The Institute for Jewish Spirituality presents Awareness in Action
The Institute for Jewish Spirituality presents Awareness in Action
The Institute for Jewish Spirituality presents Awareness in Action

Awareness in Action featuring a Queer Approach with Rabbi Joshua Lesser,

Senior Rabbi of Bet Haverim, Atlanta, GA, founded by LGBTQ Jews, rabbinic editor of Torah Queeries, a commentary uniting the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight-allied writers.

This special edition of Awareness in Action, led by Rabbi Joshua Lesser, is for anyone interested in a queer, LGBTQ+ aligned approach to practicing mindfulness and middot (character traits). In eight weekly practice sessions, Rabbi Lesser will apply an intentional queer lens to the program materials and sacred texts.  This approach will support participants in integrating the practice more deeply, and bolstering the change they wish to manifest in themselves, their communities, and the world.

All gender identities and sexual orientations are welcome.

Learn The Jewish Practice That Teaches You How To Be Your “Best Self”

How often do you feel out of sync with your own inner values… prompting  your inner voice to whisper: “I wish I hadn’t done that” or “I wish I hadn’t said that.”

Judaism can, in fact, help us align our actions and words with our “best selves”… as we learn to become less reactive and habit-driven, and instead respond more wisely…. as a partner, a friend, a parent and colleague.

The ancient Jewish practice of developing desirable character traits (tikkun middot) is a powerful, practical tool for aligning our actions with our most deeply held values. Tikkun middot practice is for anyone who wants to more often be their “best selves” in the small and large actions of daily life… in traffic, in meetings, in interactions with family and friends… and when life is particularly challenging.

That’s why the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, the global leader in teaching Jewish mindfulness and spiritual practice, created Awareness in Action: Cultivating Character through Mindfulness and Middot, a professionally-produced, self-paced online course that helps you more consistently align your inner values with how you are in the world… from the comfort and convenience of your home.

In Awareness in Action, you’ll learn how to access and practice eight core character traits (middot), each of which builds upon and integrates those which precede it:

  1. Loving connection (chesed)
  2. Setting wise boundaries for yourself and others (gevurah)
  3. A balanced self-taking up appropriate space and time (avanah)
  4. Energetic response–so you can get started and keep going (zerizut)
  5. Gratitude (hodayah)
  6. Righteousness-developing your capacity to do what is appropriate and just (tzedek)
  7. Mindful speech (sh’mirat hadibbur)
  8. Trustworthiness (emunah)

Bringing mindfulness practice more deeply into your life

Master teachers Rabbi Marc Margolius and Rabbi Lisa Goldstein will expertly guide you each step of the way through establishing a tikkun middot practice that can support you in:

  • Growing in self-awareness and gain better insight into your deeper motivations and habitual patterns
  • Becoming less reactive and more responsive—better able to access the innate wisdom in your body, mind and soul
  • Developing the freedom to choose how you want to act
  • Experiencing Jewish spiritual practice as a path to personal transformation.

Here’s What Participants Have Told Us About How This Course Transformed Their Lives

“I’ve heard the phrase, “living an examined life”, many times. But not until I began to participate in tikkun middot practice with IJS did I truly recognize the wisdom of this worldview, and gain the tools to put it into action. Now I am constantly surprised by how often I notice situations arising in which I apply middot to my experiences and responses. And this knowledge has a cumulative effect: the more middot I internalize, the more it enriches my life — personally, professionally, and communally.”

Dan Kaplan, Evanston, IL


“Tikkun middot practice weaves Jewish wisdom through my day to day life, helping me meet situations that I used to find baffling and confusing. It may sound like hyperbole, but now that I’ve been practicing regularly, I experience miracles everywhere. Consistently, no matter what presents as a challenge in my life — from the simplest irritants to the most triggering situations — this practice helps me regulate my internal chaos and remember that my awareness is within me, a light that never goes out.”

Cantor Meredith Greenberg, Montclair NJ


Awareness in Action
A Session-by-Session Course Overview

Here’s a closer look at everything you’ll cover:

Every module is between 30 and 45 minutes in length, and includes:

  • Video teachings and guided “real life” scenarios with Rabbi Marc Margolius
  • A teaching from a related Jewish texts with Rabbi Lisa Goldstein
  • A professionally recorded chant and sample “focus phrases” (a reminder to practice during the day)
  • A supplemental handout with reflection questions

Also included:

  • A free, live, one-hour weekly online session with Rabbi Joshua Lesser.

Module One

Loving Connection: Chesed
Open up to loving connection, especially in challenging situations.

Module Two

Setting wise boundaries: Gevurah
Being loving and generous—but not to the extent you are doing a disservice to family, friends, colleagues, or yourself.

Module Three

Centering in a balanced self: Avanah
Taking up the right amount of space in the world—neither too much nor too little.

Module Four

Channeling an energetic response: Zerizut
Accessing the energy you need to either get going—or keep going.

Module Five

Experiencing gratitude: Hodayah
Accepting life on its own terms and rejoicing about what is true at this moment, just as it is.

Module Six

Letting Righteousness Flow: Tzedek
Developing your capacity to do what is right and just—with compassion opening new channels through which righteousness can flow.

Module Seven

Mindful speech: Sh’mirat Hadibbur
Applying mindfulness to all of your communications so that they reflect your best self.

Module Eight

Generating Trustworthiness: Emunah
Consistently showing-up for yourself and others.

Once you have finished the eight modules you may notice . . .

  • Some of the eight traits (middot) have been easier for you to incorporate into your life than others. There is plenty of time to go back and focus on the ones you found more challenging. In fact, we encourage going back through all eight.
  • You are learning which support tools are most helpful for you… is it humming a chant throughout your day; posting a “focus phrase” on your refrigerator or laptop screen; and/or checking-in with a practice partner three times per week.
  • You’re becoming more skilled at noticing when you are about to go down a habitual path that is out of alignment with how you want to be in the world—and sometimes doing something different. (It takes practice!)
  • You’re increasingly able to meet others (and yourself) with a deeper quality of love, compassion and acceptance.

Course Materials and Resources

This course is appropriate for beginners as well as more experienced meditators and mindfulness practitioners. While the concepts and practices are framed in Jewish terms, no prior Judaic knowledge is assumed or necessary.

When you register, you’ll get access to everything you need to take full advantage of the self-paced course, including:

  • 8 sets of self-paced video teaching sessions – that you can access anywhere, anytime from your computer or mobile device.
  • 8 guided “Mindful Life” practice scenarios – designed to help you integrate the course teachings into your everyday life.
  • 8 teachings from Jewish texts – that will provide a Jewish frame and additional insights into the character trait (middah).
  • 8 downloadable chants – one for each module, professionally recorded by Cantor Julia Cadrain with Elana Adrian or Rabbi Sam Feinsmith, to help you integrate the character trait (middah) into your life through music.
  • Downloadable handouts for each module – so you can reference these teachings anytime.
  • Additional resources for each middah, including poems and playlists.
  • A personal online journal – your own personal space to record your reflections.
  • Online study/practice partners – so you can share your experience with like-minded others on a similar path.

You will also receive an invitation to attend the free, live, weekly online sessions with Rabbi Joshua Lesser.

Meet your facilitator:

Rabbi Joshua Lesser

Rabbi Joshua Lesser is the senior rabbi of Congration Bet Haverim in Atlanta, Georgia – founded by LGBTQ Jews. Rabbi Lesser is the rabbinic editor for Torah Queeries, an incredibly rich Torah commentary uniting the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight-allied writers. In 2001, he founded the Southern Jewish Resource Network for sexual and gender diversity which has provided resources to support LGBTQ+ people and their loved and worked with Jewish organizations of every denomination to be more inclusive. Currently, he serves on the Mayor of Atlanta’s LGBT task force and its Transgender Affairs subcommittee. He trained as a spiritual director with Lev Shomeia and has been a director for nearly a decade. He has also led spiritual direction groups for people who are LGBTQ+, people exploring grief, and for activists and advocates. The founder of the Facebook group, Spiritual and Communal Responses to Covid-19, he has been working to create an interfaith community of clergy and spiritual leaders to support each other during the pandemic.

Meet your teachers:

Rabbi Marc Margolius

Marc is a Senior Program Director at IJS, where he directs The Well program for lay people, the Hevraya program for clergy, and the Tikkun Middot Project. For two years, he authored “Mindful Torah,” a teaching on the weekly Torah portion through the lens of mindfulness and middot. As a long-time congregational rabbi in Philadelphia and New York, he led initiatives in systemic congregational change through tikkun middot practice and through Shabbat-centered intergenerational learning. A graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Yale College, and Yale Law School, he lives in New York with his wife, Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, and has five children.

Rabbi Lisa Goldstein

Lisa is a master teacher of Jewish-based mindfulness practices. She first came to IJS as a participant in the rabbinic leadership program and meditation teacher training. She served as the Executive Director of IJS, where, in addition to management responsibilities, she also taught at retreats and meditation programs. Educated at Brown University and Hebrew Union College, she previously served as the director of Hillel of San Diego, where she was recognized as an “Exemplar of Excellence.” Lisa She lives in New York City with her husband and foster son.

Meet the musicians and vocalists:

Elana Arian

Musician and Vocalist

Elana Arian is one of the leading voices in contemporary Jewish music. A composer, multi-instrumentalist, prayer leader, and recording artist, Elana’s work has been published by Transcontinental Music. Elana works as an Adjunct Professor at the HUC-JIR’s Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music in New York. She has released three albums of original music. When not performing, recording, or writing, Elana spends her time chasing her two daughters, Maya and Acadia, around Brooklyn with her wife, Julia.

Cantor Julia Cadrain


Cantor Julia Cadrain was ordained by HUC-JIR’s Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music and has been a member of the Central Synagogue clergy team since 2012–where she co-produced a record of music from Central’s Friday night service called “Sounds of Shabbat.” Cantor Cadrain is also a certified vinyasa yoga instructor, and member of the second Clergy Leadership Program cohort at IJS.  Cantor Cadrain studied classical vocal performance at the New England Conservatory in Boston. She lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn with her wife Elana and their two children.

Rabbi Sam Feinsmith

Musician and Vocalist

At IJS, Sam directs the Educating for a Jewish Spiritual Life and Prayer Project Programs and co-directs the Clergy Leadership Program. He has been immersed in the world of Jewish contemplative living, learning, and teaching for over fifteen years, conducting Jewish meditation workshops and retreats for young children, teens, and Jewish educators and community leaders. Sam lives outside of Chicago with his wife and daughter, where he delights in the daily miracles of early childhood.

About the Institute for Jewish Spirituality

Since 1999, IJS has been a leader in teaching traditional and contemporary Jewish spiritual practices that cultivate mindfulness so that each of us might act with enriched wisdom, clarity, and compassion. These practices, grounded in Jewish values and thought, enable participants to develop important skills while strengthening leadership capacities, deepening their inner lives, and connecting more meaningfully with others, Judaism, and the sacred.