The Institute began in 1998 in reaction to the observation among some Jewish leaders that there was a growing number of Buddhists with Jewish names, from Boorstein to Kornfeld to Salzberg, who were teaching Buddhism in the United States, and that many of their students were Jewish.

This prompted some questions: Doesn’t Judaism have a tradition of contemplative spiritual practice of its own? And isn’t the tradition equipped to respond to Jews’ deepest yearnings?

The answer, of course, is yes. However, many of the writings and other elements of this tradition had been intentionally side-lined, ignored, or lost, for instance, in the Holocaust. Since its founding, the Institute for Jewish Spirituality has been reclaiming these texts and practices—among them from the Hasidic, Kabbalistic, and Zoharic traditions, as well as various forms of meditation, prayer, and liturgical singing—that promote an immersive, practice- and text-based approach to deepen Jewish spiritual and intellectual life for rabbis, cantors, teachers, and other Jewish leaders.

The Institute’s History

image shows two men studying texts outside


Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience & Spirit by Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Dr. Linda Thal is published by Behrman House


• 1st leadership cohort for rabbis and cantors together (Clergy Leadership Program)
• Institute publishes Good Noticing: 100 Teachings in Jewish Mindfulness Inspired by Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg
A Partner in Holiness: Deepening Mindfulness, Practicing Compassion and Enriching Our Lives through the Wisdom of R. Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev’s Kedushat Levi by Rabbi Jonathan Slater is published, beginning the Institute for Jewish Spirituality Series at Jewish Lights Publishing
• Wise Aging regional facilitator trainings begin


• Institute develops Mindfulness and Tikkun Middot project for Jewish communities, comprised of leadership training and curricula


• Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Wise Aging Program Selected by Slingshot


• Institute rabbis begin teaching Jewish spiritual practices at the New York campus of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion
• Prayer Project begins, exploring prayer as a spiritual practice
• Rabbi Rachel Cowan launches Wise Aging Program with pilot groups around the country
• Gala and fundraising campaign to honor Rabbi Rachel Cowan
• Rabbi Lisa Goldstein becomes 3rd Executive Director


• 1st Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training cohort
• 1st cohort for community leaders (Kivvun)


• 1st social justice retreat


• Institute publishes Vetaher Libeynu: Curriculum for Nurturing Adult Spiritual Growth
• 1st open retreat


• Hevraya, the official Institute alumni program, launches
• Larry Schwartz becomes Board Chair
• Rabbi Rachel Cowan becomes 2nd Executive Director
• 1st leadership cohort for Educators


• The Institute becomes an independent organization
• Neo-Hasidism conference in NYC places the Institute as a central figure in the emerging field of neo-Hasidic spirituality
• 1st leadership cohort for Cantors


• Online Hasidic text study begins


• 1st leadership cohort for Rabbis


• Institute for Jewish Spirituality is founded, as a project of Metivta, in response to the unmet spiritual needs of American Jews
• Rabbi Nancy Flam becomes the 1st Executive Director