I’m leaving for Israel and my father hands me two bags. “Take these with you. The furrier, Shlomo, your great grandmother’s brother-in-law, left them to me. Find out if it’s meaningful for you.”
The first is black felt, light to the touch, with a golden Magen David embroidered in cord on its front. The Tallit inside is thin, composed of silky white fabric that is shifting towards an aged grey. Blue stripes run along its slender frame while an intricate latticework of linen falls away from the edges only to tangle up with the Tzitzit at the corners. It’s German Reform, classic and beautiful. So light I barely feel its weight when I try it on. So thin and delicate it barely covers my shoulders. It’s not my first Tallit.
The second bag is old and mustard yellow, fine prismatic threading has frayed across its front where it spells out the words “Tefillin” in Hebrew. The Tefillin inside are old with paper caps atop the Shel, each heavy with lacquer. The leather is cracked and aromatic, the black stain no longer present along the edges. The two bags go into my duffel, right next to my other Tallit, but as I put them down one Tefillin fall out of their yellow bag. The paper top tips off and the shin of the Rosh stares up at me like blurred eye still heavy with sleep. I stare back. What do I do with you?
Naomi Minsky (Year '13, PEP '15) came to Pardes this year
for the Year Program, and will be returning next year as a
member of the Pardes Educators Program!
Since my teenage years I secretly wanted to pursue a career as a doctor. This is not because I am scientific and enjoy learning about the human anatomy. In fact, I go into panic-mode at the sight of blood. I was attracted to helping others live life to the full. Thankfully I have found an alternative route to achieve my aim.
Unlike medicine Jewish education does not literally save lives. However, it supports people to have meaningful experiences and relationships. It is a way to help others appreciate Judaism and approach it with confidence. My Bat Mitzvah involved facing the community and saying the shema prayer. The whole time I looked directly at my grandparents. They were sitting in the front row saying the words back to me. I am indebted to my Jewish education teaching me that the shema is an affirmation of Jewish identity and love of G-d. I felt the beauty of the experience as I was connected to my family, community and religious tradition simultaneously. Jewish identity today is multifaceted, for some it is Continue reading →
A couple of weeks ago, I snuck out of Pardes, and instead of learning Torah, I learnt community organizing, best practices, and how to laugh again. It was fun, it was a refresher, and I made some amazing friends. Here’s what I took away from it:
Masa Leadership Summit’s Group 15
“Honestly, you were just a bunch of left-overs. And that’s why you’ve been put together.”
The task for Group 15 at the Masa Israel Leadership Seminar (MLS), more than anything else, was to overcome this origin story and become a true community. We were British, Australian, Western Canadian, and scattered from across the Western States. We went back to small towns, or isolated communities, or simply disorganized ones. We had no natural backstory, no shared history other than that we were Jews and we were there. We’re here. In Israel. Continue reading →
Imagine spending seven days without your phone, television, or computer. Okay, now add on the incentive of no listening to music, reading, or writing. And now try doing that without speaking or communicating at all. Not just verbal communication; you can’t even look at anyone else. Oh, and one final, small thing – you’re not really supposed to think either. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?
Well, yesterday, I returned from a 7-day silent meditation retreat in which I joined about 40 other people just as crazy as me in seeing what exactly that experience would be like. The retreat took place at an absolutely beautiful kibbutz in northern Israel called Hannaton, about halfway between Haifa and Tiberias. From this small kibbutz you could see tree-filled mountains and mountain ranges on all sides with tiny, mostly Arab villages here and there, and with the Sea of Galilee right outside the kibbutz’s borders. Continue reading →
How do I explain how student teaching has been so far? I can offer some emotions that I have been feeling.. excited, nervous, overwhelmed, accomplished, confused, frustrated, proud, awe, happy, tired, welcomed… I supposed this just makes you all picture me a crazy roller coaster of emotions! I will try to be a bit more specific. Saligman is an adorable one hallway school. The students all have close relationships with each other and their teachers. I felt likeI was walking into someones home when I began my time at Saligman. Observing classes all week I began to feel like I myself was back in Middle School. If you looked in my observation notebook you would see my notes interrupted by me trying to get the math practice problems on the board or taking notes on Hebrew grammar. I have learned so much so far from my student teaching. I have been constantly impressed at the level of learning in secular and Judaic studies. My actual teaching started last week. By that time I felt like I knew the students and even had most of the names down (which is shocking for those who know about my name remembering challenge!) I was all ready with my slides and handouts. I was ready to cover my three page handout when all of a sudden the class was over and we had only done one page! I quickly made up a meaningful closer and stood in shock when the students didn’t spring up from there seats at the bell. They were really engaged! I had just taught my first lesson in a real day school! I know the students probably saw my crazy big smile as I said goodbye to them and thanked them for their amazing participation. I was so impressed with the thoughtful answers and detailed questions students asked me during the lesson. (Although some of those detailed questions during the Brit Milah lesson were difficult to answer!) All of my frustrations with details on worksheets and worrying about behavior management and content all was washed away by an immense feeling of self pride and belonging. I knew at that moment that with a lot of work, learning and getting to know the pace of the class I would be more than ok for the rest of my student teaching. I feel very respected by the students, even when I wore my neon green wig for Purim. I can now really picture myself as a teacher in a day school. I am so thankful for this experience and I can’t wait to share more about my wonderful 7th graders with you!.
It has been a little over a month since my stem cell donation with Gift of Life. During my donation and this past month I have had a really hard time showing and even personally feeling my emotions. It is like I put up a block. Some of you have seen me those few times that the block cracked a bit , but it went right back up. I felt tense and unsure. Even a bit angry at times. I hated being called a hero. I didn’t even want all the cool gifts that Gift of life sent me, like a mug, lunch box, sweatshirt, and gym bag. It all made me feel nervous and weird about the possibility of the donation not working. I knew mentally that I had done my part and I should be proud of that. But emotionally that wasn’t good enough for me. I couldn’t rejoice on my mitzvah before getting that phone call. A few hours ago I missed a call from my Gift of Life coach. With shaking nervous hands I called her back. When she said, “Laura your recipient is doing very well, she was discharged yesterday and feels good, your stem cells were a great match and it worked!”, I felt my whole body breath. All blocks tumbled down and I began sobbing on the phone. Continue reading →
In this weeks parsha, Beshalach, one of the most famous events in all of the Tanakh occurs when God splits the Red Sea through the staff of Moses, allowing the Israelites to finally escape the centuries-long enslavement in Egypt and become a free people.
The result of their freedom is that the Israelites break into song, “The Song by the Sea”. This is very unusual, as only ten songs existed from the time of Creation to the end of the Biblical period. One explanation for this song is that it was a rare moment in which the people were able to make sense of how all of the daily, seemingly disconnected events in the world existed for a purpose and understand how all of the pieces of the puzzle fit into place. This manifested itself in song because the Torah’s concept of song is the situation in which “all the apparently unrelated and contradictory phenomena do indeed meld into a coherent, merciful, comrehensible whole” (Artscroll). Finally, at that moment when they saw the sea split, the exile and slavery in Egypt, Pharoah’s constant deception, and demands from the Israelites to return to slavery not only made sense, but were understood as absolutely necessary.
My splitting of the sea occurred this past Saturday night, when I finally Continue reading →
We were all awake long before we finally received the email from Pardes to tell us that school was canceled. We all knew, there was a blizzard coming down outside our windows! The city had already shut down the afternoon before because of some hail. We quickly rallied and got a group together to head to the Kotel. We were told that we couldn’t miss a white Kotel.
We trudged down Derech Hevron all the way to the Old City…actually, it was sunny and we were throwing snow balls at each other! We went to the overview where the following picture was taken. Then we went to the Kotel.
It’s been a long, dry spell in this blog, its onset corresponding somewhat ironically with the start of Jerusalem’s rainy season. The rainy season began with a clap of thunder and a few minutes of soft rain. I heard the thunder and didn’t quite believe it. Ran out to the merpeset (balcony) and felt the rain on my face! Everywhere around me, on other balconies, at open windows, and in the street, people stopped, marveled, and smiled! Here’s the rain, a necessary arrival after Israel’s dry, hot summer.
The new rain closely followed the start of the fall semester at Pardes Institute, where I am studying. Since then, Continue reading →