“The questioning allows us to dig deep into the Torah portion and make the aliyot personal. Excellent strategy to include everyone.”

— Lay retreat participant Winter 2012

Mindfulness & Tikkun Middot Project for Jewish Organizations

We are thrilled to announce that the Institute has received a major grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The grant will support an innovative, national program to promote character development through mindfulness and tikkun middot practice in targeted Jewish communities led by Institute-trained rabbis, cantors, educators, mindfulness teachers, and community leaders. This project will address whether faith communities can create sustainable structures that positively impact leaders’ and members’ lifelong character development. The Project Director is Rabbi Marc Margolius, the Institute’s Director of Hevraya.

The three-year course of study will examine the impact of engaging 28 Jewish organizations as they develop staff and volunteers’ moral character through the mindfulness practice of tikkun middot: the cultivation of moral character traits such as forgiveness, generosity, and humility. We hypothesize that cultivating community-wide attention to moral traits will transform the organization by helping individuals acknowledge and reduce negative behavioral patterns and change challenging situations into opportunities to strengthen their character by responding with greater wisdom and compassion.

In addition to working on their own character development, participants will engage in the practice of tikkun middot for the purpose of strategically infusing middot practice throughout as many facets of congregational and organizational culture as possible in a sustainable manner. For example, community members can focus on bringing the practice into worship, adult and children’s education, committee and board meetings, social justice work, and even cultural programming.

We hope to see study participants reporting:

  • Increased awareness of situations in which they typically react negatively;
  • The ability to respond to such situations by practicing the positive trait covered by the curriculum; and
  • An increase in their experience of the religious community as modeling positive moral character.

This project will offer the larger community a systematic way to foster model character development and cultivate mindfulness practices to support ongoing use of the middot.

According to Craig Joseph, Ph.D., Director of the Templeton Foundation’s Character Development Funding Area, “this innovative program, which integrates the classical Jewish tradition of mussar  with mindfulness practice, exemplifies the John Templeton Foundation’s mission to promote the cultivation of good character and to encourage learning from diverse traditions’ wisdom about virtues and character.”

Boston-based Rabbi David Jaffe is developing the curriculum and will co-facilitate the training with Rabbi Margolius. Miki Young, a Philadelphia-based educator, is writing the curriculum for parents and families. Dr. Tobin Belzer of the University of Southern California will evaluate the project. Upon completion, the Institute will disseminate the results of the project and the curriculum for wide use.

Of the 28 communities selected through an RFP process, 12 form a first-year cohort and 16 will participate in the second year of the project. Selection criteria included: a well-conceived project plan, buy-in from community members, and a commitment to apply mindfulness to their particular tikkun middot project. We are delighted to announce this project and embark on a journey of mindfulness with our selected communities:

Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life and the NYU Center for Spiritual Life, New York, New York
Congregation Bet Haverim, Reconstructionist, Atlanta, Georgia
Congregation Beth Israel, Reform, Charlottesville, Virgina
Congregation B’nai Israel, Conservative, Northampton, Massachusetts
Congregation B’nai Jacob, Conservative, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
Congregation B’nai Keshet, Reconstructionist, Montclair, New Jersey
Chochmat Halev, Renewal, Berkeley, California
Jewish Community Center (JCC) of San Francisco, California
Jewish Theological Seminary, Conservative, New York, New York
Kehillah High School, Palo Alto, California
Temple Tikvah, Reform, New Hyde Park, New York
Tucson Hebrew Academy, K-eighth grade, Tucson, Arizona


Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, Reform, Beachwood, Ohio

Chicagoland Jewish High School, Chicago, Illinois
Congregation Beth El of the Sudbury River Valley, Reform, Sudbury, Massachusetts
Congregation Beth Evergreen, Reconstructionist, Evergreen, Colorado
Congregation Har HaShem, Reform, Boulder, Colorado
Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, Reform, San Francisco, California
Congregation Shaare Emeth, Reform, St. Louis, Missouri
Jewish Family Services of San Diego, California
Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue, Reconstructionist, Malibu, California
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Wyncote, Pennsylvania
Temple Beth Sholom, Reform, Topeka, Kansas
Temple B’nai Jeshurun, Reform, Short Hills, New Jersey
Temple Ohabei Shalom, Reform, Brookline, Massachusetts
Temple Sholom, Reform, Chicago, Illinois
The New Shul, Independent, Scottsdale, Arizona
Westchester Jewish Community Services, White Plains, New York

The Project’s 10 Middot

Hitlamdut – Openness to Learning
Behira Points – Choice Points
Anavah – Humility
Savlanut and Ka’as – Patience
Hesed – Lovingkindness
Kavod – Respect
Shtika & Shmirat HaLashon – Silence & Thoughtful Speech
Bitachon – Trust in God
Emunah – Trustworthiness
Seder – Order

For more information about the Mindfulness & Tikkun Middot Project, please email Marc@jewishspirituality.org