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.”
Of the 28 communities that will be selected through an RFP process, 12 will form a first-year cohort and 16 will be selected for the second year of the project. Selected communities will receive a grant of $7,500. To be awarded, they must articulate a well-conceived project plan, indicate buy-in from community members, and express a commitment to applying mindfulness to their particular tikkun middot project. The Institute already has interest from synagogues; the seminaries Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the Jewish Theological Seminary; and Hillel rabbis and Federation officers.
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.
We are delighted to announce this project and embark on a journey of mindfulness with our selected communities.
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