Jewish Futures Conference 2016: Happiness Hacks

Curated Series
The Jewish Education Project
Jewish Futures Conf 2016

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 Executive 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, 

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.”

Aliza Kline: Personal Happiness

Aliza Kline, Executive Director of One Table, discusses personal happiness at the 2016 Jewish Futures Conference.

Jewish Futures: Professor Dan Ariely on What Makes Us Happy

Professor Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, discusses what makes up happy at the 2016 Jewish Futures Conference.

Rabbi Shira Stutman: a Jewish Response to Happiness

Rabbi Shira Stutman, Senior Rabbi at Sixth & I, discusses a Jewish response to happiness at the 2016 Jewish Futures Conference.

Dan Ariely: Happiness and the Paradox of Choice

Professor Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, discusses happiness and the paradox of choice at the 2016 Jewish Futures Conference.

Rabbi Lee Moore: Laughter Yoga

Rabbi Lee Moore, Director of Jewish and Organizational Learning at Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, discusses laughter yoga at the 2016 Jewish Futures Conference.

Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applied Jewish Wisdom

The prize winners of the Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applied Jewish Wisdom are announced at the 2016 Jewish Futures Conference.

David Bryfman: Gratitude

David Bryfman, CEO of The Jewish Education Project, discusses gratitude at the 2016 Jewish Futures Conference.

Dan Ariely: How Can We Be Happier?

Professor Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, discusses how can we be happier at the 2016 Jewish Futures Conference.

Aryeh Ben David: Happiness in Jewish Education

Aryeh Ben David, Founder and Director of Ayeka: Center for Soulful Education, discusses happiness in Jewish education at the 2016 Jewish Futures Conference.

David Bryfman: The Mood Meter and Final Reflection

David Bryfman, CEO of The Jewish Education Project, discusses the mood meter and delivers a final reflection at the 2016 Jewish Futures Conference.

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