“From Survive to Thrive”
Notes from the Positive Judaism Summit

By Rabbi Darren Levine

Nearly 200 rabbis, educators, youth professionals, social workers, and community leaders gathered for the 2019 Positive Judaism Summit at the University of Pennsylvania on March 14th.

From secular to observant, ages 18-80, attendees from all over the US and Israel, with presenters representing some of the major US seminaries, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Hebrew Union College, and Jewish Theological Seminary, all came eager to explore aspects of Positive Judaism which lives at the intersection of wellbeing and Jewish Life.

Over the course of a full day, 20 presenters addressed the theme: “From Survive to Thrive: A new approach to Judaism in the 21st Century.” As the Summit’s host, I challenged everyone to imagine a future that shifted from survival Judaism to a Jewish experience focused on thriving and flourishing which I believe is our master narrative. What impact would this have on individuals, families, communities, and the world, if the primary focus of the Jewish mission shifted “from survive to thrive?”

Highlights from the Summit include:

  • Rabbi Deborah Waxman, PhD, President of Reconstructing Judaism gave the keynote address titled, “The Jewish Heart of Resilience.”
  • Rabbi Matt Gewirtz of Temple B’nai Jeshrun, NJ, presented his vision for the Flourishing Synagogue of the 21st Century as model that transcends denominationalism and focuses on character development and relationship building.
  • Michelle Abraham Shapiro, URJ National Youth Director and Rabbi Avi Orlow, VP at The Foundation for Jewish Camp, led sessions on the Road to Character showcasing the new Mensch Periodic Table.
  • Tracey Specter and Rabbi Uri Allen taught the Value of Gratitude from scientific data and Jewish life. This was one of five sessions that paired an expert in Positive Psychology with a Rabbi to teach a specific topic, exemplifying the theory of Positive Judaism that pairs the science of happiness and Jewish living.
  • David Bryce Yaden, Ph.D candidate in the field of Neuroscience and Positive Psychology presented the results of the first Jewish Life Wellbeing Survey. The survey examined core Jewish practices like shabbat observance, kashrut, Passover Seder attendance as factors of wellbeing and happiness.

I’d like to invite you to join us next year in San Francisco for the 2020 Positive Judaism Summit (March 12, 2020) and future years (Amsterdam, Holland on March 18, 2021 and Tel Aviv on March 17, 2022).

Rabbi Darren Levine, D.Min is the Founding Rabbi of Tamd: The Downtown Synagogue in New York City and the host of the Positive Judaism Podcast. To learn more, visit positive-judaism.org