Posted on December 31, 2010 by Barer
In some ways it feels like yesterday that I walked into this apartment for the first time, toured Pardes for the first time, and met the people that turned out to be a fantastic and interesting community of friends, but nearly four months have passed. A few weeks ago, as the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ of my leaving Israel was just beginning to glimmer, I had a conversation with a Pardesnik in which I was asked a question that I immediately knew was one that needed further thought as my time to leave drew near. The question was: what am I going to take home with me from my time at Pardes, in what ways is my life going to change as a result of my time here?
I see my time here as being defined mainly by the friends I made and the community I had the privilege of being a part of, as well as the ongoing struggle to define for myself what it means to be Jewish – i.e. coming to terms with my Jewish identity. Therefore, if the changes I want to incorporate into my life as I re-enter the familiar life I have in Vancouver in two short days are going to truly reflect my time here, I must focus on these two broad aspects of the past four months.
First, maintaining connections with the new community I have made while here. This is no easy task, as after four months I am just getting truly comfortable in my life here, and can only conclude that there is so much more to explore and learn from the people that I have gotten to know. I truly believe that I have had the privilege of studying alongside many future Jewish leaders, whether they end up in the US, Israel, or elsewhere, and those are the exact people with whom I want to continue to develop lasting relationships. On the flip side, I have experienced for the first time what it is like to forget about the community of friends and family that I have always lived amongst back home. A reality I didn’t believe was possible has unfolded, and there is no question that the exact connections that I seek to maintain to fellow Pardesniks will be just as hard, if not harder, to maintain than those that I only did a so-so job of maintaining with friends and family back home. I expect that I will live in this ‘fragmented’ world from now on, always having connections that I hold dear in multiple places, yet only really being able to engage with those who are physically close to me at any given time.
On to what I was personally striving towards within the Pardes community. If I had been asked, in a moment of clarity, why I was coming to Pardes back in the summer, I may have been able to articulate that continuing to struggle with my Jewish identity was on the forefront of my mind. That is indeed how I would define my overall ‘project’ here, and why I am considering coming back for another year in September (no, not for the Educator’s Program, Sam). As for answering the question, not physically being at Pardes is no excuse to stop working on how I see Judaism and my place in it. Because ritual is so central to so many forms of Judaism, my own ritual observance, and all the changes and developments it will surely undergo in the near (and not-so-near) future must be a chief component of my bringing Pardes home with me.
As an idealistic young person, I have grand hopes and designs for what the Jewish world could and should look like. However, given that, in reality, change happens glacially, the best I can do is work hard and hope that I can inspire and influence others to do the same. Towards that end, taking more of a leadership role in improving a community like Pardes is an amazing opportunity, but one that I need to have clear goals for before I start. Those are the tasks that I set before myself as I start this next chapter of my life, coming home from a meaningful semester spent thinking and building a community in Jerusalem.