Alicia Jo Rabins (Year '99, Fellows '00) wrote the following in memory of her friend Peter Avniel Salzman z"l
A few weeks ago, when the current Pardes students asked me to write something for this blog, I planned to write about how the two years I studied there changed my life. How I was, at twenty, a secular American Jew hungry for spiritual wisdom, cobbling together rituals based on the few blessings I knew, reciting the Kiddush over beer on a Friday night in my college dorm room. How a chance encounter with an Orthodox student led me to Pardes, where I was introduced to the depth and beauty of Torah, and fell in love. How I now strive to bring some of that electric energy and excitement to my own teaching, and also to my work as an artist, in which I often build on Jewish texts and traditions. And how I am eternally grateful to Pardes for creating a space where I could dive deep into Torah without having to pretend to be anyone other than my young, eager, critical, exuberant self.
I thought I’d write about the palpable holiness of studying after-hours during night seder and on Shavuot – that feeling of navigating the depths while others sleep, and how it reminded me of the weeks I spent living on a boat in the middle of the ocean during my junior year. Or about the daytime energy of the beit midrash, the French press and bag of coffee grounds my chavruta Marc and I kept in our locker to fuel our learning sessions, my exhilaration as we dug into Talmud, the compassion and brilliance of our teachers. Or about the Shabbat dinners I hosted with my dear roommate Jill that first year – we couldn’t afford a table, so our guests ate on my twin mattress, which we flipped over and covered with a length of leopard-print material we’d bought in the shuk. I thought I’d write a simple love letter to Pardes.
But this past Sunday, Peter Avniel Salzman passed away. Those of you who knew me in Jerusalem know how close we were during the years I was at Pardes; I loved him, as did many of you. He was 38 years old. So, with a heavy heart and the knowledge that my words are insufficient, I will write a few words in Peter’s memory. Continue reading