in the pool, no worries, just make another photocopy.

– Reposted in Back Pocket Education Blog

Mussar Meets the Science of Character

I wanted to share a new resource inspired by Tiffany Shlain’s Periodic Table of Character Strengths.  Titled “Making Mensches Periodic Table”, I hope this poster will inspire discussion about how to develop Middot, character traits.  I’ve intentionally left it as an informational resource for you, your family, or your organization to utilize in whatever creative way you find relevant.

To get the creativity flowing, I’ve included some questions for camp’s to consider as they discuss organizational visioning, personal development for staff and campers, and ways for you or your staff turn these ideas into a program or initiative at camp.

I am continuing to develop additional educational resources surrounding this project.  If you would like to contribute any suggestions, please contact me or just comment below.  For those of you who missed Tiffany Shlain’s presentation at the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Leaders Assembly, or just want a refresher, you can view The Science of Character (8 min.)here Please let me know how you use this.

Mussar Meets the Science of Character

Questions to Consider at Camp


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