Common Questions

About the Institute for Jewish Spirituality

What do you mean by Jewish Spirituality?

“Spirituality” is notoriously hard to define. Because it is ultimately the experience of an individual, spirituality will be experienced differently by people depending on their theology, their attitudes, their perspectives about the world. Some of the words that we at the Institute often associate with “spirituality” include:

meaningful; purposeful; depth; experience-based; healing; soul; open-hearted; interconnected; alive; integrity; God; the Divine; energy; life force; clarity; awareness; discernment; safety; values; sacred; mysterious; the unknown; potential; attention; Presence; love; vulnerability; transformation; unfolding; journey

What Jewish mindfulness practices does IJS focus on?

At the Institute, we focus on cultivating spiritual practices that foster spiritual growth. Judaism has traditionally emphasized behavior as a powerful way of connecting to the spiritual; in fact, one could consider the entire mitzvot framework as a comprehensive approach to spiritual practice.

  1. Jewish mindfulness meditation
  2. Reflective text study
  3. Contemplative prayer
  4. Ethical behavior (Tikkun Middot)
  5. Embodied practices like yoga and singing

For more information, please see Our Spiritual Practices.

How do I know where to start?
  • If you’re just getting started with IJS, we suggest checking out our offerings on the Get Started page.
  • If you’re already familiar with IJS or mindfulness practices, we suggest checking out our programs on the Go Deeper page.
  • If you’re looking to bring these teachings to your community, we suggest checking out our programs on the Teach Others page.

And if you’d like to see a list of programs, courses, and products we offer, please click here.

I’ve been participating in IJS programs for years--why do I have to register?

Great question! The new website has lots of new features–and choices that we can’t make for you, e.g., do you want to find a study partner; do you want us to send you notifications or reminders? Plus, you’ll be able to see your retreat-based programs and online programs in one place. Thank you for taking a few moments to register on the new site.

Can I do anything for free?

Yes!  If you would like to try out Jewish mindfulness meditation, there is a free Starter Kit that includes an introduction, a short text study, a guided meditation, and a handout. Go to the Get Started page and select: Free Starter Kit. 

There are also free weekly online sits, which you can attend live or view the recording.  Registration (name, address, phone, email) is required for the free weekly sits and the other free items, which include:

  • The IJS Meditation Timer that comes loaded with 3 guided meditations
  • A community-wide discussion forum
  • A personal online journal
  • The ability to look for a study/practice partner 
  • A wealth of free resources on a variety of topics in a variety of formats: video, audio, and  PDF
Is IJS only teaching online courses now?

No!  IJS is committed to giving more Jews access to our work–and thus the increase in online offerings. We are excited to, in some cases, blend online study with in-person retreats to create different kinds of in-depth experiences.  That said, we are committed as ever to our cohorts and standalone retreats. Please check the website (and consider subscribing to the e-newsletter, if you have not) to “be in the know.” The 20th Anniversary retreat (summer of 2019) sold out in two weeks.

What is the IJS Meditation Timer and how do I find it?

The IJS Meditation Timer is a free resource that comes loaded with three guided meditations. You can also use the Timer, which includes the choice of 3 different bells, to time your own meditations. And, if you are enrolled in an IJS online course that includes guided meditations, you can send your favorites to the Timer. To access free IJS resources, register here (IJS does not share its lists or sign you up for its newsletters.)

What makes the IJS e-newsletters special?

Sign-up for the IJS newsletter and you actually receive bi-weekly newsletters. One newsletter is devoted to practice (teachings for Jewish mindfulness practices that you can do at home, such as meditations, text studies, prayers, etc.) provided by IJS’s outstanding faculty and guests with whom we have long-standing relationships. The other newsletter is focused on upcoming programs. The two alternate, such that you’ll receive one newsletter approximately every other week. You can unsubscribe at any time using the form at the bottom of this page.

How can I find out more about the Institute for Jewish Spirituality?

Please visit the About section which includes Vision, Mission, and Values; Board and Staff; and a definition of Jewish Spiritual Practices.

Who attends your programs?

Participants come from a wide variety of Jewish backgrounds, with all levels of Hebrew knowledge, experience with meditation, yoga, or silence – and we strive to make our sessions accessible and engaging for all participants – including all ages, sexual orientations, genders, mobility needs and physical abilities. In order to be welcoming for all levels of observance, our retreats are Shabbat-friendly and kosher.

Are your programs open to clergy and congregants?

Yes! We welcome participants from across the Jewish spectrum; we tailor the teaching to participant needs. Both our professional and lay programs are based on the importance of practice in developing and sustaining spiritual awareness and practices. The key difference is that our professional programs are by admission only, and are 2 year cohorts. We offer a variety of open programming including weekend retreats, and text study groups. For more information, please view Our Programs page.

Why do you include yoga as a practice?

While many engage in yoga simply as a physically based contemplative practice, within the Institute it is carefully integrated with the other core practices to enhance and echo the larger goals of fostering increased Jewish spiritual connections and awareness, individually and communally.

How can I get more information on Retreat Logistics?

Please visit Our Retreats page. For additional questions, please contact our Retreats Manager, Liat Melnick.

How can I bring the Institute to my community?

Please consider joining us for a retreat, and encourage your rabbi or cantor to participate in our professional program, as that will have a direct impact on the ongoing life of your community. Many of the Institute faculty and staff regularly serve as Scholars in Residence in synagogues and community centers, please contact us if you would like more information on bringing in faculty for a Shabbaton. We would be happy to help you bring the lay curricula we’ve created and worked with to your community. Please call us at (646)461-6499 for more information.

Where do I find out what is happening in my community?

In order to make Jewish mindfulness accessible to anyone with an internet connection, we continue to expand our online course offerings.  The online programs are also intended to be shared by synagogue or JCC groups or any organization that would like to form a group and use an online program as the centerpiece. Contact:  Liat Melnick (liatm@jewishspirituality.org)  to learn about bringing a course to your community.

Here are the places where we know a program is happening:  IJS in Your Community

What other resources do you have available?

We invite you to take advantage of the many resources we have developed over the years. You will find a variety of tools, including a meditation timer, practice-partners, discussion forums, webinars, videos, meditations, and texts when you login to your IJS dashboard, or register for a free account.

Where did the Hevraya Resource Bank move to?
Who supports the Institute? Is it affiliated with a Jewish movement?

The Institute has been fortunate to have the support of major foundations, several of them of many years duration; and we are sustained by generous donations from individuals, our alumni and participants. The Institute is not affiliated with any movement, we seek to serve all Jews in deepening their personal spiritual and religious lives, however they express them.

How do I pay for a course, program, or retreat?

If you are registering for a course or event through our Online Learning Platform, we accept Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and PayPal, and are processed securely through PayPal (you do not need a PayPal account!). 

When registering for a retreat or event on RegFox, we accept Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and check payments. Credit and debit card transactions are processed securely through the RegFox system, and checks may be made out to “Institute for Jewish Spirituality” and mailed to:

Institute for Jewish Spirituality
121 West 27th Street, Suite 404
New York, NY  10001.

For those who pay for a retreat or program by check, payment must be received within 21 days of your registration in order to confirm your attendance. 

What is the cancellation policy for retreats or online programs?

Our cancellation policy for retreats is a full refund minus a $100 cancellation fee, if cancelling within 2-3 weeks of the start of the retreat. Each retreat has its own particular cancellation policy with exact dates for cancellation with and without a refund, so please check the event registration page and your confirmation email for your retreat’s specific cancellation policy. Any fees that are refunded due to a cancellation will be paid by check.

Online courses and programs each have individual cancellation policies. For questions about cancelling a registration for an online course or program, please contact customerservice@jewishspirituality.org.