By Jessie Gindea, PEP ’12
What an evening this is. As I look around this Beit Midrash, surrounded by my brilliant teachers, my esteemed colleagues, and all of the people who have effected my experience in the last two years, it seems only natural to turn to psalms 133, verse 1: “Hiney mah tov umah na’im shevet achim gam yachad.” Because we are in an all-inclusive and non-coercive environment, I will take a bit of license with the original quote and translate the Hebrew with somewhat more gender-sensitivity than the psalmist: How good and pleasant it is for brothers and SISTERS to sit together.
In reflecting on my time at Pardes, I realized that some of my most important moments were those spent sitting with my peers, my brothers and sisters, learning Torah, building friendships, and striving to understand what it means to be a great educator. It is finally time to take what we have studied and struggled with together and do our part to make a difference in the larger Jewish community.
So, what is the meaning of the memories we will take from Pardes? How will we incorporate them into our lives? How will they help us move closer to our fellow human beings? The answer is that we are always learning how to become good Jews and, by extension, good people. We have spent the past two years dedicating ourselves as students, future educators, committee members, actors, singers, musicians, writers, world-travelers, performers of acts of chesed, Zionists, defenders of Israel, up-and-coming Jewish leaders, fixers of the world. We have learned to be respectful to those who disagree with us, but to stand up for ourselves; to not accept the superficial explanation, to question that which seems unclear until we understand, and then and only then, decide how we feel. We have learned how to wipe away each other’s tears, and rejoice in each other’s happiness. We have learned to care and watch out for each other. We have become an ideal Jewish community. The community that we have created at Pardes is the model we will search and strive for, as we head to the “real world”.
In the coming days, as tonight’s euphoria wears off, each of us will begin to realize that graduating Pardes does not just mean that we will not have to go to school early on a Sunday morning, though that in itself is worth celebrating. We will recognize that these two years were an extraordinary time, a blessing. A time of laughter, friendship, and love. A time where brothers and sisters sat together, and it was good and it was pleasant.