Judaism as the Key to a Meaningful Life

How can we help Jews draw on their Jewishness to live more meaningful, fulfilling, and responsible lives? That was a central question posed by Dr. Jonathan Woocher (z”l), the renowned scholar and innovator of Jewish education. It was also the theme of a two-day conference sponsored by the Leadership Commons of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education of JTS, in partnership with the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, held January 13-14 in New York City. 

The conference, titled “Striving for Shlemut: An Emerging Focus for Jewish Education,” was the culmination of the Fellowship in Educating for Applied Jewish Wisdom, made possible by the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah and the William Davidson Foundation. Over the course of two retreats and multiple webinar meetings, 11 fellows from Jewish educational institutions around the country were guided by professional mentors and JTS professors in exploring an approach to Jewish education that answers Dr. Woocher’s call for helping Jews find guidance in Judaism for a meaningful life.

The 90 conference attendees focused on six guiding principles, all aimed at educating others on how to live a thriving Jewish life. These principles included “cultivating dispositions,” which refers to working on character and virtues, and “attuning to the world,” or going beyond one’s self and practicing ideals such as tikkun olam. The model presented proposes that Jewish education has focused for too long on surviving, but with these six principles, the conversation has shifted to thriving. 

“During the course of this conference, we hope that together we will further expound upon, amplify, and bring to life this emerging paradigm for Jewish education in the 21st century,” said Dr. Bill Robinson, dean of The William Davidson School, in his words of welcome.

JTS Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen told the group that the topic before them was essential to the future of Judaism in North America.

“Our world, our society, our lives are changing so dramatically, and so rapidly, that it is hard for any of us, or any of our institutions, to keep up. But Judaism must keep up.”

Learn more about The William Davidson School and similar programs it offers.