What Makes A Mensch?

by Jackie Cohen June 4, 2015


making a menschPeople from 120 countries joined Let It Ripple on Character Day 2014 for the release of “The Science of Character”, a short film about the neuroscience and social aspects of shaping character.

This year, Character Day and the release of Let It Ripple’s newest film, “The Making of a Mensch”, will fall between the High Holidays on Sept. 18.

“Premiering ‘The Making of a Mensch’ as part of Character Day, and during the High Holidays, will create a very powerful experience that we hope will spark new conversation and thinking about how to live fulfilling and purposeful lives in today’s 24/7 world,” director Tiffany Shlain wrote in a press release.

Let It Ripple, a company that helps people engage in 21st century conversations using film, technology, discussion materials, and virtual events, created Character Day in 2014 to engage Jewish and secular communities in character development teachings, according to their press release.

“The Making of a Mensch” goes into the sciences discussed in last year’s “The Science of Character” from the perspective of the ancient Jewish teachings of the Mussar movement, which focuses on living ethically.

“People are hungry for deep and meaningful engagement around big topics like character and giving back in fulfilling ways,” Shlain wrote. “And after last year’s Character Day, Jewish educators and rabbis introduced me to the teachings of Mussar and it became very clear we had to make this film and resources about character through the lens of these great ancient Jewish teachings.”

Shlain expects people to participate in conversation after viewing the 10-minute film. The film is accompanied with online materials including discussion questions for various age groups and further information about the various character strengths mentioned in their updated version of their characters strengths poster, which incorporates the Mussar perspective.

Physical materials will include a discussion book and conversation cards containing graphics, questions, thought experiments, activities to develop character strengths, and practices people can carry into their everyday lives.

“From the film to the resources to the immersive learning environment of camp, this is an opportunity to engage youth in a whole learning experience,” Rabbi Avi Orlow, director of Jewish education at Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), wrote in the press release.

“We absolutely deal with questions about morals and positive character, and we need to create an active learning environment around these topics,” Orlow added. “A revival of the Mussar movement in the context of modern psychology offers us unique insights about morality and our humanity that are strikingly relevant in today’s modern world.”

Besides all of the materials provided by Let It Ripple to engage the communities, they will be creating a Google Hangouts session for communities to engage in a global discussion of what how to become a mensch in our world.

“I think people are ready for this deep conversation, and it’s this great opportunity to show how these ancient Jewish ideas are in fact very relevant and can be a guide to leading a meaningful and purposeful life in today’s world,” Shlain wrote.

This summer Let It Ripple will ask people around the world to collaborate with them by sending in videos defining what a mensch is. The group is actively accepting applications for partner communities.

Sign up here to hold a Character Day event in your community.


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