Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

JAO will 'unplug' with millions on Character Day 2019


September 20, 2019

Character Day, the global phenomenon that brings together millions of individuals and groups in schools, congregations, homes, and companies to engage in character development, this year tackles one of the most universal, urgent questions: how do we create a healthier relationship between humanity and technology? One of the answers, as Character Day 2019 will show, is found through the framework of the tradition and teachings of Shabbat and is also explored in Character Day co-creator Tiffany Shlain’s new book, “24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week,” to be released by Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books this fall. In the book, she explores her family’s decade-long practice of turning off all screens for Shabbat for what they call their Technology Shabbats. Shlain examines the science of rest, gratitude, creativity, curiosity, and empathy, and explains how adopting the ancient practice of Shabbat in a way that works for her hyper-connected family in today’s world has been life-changing. For Character Day, Shlain and her nonprofit will take these ideas to a global stage, encouraging millions to spend the day thinking deeply about the relationship between character development, screen use, and the wisdom of Shabbat and to take steps to integrate a Tech Shabbat into their lives, along with more intentional use of screen time the other six days. Character Day, Friday, Sept. 27, will end with a global invitation to unplug on a weekly basis, officially launching a Global Technology Shabbat Movement.

Over the past five years, Character Day has grown to include more than 200,000 groups in schools, companies, congregations, and homes across all 50 states and 125 countries. Participating this year is the Jewish Academy of Orlando. Alan Rusonik, head of school, is very excited about this as students and staff will unplug as they take part in Character Day.

In this spirit of habitually turning off screens regularly to “turn on the best parts of you,” Character Day 2019 will be a catalyst for people to introduce their own Technology Shabbats into their lives. Leading up to Character Day, Shlain and her Let it Ripple team will introduce a series of weekly #TechShabbatChallenge(s) with films focusing on different challenges and themes: Take Back Your Time; Nature + Joy; Healthy Tech; and Connection. The first week’s challenge, September 2nd, will be to “keep your phone off for 30 minutes first thing in the morning, 30 minutes before bed, and at meals.” Each week’s challenge will be accompanied by a highly-curated set of engaging resources—articles to read, videos to watch, things to do—about topics such as the science of habits and rituals, the intersection of Shabbat and character development, practices to develop empathy or gratitude, or research around screen use. Each week is designed to gradually develop both awareness and practices around the connection between screen use and character development. Then, Character Day Friday Sept. 27 will end in a global unplugging, with the challenge to practice a Tech Shabbat, to gather as families and friends, of all generations, to reconnect to each other, ourselves, and nature. The following weeks will continue the challenges, with resources and additional short films, each week landing on the continued #TechShabbatChallenge.

Over 50 organizations are partnering to bring Character Day to more people than ever before, to grow the Global Technology Shabbat Movement, and to ask some big questions:

What’s the relationship between character development and screen use? When and how does technology enhance our character development? When and how does turning off technology enhance our character? Character Day poses these questions just days before the Jewish High Holidays, a time when people reflect on who they are and who they want to be in the world.


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