Saturday, November 16, 2019

Character Day 2015, which will this year be held on September 18th, is a day that calls upon participants to introspect and examine their character, while engaging in dialogue with peers about how to improve character.

“We wanted to have one day where we had one discussion where people were focused on talking about character education and development from all the different perspectives,” explained Tiffany Shlain, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, founder of the Webby Awards and creator of the Sundance hit film, The Tribe. As of now, there are already over 4,000 events happening all over the world for this year’s Character Day.

The day’s highlight will include a premiere of Shlain’s film, The Making of a Mensch. The film explores character development through the ancient Jewish wisdom of Mussar while providing an engaging, accessible and entertaining 21st-century lens. Shlain’s nonprofit, Let it Ripple: Mobile Films for Global Change, is utilizing “cloud filmmaking” to complete their film, accepting input from people around the world via video about issues the film will address, and selecting some of the submissions to include in the actual film.

The Character Day program looks to engage more than 3,000 schools, synagogues, JCCs, nonprofits and organizations in a global screening of the film and other activities. Partners already include the U.S. State Department, Foundation for Jewish Camp, The Covenant Foundation and the National Association of Independent Schools, among others. The program will also include a premiere showing in San Francisco at the JCCSF Arts and Ideas series, where Shlain will be present to talk about the film.

Many organizations and schools have already pledged to participate in Character Day, one of which is the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester. “Character development and Jewish middot/values are an essential part of what we do at Schechter Westchester, and the idea of choosing a day to highlight the importance of students growing as mensches as well as academically seemed like a natural fit and worth exploring,” said Rabbi Harry Pell, Associate Head of School for Jewish Life and Learning and high school Judaic Studies teacher.

To participate in Character Day, an organization or school may screen any of three short films created by Let it Ripple: The Science of Character, The Adaptable Mind or The Making of a Mensch. The film’s credits can be tailored to include the specific organization’s name and logo at the film’s end.  After the screening, the organization or school is invited to join other participators all over the world for a global Q&A. Let it Ripple provides the film and materials for free, and the organizations and schools participating are encouraged to make the day their own.

“Each institution can do whatever they want and create their own day,” said Shlain. “Some are just having it in their classroom...we provide the cool, creative, innovative tools to go into the conversation.”

This is the second year that Character Day will take place. Last year’s Character Day included an around-the-world screening of Shlain’s film, The Science of Character, with over 1,500 schools and nonprofits participating worldwide.

“After last year’s Character Day and the premiere of the Science of Character, many Jewish educators approached me about making a Jewish version of the film. They shared with me the revival of the Mussar movement, and I was so excited to learn about it and said, ‘I must share this,’” said Shlain. “We got a grant from the Covenant Foundation and we made The Making of a Mentsch.”

Whereas last year’s Character Day premiered only one film, participants this year will have the choice between three films. “The resources are much more robust,” said Shlain. The Let it Ripple team has already contacted Jewish educators and rabbis who plan to incorporate the film and materials into their High Holiday season curriculum and conversations. The online materials will include discussion questions for a range of ages including elementary school, high school, college and adult age. There will also be a physical package of discussion materials that will include a discussion book and pack of conversation cards. The cards will incorporate engaging graphics, questions and activities to develop the character strengths, along with suggested practices to incorporate the traits on a long-term basis.

For more information about Character Day, visit http://www.letitripple.org/character_day.

To sign up to host a screening and conversation and participate in Character Day, visit https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1RlhEtLQOioIiBkYp-JnYPI_ZVRs2fqFPyE8BMelaaiU/viewfor.

By Esther Hirsch

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