At Hillels of Westchester, a healthier lifestyle starts with the Happiness Campaign.
Rabbi Ben Shefter, senior Jewish educator at Hillels of Westchester, launched the campaign in January 2017. The initiative is based on the Jewish concept of middot, or character traits, and Vanessa King’s “Ten Keys to Happier Living,” a guidebook to creating a healthy and meaningful life.
“It has encouraged me to be a better a person and take the time to reach out more to others,” said Naomi Shimunov ’20, a Happiness Campaign participant and student at Sarah Lawrence College.
Every day, two Hillel professionals send students text messages or emails to help connect Jewish teachings to their everyday lives.
The Hillel staff dedicates each month’s messages to a different topic, such as stress or community. Messages include links to five-minute activities, including guided meditations, yoga vinyasas and published articles, to add a level of depth to the student experience.
And some of the exercises are created by people who are active in the Jewish community at Hillels of Westchester.
Mallory Kovit, program and engagement associate at Hillels of Westchester, said exercises like yoga have allowed students to explore Judaism and encourage them to incorporate middot, such as humility and gratitude, into their lives.
“The Happiness Campaign serves as a reminder to focus on values,” Kovit said. “I love finding the connection of yoga theory and Jewish values and teaching them to students in the Happiness Campaign videos. Jewish people have been meditating and reflecting for thousands of years and coupling them with the traditional yoga postures and theory is inspiring.”
Ellie Goldstein ’19, who began participating in the campaign last year at Sarah Lawrence College, said engaging in various exercises has helped her begin each morning with a healthy mindset.
“They help me start off my day on a positive note,” Goldstein said.