These and Those

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

Week 3: Settling Down and Partying it Up

Posted on September 23, 2011 by Derek Kwait

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(X-posted to my home blog Yinzer in Yerushalayim.)

I think it would be fair to call this my first “normal” week in Israel. For starters, I moved in to my apartment Sunday after class, which means I finally have a big quiet (for Jerusalem) room with fast, reliable Internet all to myself, am living with my two awesome roommates, Isaac and Izzy (I think I used to love that cartoon), and have a 10-minute commute to class, which also means I can sleep in more and that I actually have time and energy at the end of the day now. It also means that I have a kosher kitchen in which to learn how to cook. In college I lived off of microwavable frozen meals, so I’m really excited about going to the shuk later today get fresh ingredients and experimenting for the first time with preparing meals requiring more than 4 steps: 1. Open box. 2. Pour cereal into bowl. 3. Pour milk into bowl. 4. Remember to put milk away or else it will go bad. I will let you know how this latest foray into adulthood develops as the weeks go on.

It was also the first “normal” week of class. No new classes, no field trips, just sticking to schedule and learning. One of the best things about Pardes is that there is little homework, few long-term projects, and no tests—it is just learning for the sake of learning, learning because you want to learn. This makes the environment so much different from any other school I’ve ever been in—there is no pressure, no cramming, no competition, and (relatively) little complaining, instead, there’s just people loving learning and enjoying the experience. I think this also makes people more eager to challenge the teachers and ask questions since there are no worries about having the “right” answer for the test. I also think learning for the sake of learning will help us to retain the information much better.


The only things that aren’t in place yet are the Social Justice Projects, when we go out and volunteer in Israel Thursday afternoons. The process of them started this week though, at yesterday afternoon’s Social Justice fair during lunch where we could meet with representatives from the various organizations and choose which project we wanted to do. All the organizations are so worthy and all the opportunities all looked like so much fun that it was difficult to pick just one. So I picked two. I signed up to spend my Thursday afternoons tutoring and hanging out with Ethiopian kids, which should be similar to work I did in Pittsburgh for HCEF and other organizations, and I also signed up to do English tutoring over Skype some other evening during the week for Kulanu (see Week 2).


Last night I went to my first house party here, a moving-in party hosted by my friend Amir and his two roommates, at least one of whom is a Conservative rabbinical student (I actually wanted to go to two parties last night, but that’s a long story). Even more than a chance to blow off steam from a busy week, it was so just nice to be able to just hang-out with people from school and not have to talk Rashi or Rambam with them (though we did plenty of that too). I tell you what, if you’ve never partied with Pardes students and Conservative rabbis-to-be before, you’ve never partied. Plaid shirts and big hugs were everywhere.


Hebrew word of the week: חברה (“khevra”) – Company, close group of people