BJE Launches Initiative Aimed At Improving Jewish Schools’ Ability To Address Wellbeing In School Communities

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health challenges were the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people, with up to 1 in 5 children ages 3 to 17 in the U.S. having a mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder. In October 2020, the impact of COVID-19 led the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) to jointly declared a National State of Emergency in Children’s Mental Health. Additionally, the CDC Foundation reported that 27% of teachers self-reported symptoms consistent with clinical depression and 37% self-reported symptoms consistent with generalized anxiety.

Many school communities are in crisis.

With the support of a generous Reimagine Grant from the Jewish Community Foundation, BJE’s first cohort of educators will be trained in Positive Education, the application of the science of wellbeing and principles of Positive Psychology, Neuroscience and Integrative Health in order to enhance staff, student, and community wellbeing. BJE has partnered with the Center for Positive Education to offer an intensive training program for participating educators, who will then introduce the approach – aimed at enhancing staff, student, and community wellbeing – to their schools. The program marks the first time BJE has organized a training cohort with educators from across day schools, early childhood programs, and part-time religious schools.

“Being able to bring Positive Education to our community and show them the ways in which it intertwines with Jewish values and living a Jewish life is unique and can be very powerful,” said Julia Levine, Religious School Director of Temple Ramat Zion. “I love the idea of our families realizing that their Jewish beliefs and practices infused with positive education can help them lead a happier and emotionally healthier life.”

Added Shayna Goldmann, Early Childhood Center Director at Ohr Eliyahu, “If we can introduce the concepts behind positive psychology and education at an early age, we have a greater opportunity for instilling within these children a positive, growth-oriented mindset that is strength-based. I hope to learn and apply the principles of Positive Education within our entire school population (Preschool-8th Grade), including both the children and the teachers, and ‘pay it forward’ by sharing it with all of our families, as well.”

The first cohort includes: Kehillat Israel, Wise School, Temple Akiba, Ohr Eliyahu and Ilan Ramon early childhood programs; Valley Beth Shalom, Brawerman, Heschel, Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy and llan Ramon day schools; and Temple Ramat Zion, Kehillat Israel, Temple Menorah, Temple Aliyah and Los Angeles Hebrew High School part-time religious schools. A second cohort is planned for Fall 2022.

Additionally, through an arrangement with Milken Community School, Sarah Rosenblum, who brings extensive background in the application of positive psychology to Jewish education is serving as BJE’s Positive Education Initiative Project Consultant.  Together with BJE staff, she will help educators with in-school application of a positive education approach and will offer opportunities for educators and parents from schools beyond those represented in the cohort to learn about positive education.   

For more information about BJE’s work with Positive Education, please contact Dr. Gil Graff, Executive Director of BJE: Builders of Jewish Education