About the Mussar Leadership Program
CONTEMPORARY PRACTICE FOR A RESPONSIBLE LIFE
A Program sponsored by Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
The Mussar Leadership Program (MLP) fills a void for individuals experiencing emptiness from being immersed in the material world and looking for something greater than themselves. MLP offers a spiritual path steeped in their tradition, and accessible to modern students. The 19th century Mussar Movement, initiated by Rabbi Israel Salanter, provides an accumulated body of knowledge and literature to answer the question: “If everyone knows what it means to be good, why is it so hard to be good?” The Mussar spiritual journey raises awareness of forces beyond our conscious knowledge that cause us to act or not act according to our values. Through study, self-reflection and group exercises, we awaken to a Jewish spirituality that is compassionate, moral and generous.
Our Unique Approach
The Mussar Leadership Program’s uniqueness lies in its integrated contemporary approach that engages students with primary texts, commentaries, a practice based on positive psychology and an approach to halachah as a Jewish mode of existence in a contemporary key. Moreover, the discipline of middot practice is not for the purpose of self-improvement, but as a way to focus on the needs of the other. The Mussar Leadership Programs’ approach provides a response to our ‘me first’ narcissistic age through a constant and guiding focus on the other.
A Modern Theology
Over the last 12 years, MLP has developed a modern theology and practice that brings the reality of Torah to everyday life. The central cornerstone is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The theology is based on the insights of the Kelm Mussar School and the French philosopher Emanuel Levinas who posits, “God is the obligation to serve the infinite other carried on the face of my neighbor.” Our students awaken to a Jewish spirituality that is compassionate, moral, and generous. They think beyond themselves and make choices that benefit others, creating stronger, more positive relationships.
The Mussar Leadership Program offers introductory and continuing classes that focus on foundational Mussar texts, theology and practice. Students commit for a semester at a time; a complete curriculum is offered over a period of four years. Mussar Leadership classes are offered in Center City Philadelphia, South Jersey, Germantown, the Philadelphia suburbs, an in various parts of the country, including California and Oregon. Distance learning classes are also offered. Each class is divided into a shiur or lesson, and a va’ad or group work.
In true rabbinic fashion, we answer that question with several questions of our own:
Mussar Can Change Your Life
• Why is it so difficult to do what is good?
• What is the relationship between living a religious life and an ethical one?
• How can religion strengthen an ethical life?
• And most significantly, in a cultural milieu in which personal and spiritual satisfaction are seen as identical, how can we achieve a spirituality that takes us beyond ourselves?
Mussar Leadership Program (MLP) addresses these critical issues within a contemporary Jewish context. Mussar, the tradition of moral and ethical character development, is a centuries old toolbox filled with practices that assist in continually rediscovering that joy and holiness happen in those moments when we are fully present to others.
Mussar is an engaging contemporary spiritual practice that enables us to transform ourselves and our relationships, allowing us to live a moral, responsible life.
The central cornerstone of Mussar is “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Our students awaken to a Jewish spirituality that is compassionate, moral, and generous.
Click on each staff picture for a brief bio
Rabbi Ira Stone
Guide; trainer; educator; group leader; va’ad facilitator; tour guide; camp counselor.