These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

A long conversation and a visit from home.

Posted on November 7, 2009 by Katie

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Two wonderful things happened to me this week that made me realize why Pardes was the best place I could be post college.

One was that I had an amazing conversation with one of my teachers this past week over lunch discussing feminism and Judaism. We discussed our struggle with being obligated or not, how it makes you feel to sit in a mechitza, the vast disparity between the women and men’s section and the Kotel and many other painful but important topics. She asked me what I wanted to do with the rest of my life (the question we all loved as children, and hate now as adults) and I told her I was torn between my passions for Judaism and the environment and ideally wanted to combine both. ” You should definitely think about being a Rabbi” and proceeded to tell me how it would be possible to be an environmental rabbi and gave me many wonderful ideas. The conversation ended with us both thanking the other for the amazing hour we had just shared together. Did I mention this teacher is strongly Orthodox and I am strongly Conservative? That anyone Orthodox would strongly encourage me as a woman to go to Rabbinical school is something I never thought was possible. And that is the beauty of Pardes. All Jews sit down and not only speak together but respect each other and most importantly learn from each other. I think if all Jews got a chance to do something like Pardes the Jewish world would be a much better place.
Two, I was privileged to have my dad visit me in Israel this past week after leading a Federation mission from Stamford, CT. He decided to come to class with me on Tuesday. My brother studied at Pardes three years ago and so this was not my father’s first encounter with Pardes. My only class was a 5 hour Talmud class which unfortanetly for my father started with 20 minutes of Aramaic grammar. We then went upstairs to the Beit Midrash and had a tough piece of Gemara to go over that me and my chevruta were really struggling with. Our teacher went over everything in class and everything made perfect sense (as is usually the case). My dad doesn’t really speak Hebrew and has never studied Talmud before so I was beginning to worry that he had not enjoyed himself. However, later my dad told me he had an amazing time. Though he felt lost during the grammar ( a skill my whole family lacks) and during chevruta he told me he was extremely impressed and proud of me for being able to study Talmud. It made me realize how far I had come in 2 short months and that Talmud is no longer a foreign entity to me that I only hear about in shabbat study sessions. It was now a piece of Judaism that I had access to and was slowly building my skills in. My dad also told me that it was an amazing community I was studying with because so many teachers and students came up and introduced themselves and told them how excited they were to meet “Katie’s dad”. It made me feel like I have really found a home both in the Jewish texts but I think more importantly with all the kinds of Jews that wander the halls of Pardes.

Shavua Tov!