From Crisis to an Opportunity to Thrive: Announcing the Fellowship in Educating for Applied Jewish Wisdom

By Dr. Bill Robinson and Dr. Jeffrey Kress

At least since the publication of A Time to Act (1990), Jewish education has been operating in crisis mode. The findings of and reactions to the 2013 Pew study added fuel to this fire.

We’d like to propose that we shift into opportunity mode.

Innovative initiatives have been undertaken in secular education to promote thriving, or flourishing. These terms refer to the ability and opportunity to develop one’s talents toward a purposeful pursuit and build lasting, meaningful relationships with other people. It also means contributing to making the world a place that supports the thriving of us all. Positive Psychology and Mindfulness have laid the initial groundwork of theory and research on which these efforts are built.

Here is where we find an opportunity: We believe that there are profound benefits that Jewish tradition has for enabling us to thrive in today’s world. Jewish culture and religion offer us textual wisdom, ritual and ceremonial experiences, spiritual and ethical practices, and living communities that provide a rich store of experiences and resources for learning to thrive. Jewish education that focuses on educating for thriving can give learners access to this treasure and guide them in learning within and from it. Our opportunity, therefore, is to lend a strong voice – one rooted in tradition and text – to the conversation around promoting a life marked by thriving. There is an opportunity to go beyond importing ideas from secular education by identifying the contribution that Jewish wisdom can make.

Yet, what does Jewish education for thriving look like? In what ways can the Jewish wisdom found in our sacred texts and commentaries guide us in leading a life well-lived? How may traditional Jewish practices (e.g., Shabbat, daily prayer, holiday celebrations, environmental practices such as shmita observance) provide solace, inspiration, and guidance in today’s often harried and disconnected world? What are the best ways to educate the rising generations of Jews so that they can glean meaning, purpose, and even happiness from the Jewish tradition? How will all these inspire and enable Jews to shape a better world that supports the thriving of all of us?

To answer these questions and advance this still fledgling vision of Jewish education, the Leadership Commons of The Davidson School at JTS, with the support of the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, is launching the Fellowship in Educating for Applied Jewish Wisdom. We know there are many scholar-practitioners in the field today piloting innovative examples of educating for thriving that focuses on the ways in which Jewish wisdom can be applied to living ethical lives. The fellowship will bring together a select group of these leading practitioners from across settings to co-create exemplary educational models and cultivate their role as thought-leaders for the field of Jewish education.

This yearlong fellowship will convene with a multi-day retreat in mid-January 2018, followed by a 2018 summer retreat and a continental conference during the winter of 2018-19. During the retreats and in between, fellows will learn with esteemed faculty, participate in hevruta study with one another, engage in action research and documentation of their own work on educating for practical Jewish wisdom, and share their knowledge and insights through in person teaching and publishing. An honorarium and all travel expenses will be provided to the Fellows.

To apply for this groundbreaking fellowship as an individual fellow or as a team of two fellows, fill out this simple form: All applications are due by October 23rd. For more information, please contact us at