Light of the Nations
We are universally love/life oriented people who recognize the validity of the Jewish path as a way to advance in our life growth process.
By assisting us in achieving a more consciously aware and mindful version of our “self,” this approach benefits us, our loved ones, our people, all people, and our world.
Light of the Nations is dedicated to providing modern, relevant Jewish education through experiential learning products and services that engage audiences to think proactively and consider global outcomes to personal decisions.
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(At the bottom of this document are several references from LiveScience.com, WebMD and News.Discovery.com relating to studies detailing why people who attend religious services tend to live happier, healthier lives.)
These are our basic understandings relating to the essence of Judaism and what it means to our lives and in the big scheme of things.
We believe that Judaism teaches that there is a God/Force, an incredibly amazing, intellectually superior, super powerful Entity that is involved with, and strongly influencing, the existence of our universe … and us.
Judaism teaches that all life is precious, and that we have been given this miraculous gift of life, along with the opportunity to exist in human forms with incredible senses and abilities, while sharing in this wonderful, life growth oriented world.
Judaism helps us recognize the tremendous value to our lives of choosing to follow a spiritual path/discipline, one that meets our personal and universal needs on our journey to increased awareness/enlightenment, a space beyond the ultimate mindfulness that we can attain while attached to our physical being.
The main understandings of Judaism that we hope to convey are:
To be a “Light of the Nations,” to be a shining reflection of light and love that will dispel the darkness of ignorance that threatens us all.
To do “Tikkun Olam,” to positively contribute to the healing and repair necessary to increase the quality and health of our world and lives.
To be “B’tzelem Elohim,” in the Creator’s image, partners with the LifeForce in tending to our garden home world and maintaining our planet as a healthy, life growth place.
To strive for the time when God’s House of Prayer, the sacred space for lovingly connecting, will be for all people.
Shabbat – Once a week we celebrate our freedom and take the time to rest and recharge our life energies.
Holidays – When one day (Shabbat) isn’t enough, holidays provide us with additional opportunities to focus on improving essential aspects of our lives.
Shavuot – Reminds us of the need for moral consciousness and the necessity of justice.
Sukkot – Reminds us of our place as part of the natural life growth process, to be mindful of the Presence of a Higher Power and how our needs are provided for through nature’s gifts. It is great to have a holiday that commands us to rejoice (have fun), get back to nature and celebrate life.
Passover – Reminds us that it is never too late for things to change for the better, as well as the value of freedom and learning to appreciate its importance to all life.
Rosh Hashanah – Being the imperfect human beings that we are, it is wonderful to have the opportunity to begin again.
Yom Kippur – Reminds us to move beyond our shortcomings to improve the quality of our lives. It is also a fast day, one that provides us with both spiritual and health benefits.
Prayers – A way to balance and center ourselves while reconnecting with our natural life essence.
Torah – a unique document that demonstrates a life connection with the creative Force influencing existence.
Lifestyle Events – Reminders to make the meaningful times of our lives special.
Kaddish (Mourner’s Prayer) – A time to remember family and loved ones and their value and impact on our lives.
Blessings – Opportunities to increase the quality of our lives by remembering to be thankful for our gifts.
Respect - for our life and others. We add value to our existence by positively contributing to the health, growth and betterment of all life.
Kosher – Teaches us mindfulness for animals and our health.
Kiddush (Blessing) – Reminds us to celebrate our lives and life.
Judaism lays out steps to assist us in our growth. If we believe that our heritage offers a valid life path, and that the Torah helps us to understand and explain our existence, we honor these understandings by incorporating their messages into our lives.
Contemporary Jewish wisdom understands this as encouraging us to be a shining reflection of our best knowledge, wisdom, actions and understandings in our interactions with others, and to do so in a way where we can treasure and enjoy our special gifts of life. Judaism guides us to bring the light of awareness to others, to illuminate the dark places and strive to change the negative outcome from the destruction of ignorance that is harmful to us all.
Going to synagogue can make you healthier, new study suggests
US survey finds Jews who participate in their faith ‘seem to do better’ than those who don’t
By January 15, 2015, 2:29 am
Regular synagogue attendance may make you healthier, a new study indicates.
A study of four large American Jewish urban communities by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion found that “adults who affiliate with a Jewish religious denomination and attend synagogue report significantly better health than secular or non-practicing Jews,” Jeff Levin, director of the institute’s Program on Religion and Population Health, said in a statement issued Tuesday by the Texas university.
“People with a strong sense of religious identity and who participate in their faith seem to do better, on average, than people without an active spiritual life,” added Levin, a professor of epidemiology and population health, who conducted the study.
The study, based on data collected throughout the 2000s as part of Jewish community surveys from Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New York, was published in January’s Journal of Religion and Health.
“While there have been hundreds of studies of physical and mental health among Christians and members of other faiths, Jewish studies have been limited mostly to Israelis and to smaller clinical samples in the US or the United Kingdom,” Levin said.
The results were consistent across denominations. Whether Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist or Reform, affiliated Jews reported better health than secular, non-affiliated Jews. Likewise, Jews who attended synagogue, whether regularly or less frequently, reported better health than those who never went.
Levin suggested following up with a national health survey of the Jewish population.
“This would provide an opportunity to dig a lot deeper than what’s possible using data from existing community surveys, which weren’t really designed to assess health,” he said. “It’s fortunate that a question or two on health was included in these surveys, but we can do a lot better.”
A sophisticated national survey also could serve as a needs assessment that would provide valuable information for Jewish organizations seeking to address the health and life needs of American Jews, Levin said.
Established in August 2004, the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion initiates, supports and conducts research on religion.
People who attend religious services live longer, new study suggests
June 2016 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine
NEW YORK — All those people urging you to go to synagogue more may have a point.
A new study suggests that people who consistently attend religious services may live longer than those who don’t.
In an article published in the June issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, four Harvard University researchers analyzed data collected from 75,534 women over 16 years, between 1996 and 2012. They found that those who attended more than one religious service each week had a 33 percent lower risk of premature death.
Twice-weekly attendance corresponded to a 26 percent lower risk, and less than once a week meant 13 percent lower risk.
“Religion and spirituality may be an underappreciated resource that physicians could explore with their patients, as appropriate,” the study concluded.
Out of the 75,534 women who self-reported information, the majority were Christian. 1,700 were Jewish.
“Because of the [comparably] small number it would be difficult to look at them separately and see if the results differ [for Jews],” the study’s senior author, Tyler VanderWeele, an epidemiology professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told JTA in an email.
But VanderWeele pointed to an article from 2007 focused solely on Jews that echoes his findings. The study of 1,811 Jewish Israeli men and women over the age of 70 found: “Synagogue attendance is seen to promote survival mainly through its function as a source of communal attachment and, perhaps, as a reflection of spirituality as well.”
The Harvard study statistically ruled out the possibility of reverse causation — that healthy people go to church more than unhealthy people. Some variables, including social support and a tendency not to smoke, contributed to the correlation between religious service attendance and longevity, but didn’t account for it.
“This suggests that there is something powerful about the communal religious experience,” VanderWeele told The New York Times on Sunday. “These are systems of thought and practice shaped over millennia, and they are powerful.”
“Religious people tend to be happier than non-believers. According to research published in December 2010 in the journal American Sociological Review, this happiness boost comes not from any particular denomination or belief, but from the social joys of being part of regular services. Getting together with others at a church, temple or synagogue allows people to build social networks, closer ties and, ultimately, more life satisfaction.”
“People who are religious have higher self-esteem and better psychological adjustment than people who aren't, according to a January 2012 study.”
“If you're religious, thinking about God can help soothe the anxiety associated with making mistakes. In other words, believers can fall back on their faith to deal with setbacks gracefully, according to a 2010 study. This trick doesn't work for atheists, though: The study also found that nonbelievers were more stressed out when they thought of God and made mistakes.”
“Depression recovery proceeds better against a backdrop of religion. According to one 1998 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, older patients who were hospitalized for physical problems but also suffered from depression recovered better from their mental struggles if religion was an intrinsic part of their lives. More recently, scientists reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2010 that belief in a caring God improves response to psychiatric treatment in depressed patients. Interestingly, this increased response wasn't tied to a patient's sense of hope or any other factor that might be bestowed by religion, according to study researcher Patricia Murphy of Rush University.” "It was tied specifically to the belief that a supreme being cared," Murphy said.
“In fact, religion is linked to health in general, possibly because religious people have more social support, better coping skills and a more positive self-image than people who don't join faith-based communities.”
“People who attend church often have lower blood pressure than those who don't go at all, according to a 2011 study out of Norway. Those results are particularly impressive given that church-going is relatively rare in Norway, and researchers thought that cultural differences might prevent religious Norwegians from getting the kind of blood pressure benefits often seen in American churchgoers. In fact, participants who went to church at least three times a month had blood pressures one to two points lower than non-attendees, results similar to those seen in the United States.
The benefits seem pegged to how faithful believers are in their church routines. People who went once a month or less had a half-point blood pressure benefit over non-attendees, and people who went between one and three times a month had a one-point reduction in blood pressure. The faithful may get lessons in coping with stress and anxiety from the pulpit, according to the researchers, or they might get a relaxation boost by singing, praying and performing rituals with others.”
Spirituality May Help People Live Longer
Discover why some believe that older people who regularly attend religious services appear to have better health.
Why do older people who regularly attend religious services appear to live longer and have better health? Is it something about the type of people they are? Or is it something related to their visits to churches or synagogues -- perhaps increased contact with other people?
A growing body of research is beginning to define the complex connections between religious and spiritual beliefs and practices and an individual's physical and psychological health. No one says it's as simple as going to services or "finding religion" later in life. It may be that people who are more involved in religious activities or are personally more spiritual are doing something that makes them feel better emotionally and helps them live longer and more healthily.”
Among the most recent findings in this area: People who attend religious services at least once a week are less likely to die in a given period of time than people who attend services less often. People who attended religious services at least once a week were 46 percent less likely to die during the six-year study, says lead author Harold G. Koenig, M.D., of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. Koenig, a psychiatrist, says that the regular churchgoers showed a reduction in their mortality rate comparable to that of people who don't smoke over those who do.
Spiritual, Healthy Habits
Other large studies have had similar results. Some smaller studies have also shown that spirituality may be beneficial: People who attend religious services, or who feel they are spiritual, experience lower levels of depression and anxiety; display signs of better health, such as lower blood pressure and fewer strokes; and say they generally feel healthier.
Researchers, including Koenig, say there are limitations to the conclusions anyone should draw from these studies. It could be that people who attend religious services benefit from the social network they form. "It might be that people in churches and synagogues watch out for others, especially the elderly," encouraging them, for example, to get help if they look sick, Koenig says.
Also, it's known that among today's older men and women, religious belief often leads to less risky behavior, such as less alcohol consumption and smoking. And religious beliefs -- or a strong feeling of spirituality outside of traditional religions -- may improve an individual's ability to cope with the stresses of everyday life and the tribulations of aging, experts say.
Why Are Religious People Happier?
Dec 7, 2010 03:00 AM ET // by Emily Sohn
Religious people tend to report more life satisfaction, and a new study explains why.
It's not their spirituality, belief in heaven, or even the ritual act of praying or going to a house of worship that leads the pious to happiness. Rather, the study found, it's the close friends people gain through their religions that makes a difference.
The findings suggest that forging close bonds with people over mutually shared and meaningful interests might boost quality of life for anyone, religious or not. But there's something about being part of a congregation in particular that seems to build a sense of community and lead to fulfillment for many people.
"My co-author and I have found that religious people tend to volunteer more, care more about their community and do more good in their neighborhoods," said Chaeyoon Lim, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Plenty of studies have established a link between religion and well-being, but the relationship poses a chicken-and-egg kind of problem. Does going to church really make people happier? Or do happier people tend to go to church?
Results showed that frequency of attendance to religious services mattered more than anything besides health in determining how satisfied people were with their lives, the researchers report today in the journal American Sociological Review. The more often people went to services, the happier they reported being -- up to about weekly, at which point wellbeing ratings reached a plateau.
Twenty-eight percent of people who go to services weekly will say they are extremely satisfied with their lives, the study predicted, compared with less than 20 percent of people who never go to a place of worship.