Creating Soulful Communities

By David Kahn

When we at Ayeka began speaking about Soulful Education over a decade ago – and even dared to use the “G-word,” eyes rolled and conversations ended. Today, we see schools competing to bring their educators to our Soulful Education trainings where Ayeka helps teachers to focus on their inner lives, as a vital first step in transmitting Jewish values and teachings.

The outcomes are substantial:

  • More attentive listening; less posturing;
  • greater honesty and humility (“I’m a work in progress”);
  • more compassion and less jealousy (“Everyone else is a work in progress as well”);
  • improved teamwork and bonding – community progress can’t be achieved alone;
  • and the courage to keep daring and even fail.

Ten years on and there is less judgment, fear and in-fighting and more honesty, harmony and cooperation across a cadre of Ayeka-trained educators spanning the Jewish denominational spectrum. These educators view Jewish education from a more soulful, God-centered perspective in which their personal connection to Judaism matches or surpasses the breadth of their Jewish knowledge.

What if we replicate this result among Jewish leaders who are responsible for steering Jewish communal life? Could we foster greater respect, tolerance and cohesion in the Jewish communities in which we live and work?

We propose building ‘Soulful Communities’ in which Jewish leaders strengthen their efforts to work more closely together, without ego, to advance not only their own organization’s mission, but that of their community as well. Because it is ultimately on the communal level – and in the dynamic between organizations serving the community – that will define whether it is working cohesively, directing its resources to best serve local needs and the Jewish world at large.

Jewish communities face rampant assimilation, growing disinterest by Millenials, and a plethora of organizations pulling in different directions. In this environment, it is vital for organizational leaders to find common purpose and to pull together.

We believe that communities need to discover their souls as much as individuals do. The soul of a community longs for the integration of its constituent parts in the same way an individual’s soul needs the body’s parts to function harmoniously. Soulful communities seek common purpose and unity, even while acknowledging and respecting the differences of its various parts.

How do Jewish leaders create a soulful community?

Through bringing together community stakeholders to focus, individually and collectively, on their own inner lives. In cohorts, seminars and online forums, participants integrate Jewish spiritual principles and practices that facilitate personal growth which translate into improved cross-institutional relationships.

Supported by leading change-agents and funders in the educational arena, including AVI CHAI, Jim Joseph, Kohelet and Mayberg Foundations, Ayeka nurtures soulfulness at leading day schools and high schools across North America. We are also replicating this in the family sphere through our “Soulful Parenting” and “Soulful Individual” tracks.

We are confident that transforming a community into a Soulful Community will foster greater respect, tolerance and cohesion among today’s Jewish leaders.

To learn more, contact: israel@ayeka.org.il

David Kahn is Chairman of the Board of Ayeka.