By Rabbi Darren Levine
The First Positive Judaism Summit was held in New York City on Wednesday March 23 at the 92nd St. Y. Positive Judaism is a new platform for Jewish life in the 21st Century that lives at the intersection of Jewish life and the science of wellbeing and happiness. The central theme of the summit focused on “Personal Happiness, Individual Thriving, and Communal Wellbeing: A New Jewish Vision,” and attendees came from all over North America to participate.
Positive Judaism is not a new movement. Rather, Positive Judaism is a platform for Jewish life that focuses on wellbeing and helping people to achieve new levels of happiness and life satisfaction through Jewish living. Last summer, I attended the 2017 International Positive Psychology Association Conference in Montreal and Dr. Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness, Learned Optimism, and The Hope Circuit, said that the next frontiers of Positive Psychology will be politics, education, and religion. That inspired me to gather some of the most unique voices in Jewish life today to speak about Positive Judaism.
At the summit, Dr. David Bryfman of the Jewish Education Project said that we need to evolve the conversation in the Jewish community from “surviving to thriving.” Topics about synagogue membership, Jewish continuity, and using numbers as a benchmark for success is the wrong focus for creating flourishing Jewish life. Rather, a focus on individual wellbeing, thriving, and happiness will serve Jewish people and humanity in the best way.
Cantor Adina Frydman (UJA Federation of New York), Emiliya Zhivotovskaya (The Flourishing Center), Dr. Jeffrey Kress (The Jewish Theological Seminary), Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu (CLAL), Rabbi Michael Mellen (Iron and Sage Consulting), and Rabbi Geoff Mitleman (Sinai and Synapses) each addressed how they are applying the principles of Positive Judaism and Positive Psychology in their work.
The 2019 Positive Judaism Summit will take place in Philadelphia, PA on March 6, 2019. More information about this platform and the first survey on “Wellbeing in the Jewish Community” can be found at positive-judaism.org.
Rabbi Darren Levine is the Founding Rabbi of Tamid: The Downtown Synagogue and organized the Positive Judaism Summit.