From my Instagram:
From my blog:
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
Emly Oren left Israel with her family at the age of four, but in many ways Israel never left her family. At school in Orange County, Emly was the only Israeli student; but her family continued to speak Hebrew at home, and they only watched Israeli television programs. The Orens would travel to Israel every summer to visit all of their relatives, and they would sometimes stop by other locations en route to their main destination.
As a child, Emly drew no distinction between being Jewish and being Israeli. Her traditional, secular family would remain at home together on Friday evenings for Kiddush and Shabbat dinner; and every year they would attend services at Chabad for the High Holy Days, but Emly felt no connection to that environment because it didn’t reflect the rhythm or culture of her family life. When Emly somehow decided to have a bat mitzvah, she chose to hold services at a local public library… and of course, her bat mitzvah party theme was ‘Israel’.
Hannah Grossman is an explorer. Her Jewish journey has taken her from the farthest ends of the earth to the deepest corners of her psyche. Yet the further she has traveled from her native New Jersey, the closer she has come to finally finding her Jewish home.
Hannah grew up in West Orange, NJ to an observant Conservative family. She describes her neighborhood as “very Jewish,” and between her neighborhood and her twelve years spent in a Solomon Schechter day school, “growing up I pretty much knew only Jews.” For her, a large part of what that Jewish environment meant was a commitment to social justice in her home, synagogue, and school, a Jewish value that would remain constant through all the journeys life would later take her on. Continue reading
From my blog:
The important thing to remember is to not make yourself afraid at all
Somehow this song, always comes back to me. In times that i least expect it….
I first came across this song at Jewish sleep away camp, singing it on the top top of my little lungs
Kol Ha’olam kulo
Gesher Tsar me’od.
Veha’ikar – veha’ikar
Lo lefached -
lo lefached klal.
The whole world
is a very narrow bridge -
And the main thing to recall -
is not to be afraid -
not to be afraid at all.
But I am not sure I really understood the song. Continue reading
The semester I spent at Pardes was among the most important periods of personal growth that I’ve ever had. Upon my return to the US, when family or friends would ask about it, I could only create impressions of how I had grown or what I had truly learned. I would say, “imagine six months of uplifting, inspiring, Jewish group therapy with 120 of the most engaging and supportive and genuinely caring individuals you’ve ever met.” Needless to say, that sort of explanation usually generated more confusion than clarification.
In an attempt to build upon my Pardes experience having moved back to Washington, DC, I began attending the DC Beit Midrash (DCBM), a welcoming, pluralistic and diverse learning community that meets every week at the DC JCC. I had heard about DCBM from my Pardes classmates and was curious to learn why they spoke so enthusiastically about the group. Continue reading
Sara Brandes (Year ’01, Fellows ’02, Elul ’05) shares her Pardes reflections:
I met my friend, teacher and fellow Pardes alumna Rabbi Shawn Fields-Meyer during the summer before I arrived at Pardes, as a participant in the Brandeis Collegiate Institute. Inspired by her teaching and hungry for more, I sought her out. When I told her that I was on my way to Pardes, she responded, “Oh! You’ll be FINE! Pardes is the beating heart of the Jewish world. You’re going to get everything there that you are looking for.” And, she was right.
At the time, I was a Jewish young adult, raised within the magical combination of Jewish day school and summer camp. I was Jewishly affiliated, dating the Jewish man (fellow Pardes alum, Hyim Brandes ’00-02, ‘04-05) who would one day become my husband. I had studied Religion and Bible as an undergraduate at Emory University. In all of that time, I had learned just enough about Torah to know that I knew almost nothing at all. I had studied Hebrew, but could not speak Hebrew with confidence. I had studied Bible stories, but felt no ownership over our shared Jewish library. Pardes changed all of that.
During my first year at Pardes, I felt as though I was inhaling Torah. At the time, I often used the analogy that after years of accessing Judaism from the outside, Pardes was like an Jewish IV drip. Torah just flowed in, giving me new life. My teachers at Pardes became my rabbis. My hevrutot became my life-long friends. Continue reading
When it came to picking out a college and a major, Mike knew he wanted to work with numbers and that he wanted to do something practical. So he searched and weighed the available data: He looked into economics but found it boring. He looked into physics, but thought it just wasn’t for him, then mathematics, but found it “too theoretical once you got beyond a certain level.” He at last discovered the perfect combination of numbers and practicality—the statistics program at the University of Pittsburgh, saying, “It’s applied, you know, it has real-world applications, it’s not solely theoretical.”
Though Mike may not have factored this into his university decision, his time at Pitt also made him appreciate the value of Jewish diversity from an unexpected new angle when he met Orthodox and non-denominational Jews for the first time at Pitt’s Hillel and Chabad House, both of which he was heavily active in throughout his college career. “Growing up, all the Jews I knew were Conservative or Reform. [College] taught me that Orthodox Jews, or even people who weren’t Conservative or Reform like I knew it, could still interact with the real-world.” He said Continue reading
Over the summer, I worked for an amazing summer program called Genesis at Brandeis University. One of the programs that we developed for our participants was called ‘iDentity’, and each of the six community educators modeled this project for the community, each sharing something of ourselves in different media. The question we all had to answer was “What do I want you to know about me?”
As a Pardesnik, I’m more inclined to use traditional texts in my presentations than artwork, but I felt that it would be important to show the participants an iDentity presentation that made use of visual art as a medium.
This image represents several major facets of my identity. The heart itself reflects openness and love, attitudes that I strive to nurture within myself. The large kippa on the upper left represents my deep connection to Jewish tradition, and the matryoshka doll represents my family’s Eastern European roots (my parents both left the USSR in the seventies). The doll’s apron is a U.S. flag because I grew up there, and continue to appreciate the opportunities and values that it provided me (the flowers on the apron are not symbolic – only decorative).
At the center lies Israel – the land of my birth and now my home – portrayed here as a large hole in the heart with cracks spreading out from it. The facets of my identity somehow connect in Israel – somehow all feel relevant here – but they are often in tension with one another, as are so many cultural and religious groups here in Israel. These tensions cracked the heart, but the hole glows with bright light – allowing love to stream forth.
I drew this picture for educational purposes, and I was surprised at how meaningful a project it became for me. Sharing my ‘iDentity’ presentation with the participants, and then guiding them through the processes of self reflection and self expression were some of the brightest highlights of my summer at the Genesis Program.
This week was my last back at my shul Young People’s Synagogue, which last year, raised around $7,000 to send me to Pardes for a year. Yesterday, I delivered this speech to let them know how their investment turned out.
So, how have you all been? For those who don’t know, from September through the end of May, thanks largely to the generosity of YPS, I was living in Jerusalem studying Torah at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, the world’s only non-denominational co-ed yeshiva and widely considered to be the world’s greatest yeshiva above a Mazda dealership. Then from June 8 through August 12, I worked as the mashgiach at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin.
I’ll sum up my experience at camp with the following anecdote: When I told my Rosh Yeshiva at Pardes, Rabbi Danny Landes, that I got the job, but I was nervous since I had never been a mashgiach before, he asked, “Are you a detail-oriented person?” “Yes,” I said “Are you paranoid?” “I’m Jewish,” I said. “I think you’ll do fine.” He was right, I loved my job.
But your investment was in Pardes, so that’s what I’m going to talk about. Continue reading