Featured Partner

The Center for Values in Action: A New Initiative from M²

October 19th, 2022

How can examining challenging issues through the lens of Jewish values be both clarifying and activating? 

Change, self-discovery, and growth most often happen when people are confronted with challenging situations and issues.  Difficult circumstances and disruptive events prompt people to examine what’s important to them and how they want to move forward in response. Today’s learners are often compelled to respond to a range of issues, from climate change, food insecurity, social pressures, increased antisemitism, and more. To help them navigate challenges and be inspired to take action, : The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education is launching the Center for Values in Action, which will partner with major organizations to support Jewish educators, community builders, and leaders across the country.   

“While growth happens when we are challenged, it’s not easy, nor is it a linear process. When confronted with challenging issues, we tend to feel first – we get caught up with strong emotions, become overwhelmed, anxious or stuck.  We may react impulsively.  Sometimes it becomes so overwhelming we shut down – literally pulling the hoodie over our head and tuning it all out.  These are all very normal, in fact, very human responses.” 
– Debbi Cooper, Senior Director, Center for Values in Action, M²: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education

Understanding these initial human responses, the Center will provide training for thousands of educators, offering content, pedagogies, and resources to ensure that Jewish values can mediate and illuminate some of today’s most pressing challenges. Grounded in Jewish wisdom while including a diversity of perspectives, the Center will make sure that educators are equipped to help their learners find meaning in today’s challenges and live a more fulfilled life in line with universal and Jewish values. 

Taking action grounded in a commitment to values will nurture learners’ identities, help them find personal meaning, and recognize the relevance of Jewish ideas and perspectives. In fact, examining challenging issues through the lens of Jewish values can be both clarifying and activating. This approach often enables educators and learners to move beyond buzzwords and soundbites, illuminating how the issue impacts them personally. They can narrow the focus of an issue that feels unwieldy and overwhelming, while also navigating alternative narratives or perspectives. And this lens of Jewish values can provide a “pause” moment to reframe and collect thoughts, and then to examine what truly matters to the learner.

The Center for Values in Action includes a 10-hour Certificate Course for hundreds of educators, engagers, community builders, organizational leaders and program facilitators.  Once these professionals have participated in the Course, they will have access to dozens of “grab and go” resources designed to move learners through the Values in Action approach, using experiential learning modalities and exploration of a variety of Jewish sources to support their experience. While the Center’s many resources are customized to the needs and realities of partner organizations, they all share the same DNA and underlying structure. The “Values in Action” approach will help educators: 

  • Frame contemporary issues (such as climate change) for learners, giving them a chance to weigh in on how the issue is impacting them/their lives.
  • Anchor the issue in a Jewish value (such as responsibility) that can be helpful to educators as they contend with the issue and determine how they can respond.
  • Examine the issue in core Jewish or secular texts, meaningful ideas, and lived experiences.
  • Lead an experiential activity to deepen learners’ understanding of the value, examining the complexity of the value and identifying what’s hard – and grounding – about enacting it.
  • Provide learners with opportunities to make meaning of the experiential activity, drawing out how the activity helped them to reframe their understanding of the value.
  • Prompt learners to consider how they might take action as they respond to the issue.

M² is excited to debut the Center for Values in Action in November, training hundreds of community builders throughout all of 2022 with its first organizational partner, and then introducing a second organizational partner in early 2023. M² has retained an independent evaluator to work with the M² team to identify opportunities for strengthening or refining its offering and/or delivery and to assess the impact on both the educator as well as the organization. 

As a society, it is imperative that we begin having conversations about the difficult topics of the day, with a focus on agency; how we can move past stagnation and take active steps toward creating a more just, kind and compassionate world. An exploration of values can help us clarify our next steps and our tradition’s wisdom can guide us to new understandings of ourselves. We’re eager to get started!
– Kiva Rabinsky, Chief Program Officer, M²: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education

The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of M². To learn more about M², visit URL www.ieje.org. To learn more about partnering with the Center for Values in Action, reach out to Debbi Cooper, [email protected]. Photos above are of M² professional staff and thought partners in April 2022 at “ThinkLab” – a thoughtful and experiential gathering to prototype the approach and resources for Values in Action.