Friday morning was a blur. A scary blur. I didn’t wake up until 6:24 AM when my roommate screamed, “WIESE.” And I jumped out of bed, how could this happen, on a day that was so important to me? Never mind…we jumped in a taxi and I ran down to the women’s section with my bag. I couldn’t even get to the regular spot because there was a sea of light blue shirts of seminary girls from all over Israel. I quickly realized that they had been bussed in for the exact opposite reason I was there. I ran into my dear friend, and later saviour, Melissa. She was also lost. We didn’t know where “Women of the Wall” (WOW) was praying because there wasn’t space where they normally gather. (Smart thinking ultra-orthodox girls…if there isn’t space, maybe they can’t pray at the Kotel. Makes sense.) We went down together into the sea of blue, maybe they were there somewhere. They weren’t. But it was time to daven, so Melissa started pezukei dezimra (the “warm up” blessings, as I like to call them,) while I started to put on my tefillin. It was worse than the paparazzi that normally come to women of the wall. The girls thought they were seeing an alien or the devil…it was true what their rabbi told them, there are women who put on tefillin! They started taking pictures of my and then scuttled away, they didn’t want to be too close, maybe I could contaminate them. Many were already tisking at the action. But then, I pulled out my tallit (I know I should put on my tallit first and then tefillin, but there isn’t a lot of space and it’s difficult, so I reverse the order,) it was like poison. The girls backed away like if touching it would burn them, or something worse. They started making this hissing noise, I have never heard such a frightening/bizarre noise in my life. No one wanted to talk to me, it was too shocking to them. And I was there alone with my tallit and tefillin. I still didn’t know where the other women were. Melissa had finished pezukei dezimra and she looked at me, we knew we had to get out of there. It wasn’t safe. I was already flustered. Melissa, calm and cool, Continue reading →
Giving my farewell at Pardes last Thursday… It’s been an amazing 2 years.
Here is a written version of the davar I gave last Thursday:
This week we transition from the book for Vayikra to Bamidmar. the first event recorded here is a census taken of all mahane Yisrael (the camp of Israel). Even though the goal here is to know how many adult males are among B’nei Yisrael (children of Israel), individual tribal units are maintained in the counting, each tribe taking its own census. On top of this, each person is counted le-gulgilotam (by his head) – that is, as an individual.
In a drash by Rav Meir Kahn, he relates: “There is no evidence of a nation-wide melting pot creating a homogeneous entity, which suppresses any expression of non-conformity. Bnei Yisrael form a harmonious society, not a uniform one.”
Yesterday was a special day at Pardes. Not because Meir was roaming the halls with a mass of students, singing at the top of his lungs, although that was part of it. Not because there was dancing in the beit midrash, although that was part of it as well. The occurrences above, while special, have been seen from time to time at Pardes before.
But, this time, the spirited nigunnim sung in the halls and the circle dancing in the middle of the beit midrash were in celebration and commemoration of a Hachnasat Sefer Torah, the welcoming in of a Torah that was given to the Pardes community. This sefer torah was brought into our community with a number of meaningful rituals: It was brought, under the shade of a tallit, to every classroom where Torah was being learned that morning; it was escorted through the halls in which endless conversations referencing the impact of Torah study can be heard; and it was passed, from person to person, around the beit midrash, out to Continue reading →
I shared the following words at Pardes, wishing my friend Yevgenia and her family chizuk (encouragement, support) and Hashem’s rachamim (mercy).
She was born with a congenital heart defect, which has always impacted the quality of her life. Last Sunday, a week ago, I was not entirely surprised to learn that she had been hospitalized.
Yevgenia inspires me to believe that we can all achieve more than we may believe possible if only we push ourselves to succeed and live our lives to the fullest. She has certainly done so herself. Continue reading →
This is my fourth summer working for NFTY in Israel. The past three summers I have been in charge of my group and logistics, but this summer I am also going to be the tour guide. I have been in a course for the past few months going around Israel to learn about the different sites that we take the participants. Our trip also includes a week in Europe at the beginning (and then 4 weeks in Israel.) The trip is called L’dor v’dor, from generation to generation. We also had a trip with the other guides to Europe, to Prague, Krakow, and Warsaw. This was the fifth time in my life I have been to these locations, so the shock-factor wasn’t part of my experience. But I did feel a new sense of responsibility, more than just Continue reading →
This week, in Israel, has been particularly focused on the costs of establishing an idealist state in a previously inhabited plot of land. I’m not trying to dig too deep into the politics of it; rather I’m interested in the idea of the prices we pay to live where we do.
After all Carlos Arredondo, brought back into the public eye by the current tragedies in Boston, has paid high prices. It is not an infrequent thing, the terrible burdens families bear on their backs for their communities, for their countries.
This past Sunday, at my Yeshiva, we had a panel of faculty speaking about their personal Israel narratives. They spoke as individuals and then in a dialogue. In light of today’s theme, I’d like to highlight what Leah Rosenthal said. Continue reading →
Lisa Narodick Colton (Year '99-'00) reflects upon the impact of a recent trip to Israel with her son.
I was 21 years old when I first came to Israel. A summer in Tzvat begged more questions than it answered, and I returned for 15 months in Jerusalem (including Pardes) to fill in the openings.
This Pesach I brought my 8 year old son to Israel for the first time. I’ve known since before I had children that I wanted them to have an intimate and informed relationship with Israel embedded in their Jewish identity from an early age. And while I have dreamed of coming back to Israel for years, it was hard to choose the age and time and itinerary that would achieve this effect. Continue reading →
One Wish Jerusalem is a reminder of and a tribute to our shared humanity. Shot in one day, in Jerusalem, we invited everyone who passed us at the outdoor market and the Old City to share a wish: an honest, human wish. In a country and a city often highlighted for the complexities and conflicts that arise from a divergence of dreams we invite you to connect to the beauty that is our shared ability to dream. To believe. To hope. To wish.
In commemoration of Israel’s 65th Anniversary of Independence we invite you to celebrate and to reflect with these faces in mind. To remember that independence is Continue reading →
With only a little over two months left in my second round of adventures in Jerusalem, I’ve been disappointed in myself for not keeping up my reading and writing habits as a part of my day to day life. I have been clinging to the romantic notion that living in the Holy Land would inspire my creative side, and that perhaps my study of Torah and my so-called yeshivish lifestyle would instill the discipline necessary to keep up good habits, like reading and writing every day. But alas; bad habits are so much easier to keep up than good ones, and though the environment that surrounds me inspires all kinds of meaningful emotions, thoughts and impulses, it would appear that I still have to get off of my ass once in a while and take the initiative to be productive in my literary practices…or rather, to sit on my ass, but with a pen and paper in hand, a laptop with an open Word document in front of me, and a new book sitting at my side, waiting for me to turn the next page.
Where have I gone wrong? It’s not as though I don’t love writing and reading, so why have I not been doing it all the damn time? I’ve been battling the same aversion to good habits when it comes to running. I used to be a runner you see, just on my own time and for my own pleasure, and after doing it several times a week for a month or so, it started to feel really Continue reading →
Whitney Fisch (Year 2008-09) shares a personal challenge
of hers, regarding the role of women in Judaism:
Whitney Fisch grew up within the Reform movement in Marietta, GA. She started her career in Jewish communal work at the University of Georgia Hillel as the Jewish Student Life Coordinator, which led her to other positions in the Jewish world, most notably as the Outreach and Education Coordinator at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs in Chicago and Education Director for the Anti-Defamation League’s Florida region. Tired of being considered a ‘super Jew’ for working in the Jewish world but feeling like she needed or even required more Jewish education for such a title, she decided to attend Pardes’ year program from 2008 – 2009. She met her now husband while in Jerusalem for that year. She is a middle school counselor at a private Jewish day school, a new mom and blogger at JewHungry.
Eight months ago my life forever changed… I became a mother of a daughter. My husband and I decided to find out the sex of our baby at 20 weeks and, of all things to say to all people, the ultrasound tech looked at me and said, “Oh! You have a little princess!”
Whitney with her mother and her daughter Siona
Fellow Pardesnik, R. Andy Shugerman leading Siona’s Simchat Bat ceremony
Oy. Listen, I get it. Our culture celebrates women/girls as princesses. But in that moment, in that exact moment, I thought to myself, “this is exactly what is supposed to happen.” See I’m a social worker. I’m also a feminist and Continue reading →