Happiness Hacks: A Jewish Futures Conference
To Keep Kids Jewish, Make Sure They Feel Happy
Feel good, do good, and stop obsessing about Jewish identity
At Columbia University, over 400 Jewish educators and communal leaders gathered at the Jewish Futures Conference to hear a case for radically shifting the priorities of Jewish education. Produced through a partnership between The Jewish Education Project and The Lippman Kanfer Institute for Living Torah, the event was built around one major principle: Happiness.
“For Jewish education to be successful, it must hold at its core, the mission to make people happy,” argued David Bryfman, Chief Innovation Officer of The Jewish Educator who founded the popular event.
To be successful, Bryfman added, “we must declare that the most essential element of Jewish education today is not our curriculum, not our educators, not even our Torah and certainly not our houses of learning. The element that matters first and foremost in Jewish education today are our learners.”
This notion was reinforced by keynote presenter Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University’s Furqua School of Business.
Happiness comes from a sense of purpose, meaning, and contribution to others,
said Ariely, renowned for his contributions to the field of positive psychology.
In a Jewish context, Ariely recommended that Jewish educators reorient their priorities from teaching rules to sharing rituals. “Rituals give rules more joy, meaning & transcendence,” explained Ariely. “Rules help us with too many decisions.”
Other presenters included Singer/Songwriter Michelle Citrin; Aliza Kline, Founder and Executive Director of OneTable; and Aryeh Ben-David, Founder and Director of the Ayeka Center For Soulful Education.
“The change in the way we are thinking about Jewish education comes at a critical juncture,” said one participant while reflecting one the day-long conference. “We've shifted from the need to infuse information to thinking about the relevance of Judaism in your life.”
When You’re Happy and You Know It – The True Purpose of Jewish Education, Dr. David Bryfman, eJewish Philanthropy
DAN ARIELY, world-renowned behavioral psychologist and James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University
RABBI ARYEH BEN DAVID, Founder & Director of Ayeka, Center for Soulful Education
RABBI SHIRA STUTMAN, Senior Rabbi at Sixth & I
ALIZA KLINE, Executive Director of OneTable