The “Job” of Jewish Education: Making Mensches at Camp and Beyond


Source: Journal of Jewish Education, 85:4, 388-397 


This article argues that contemporary resources drawing from 19th-century Mussar wisdom and Positive Psychology in the context of Jewish camp are a great vehicle for communicating our virtues and teaching “21st Century Innovation and Learning Skills.” Based on practitioner research, this article draws on over a decade of working with Jewish camps across North America. Several common areas are identified: discernment of priority virtues, understanding the relationship between values and virtues, a common language, importance of developing resources, and cultivating communities of trust.


Camp is incredibly important in our ever-changing world. Based on years of intensive work in the field, I contend that camp offers an ideal environment for character education. When we do the work of identifying the virtues we want to teach, understanding how our values are platforms for our virtues, communicating with a common language, and developing the needed skills and resources, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.

Replanting 19th-century Mussar wisdom in a Jewish camp context and nurturing those practices with resources for communicating “21st Century Innovation and Learning Skills” has laid the foundation for camps to make mensches. If we want to do the deep work of maximizing each and every person’s growth and development, we need to invest in this work in all areas of Jewish education. The world needs the stability of more pillars of the community, strengthened by moral commitments that make the world a better and more beautiful place. Making mensches is serious work for all of us in the field of Jewish education. We have a big job to do, so let’s get to it.

Updated: Jan. 06, 2020