Institute for Jewish Spirituality Poised to Reach More Young Adults and Jewish Professionals
January 23rd, 2024
Since 1999, the Institute for Jewish Spirituality has helped individuals and communities experience greater awareness, purpose, and interconnection through Jewish spiritual practices. Over the last few years, amid hyper-polarization, the pandemic, the Israel-Hamas war, and other challenges, IJS’s efforts to develop and teach Jewish mindfulness and spiritual practices have taken on increased urgency as demand for these experiences increases.
To meet this demand now—and to engage more people in the years ahead—IJS is focusing on three pillars of its work:
IJS’s impact on me is inestimable. It is not an overstatement to say that my engagement with IJS changed my rabbinate and my life. The tools, insight and sense of community with participants and faculty have been an invaluable sense of mooring and meaning–not only in the challenging time of Covid, but in all the years since. – Rabbi David Stern
Of the more than 10,000 people IJS engages annually through its programs and resources, 90 percent of participants say that IJS supports their learning and growth. Eighty-eight percent express interest in further developing their Jewish spiritual practices. For many people, Jewish mindfulness serves as a vital entry point into Judaism and a pathway for meaningful Jewish connection and engagement. This is particularly true for young adults who have come of age as practices like meditation and mindfulness have been familiar for their entire lives. IJS’s offerings reflect its growing audience, with programs and resources that are vast and varied, designed to meet the needs, time constraints, and level of knowledge of different people.
One newer offering, Flourish, is designed especially for Jewish professionals. The 12-week program, taught by well-known mindfulness teacher Yael Shy and IJS Core Faculty member Rabbi Miriam Margles, aims to renew and deepen participants’ meditation practice, reduce stress and suffering, deepen joy, and provide Jewish mindfulness tools for leadership, resilience, and wisdom in the participants’ workplaces and communities. It features digestible, clear instructional videos, journaling prompts, guided meditations and weekly live practice sessions to develop connections with other participants and support their Jewish spiritual growth and leadership. As another example, IJS’s President and CEO Rabbi Josh Feigelson hosts the weekly podcast, Soulful Jewish Living: Mindful Practices for Everyday, produced in partnership with OpenDor Media’s Unpacked podcast series. Designed to be easily accessible, Rabbi Feigelson guides listeners with ancient wisdom and modern mindfulness practices to help center their soul and ease into their week.
I looked up from my morning coffee and saw the view from my window with fresh eyes, with gratitude and amazement. Thank you for your words, both inspiring and comforting, at a time when we are in such need of inspiration and comfort. – podcast listener Laura Gussin Zinker, Newtown, PA
In the years ahead, IJS will grow and expand its offerings, with a specific goal to reach more young people and help them develop a deeper sense of belonging in Jewish life. Rebecca Schisler, who joined the IJS faculty in 2022, is planting the seeds for reaching younger populations through Jewish spiritual and mindfulness practices. Her multi-year plan offers models for in-person, local programming in the East Bay that may be brought to scale, as well as national efforts to engage young adults in Jewish spiritual practices.
Torah study isn’t just an intellectual experience. If we come away only to say, ‘That was interesting,’ we’re not doing it right. Torah study is, first and foremost, about connection: to our heritage, to our ancestors, to our study partners, to our community, to the Holy One, to ourselves. – Rebecca Schisler, IJS faculty member focusing on engaging young adults
The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Learn more at jewishspirituality.org.