Nisan 5777

Nisan: Happiness, Pesach and Jewish Life


It’s Spring! This means that Pesach (Passover) is just around the corner! One of the names for Pesach is “Chag HaAviv”, “The Festival of Spring” and it makes sense that we celebrate our rebirth as a free nation at the same time as we experience rebirth in the natural world (at least in the northern hemisphere).

Pesach is the time for celebration, which makes us happy and brings us to the subject of this month’s newsletter: happiness. What makes us happy? What is the value of happiness in Jewish tradition? And how is this relevant for our work as Jewish communal professionals and educators?

(Photo Credit: Pexels)


A recent conference held by the Jewish Education Project in New York focused on this topic. As Dr David Bryfman, one of the organizers, puts it in his recent article, The purpose of Jewish education today is to ensure that Jewish tradition empowers people to thrive in today’s world. For Jewish education to be successful it must hold at its core the mission to make people happy. If we don’t strive for this, Jewish education – and by extension living a Jewish life – will remain irrelevant for the vast majority of Jews today.”

Is your core mission to help your students and communities to be happy and to thrive? How are you helping your constituents to thrive in today’s world? How can being Jewish help them achieve greater happiness and what would it mean if you thought about your role in this way?

happiness conference

If we think about happiness as a sense of well-being and satisfaction that brings meaning to our lives, this challenges much of the typical approach to Jewish education and activities. Rather than focusing on pushing knowledge into our learners, or trying to make them commit to some kind of Jewish behaviors, this approach focuses on helping people to find meaning and joy in life in general. We believe this is a challenge worth thinking about, and discussing with the colleagues and people we are serving.

We encourage you to look at the videos and resources from the “Happiness Hacks” Conference, where speakers talked about the nature of happiness in our life today and how Jewish life and Jewish education can address it.

(picture credit: Happiness Hacks: A Jewish Futures Conference)

In particular, take a look at the talk from Rabbi Shira Stutman, who talks about the difference between individual happiness and communal happiness, and asks whether happiness in Jewish tradition is a value in itself or a means to a greater end. As we approach Pesach, we encourage you to think about the work you do to bring happiness and meaning into the lives of your constituents, and how you can help them achieve deep happiness. Check out some of the great resources below for more about how to do that. We also include some good resources to help make your Pesach seder meaningful and enjoyable.


We wish you a “Chag Sameach”, a “Happy Holiday”!


Happiness Resources

Simcha – Joy: Finding Joy in a Complicated World. With short articles and discussion questions on the topic of happiness today.

Video recordings from the Jewish Education Project’s “Happiness Hacks” Conference

Curriculum on Simcha – Joy, developed by Hillel International, with a series of excellent activities on topics related to happiness

TED Talks on Happiness


Pesach Resources

There are lots of great resources to make your seder even more interesting and relevant. Here are just a few good ones:


The Pardes companion to the Seder, with commentaries from Pardes teachers on the different parts of the seder.
A Global Justice Haggadah from the American Jewish World Service, focusing on issues of social justice.

A Food and Justice Haggadah supplement from Uri L’Tzedek, with short essays from great teachers, focusing on Torah, Jewish practice, food and social justice.

The Freedom Seder, a Haggadah companion on the topic of slavery and human trafficking, developed by the Council of Christians and Jews in the UK.

Creative ideas for keeping children involved and having fun.


matza wine

(Photo Credit:

View Resource of the Month Archive for resources posted in previous months.