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Chicago Synagogue Becomes The Place to Study Mussar

Temple Chai has become one of the most dynamic synagogues in Chicago for adults to study Mussar.

Leading up to Rosh Hashanah this past year, leaders of the congregation, using a Mussar discussion guide published in Reform Judaism Magazine in the Fall 2008 issue, conducted an entire S'lichot program as an introduction to Mussar. In addition, all of the rabbis’ sermons were on a middah or Mussar theme, and laminated bookmarks with some soul traits and questions were put on each seat.

In addition, the temple’s Sunday school for Grown-ups conducted a series of six classes, covering a different middah each week.
“We have continuously had about 40 people there every Sunday morning,” says Rabbi Alison Abrams, who spearheaded the program. Both she and
Rabbi Stephen Hart also have begun using Mussar text and concepts in Torah study and Abrams recently taught a class on Mussar to the temple’s Adult Hebrew/B'nei Mitzvah class.

Earlier this year, Temple Chai, based in the northwestern Chicago suburb of Long Grove, Ill., began sending out "Mussar Moment" emails, which offer members sections of Mussar texts as well as questions for reflection. The temple also used the email study guides as a preparation for a scholar-in-residence weekend visit by Alan Morinis.

Mussar students are using his book, Everyday Holiness, as a textbook and guide, having sold several cases of them at the synagogue. Because members have whetted their appetite for more study and practice, the synagogue is ordering Alan’s most recent book, Every Day, Holy Day, as members have expressed interest in that one as well. Indeed, those two books, as well as Alan’s first book, Climbing Jacob’s Ladder, about his journey and discovery of Mussar were made available for purchase during Alan’s weekend visit.

This month and in February, Temple Chai plans to continue the Sunday School for Grown-ups class, adding Chicago area guest teachers including Rabbi Ruthie Gelfarb, Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell and David Gottlieb. “We are also in the process of finding ways to incorporate Mussar into our religious school and youth contexts,” says Abrams.

Adds Abrams: “People are constantly talking to me about how these ideas are really impacting their lives and it is amazing to hear how much the study and practice of Mussar speaks to people.

“The response has been terrific,” says Abams. “More people everyday are asking for more and how to integrate Mussar into their lives. We’ve really engaged people who weren’t engaged in the congregation before.”

For more information or to contact Rabbi Abrams, email her at



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Everyday Holiness