At Jewish Academy of Orlando, our Whole Child focus includes implementing the tenets of Positive Judaism in everything we do. Positive Judaism is a platform that blends traditional Jewish values and practice with the elements of Positive Psychology.
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. Positive Psychology has found that every person, regardless of culture, religion or age, possesses 24 character strengths including kindness, teamwork, bravery, creativity, and more. It focuses on well-being, happiness, and optimal living. Similarly, positive Judaism focuses on the virtues that enhance life and that drive living a meaningful life. In the Jewish tradition of Mussar, there are 48 Jewish virtues or values (in Hebrew middot) that serve as the basis for the study of a variety of Jewish texts. All of these virtues have corresponding Jewish values, teachings and practices. Each week, our students are introduced to one of these character strengths, or Middot in Hebrew. Throughout the year, these strengths are incorporated into everything we do from minyan (religious services) to playing a sport in PE class.
“The goal of Positive Judaism is for individuals and communities to
increase their positive effect on the world. And simultaneously, to
flourish, thrive, and find authentic happiness in their lives.”
Rabbi Darren Levine, D.Min
We were fortunate to have Rabbi Darren Levine, the founder of Positive Judaism speak with us about “How to Raise a Mensch (a smart thoughtful child).”
He shared that positive psychology and the science of well-being and happiness intersects very organically with Jewish living and Jewish wisdom. He touched on strengths-based parenting which is how to parent or teach a child from a place of their strengths. Since happy and well-adjusted children generally have positive influences in their lives that help them perform better in school, positive Judaism tells us that a child's well being and their happiness has to do with their feelings of emotional security which can be achieved through strengths-based parenting. These children who are well and happy, they are very in touch with their strengths. And the adults in their lives are helping them become aware of their strengths, and helping them to focus on their strengths rather than on their weaknesses, which is a very common parenting mistake.
“Character education has always been a part of Jewish education.
However; there is a new urgency in today’s world to make
social-emotional wellness a priority and to truly live the values
that are at the core of Judaism. As we build our program, our
Jewish values will be the bedrock, creating a whole-school
movement that embraces each individual and fosters growth.
Our goal is to help our students, staff, and families recognize
their own incredible potential.”
-Amy Polacek, Director of Academics