Posted on December 11, 2011 by Suzi
By Suzi Brozman
You’ve seen her face, always smiling and earnest. You may have noticed her occasional parrot-hued head coverings. But I’ll bet you don’t know that the parrot motif is part of the clown persona she uses in an off-duty activity—Karen is a medical clown (more about that later!) She’s officially the Assistant to the Dean here at Pardes. Karen is one of those essentials who keep Pardes running smoothly and efficiently. But in reality, she is much more.
She’s in her seventh year working at Pardes, and spent a year here as a student before deciding to make aliyah. In fact, it was at a Pardes pizza lunch (less frequent in those days), that she found a job in the U.S. that solidified her desire to return to Israel. She had decided to return to the States for a year and make sure aliyah was what she wanted, and the job in Atlanta, with Young Judaea, showed her just how much she wanted to make her life in Israel.
So back she came, and soon found herself teaching English and married. Four children later, she resides in Maaleh Adumim, in a neighborhood she describes as “full of good friends, Torah, and magnificent views of Jerusalem.”
Outside of her very busy family obligations and work at Pardes, Karen is a dedicated volunteer. Once a week she visits Herzog Hospital to entertain the geriatric patients with medical clowning. “I have learned how to relate to a very broken world,” she says. “My clown training has given me tools for life. When I clown, I feel like I am tapping into secrets of the world’s true reality. The physical world can actually fall away. It’s very spiritual – to be in an environment full of suffering and train yourself to see the sparks of simcha all around.” Karen confides that Pardes will get a taste of her clowning skills at Purim—something we’ll look forward to!
Other volunteer activities for this dedicated humanitarian include fundraising for her team of local firefighters and participating in an interfaith dialogue with residents of the neighboring Palestinian community of Abu Dis. “My life in Israel has been colorful; I am engaging with may sectors of Israeli life I didn’t anticipate—firefighters, clowns, local Arabs, my own Israeli children—my kids are culturally very different than myself. Interacting with my Israeli kids very well may be my biggest challenge in this country!”
“I come to Israel with a strong universalist bent, helping to write the living history of Israel. It’s not just about being Jewish. Parts of the story read like a romantic novel, parts are just about regular life, but other parts are heartwrenching, terrible and keep me up at night. I hope I’m helping to make whatever chapter comes next better.”
How about life at Pardes? “It’s really refreshing to walk into Pardes everyday, into an environment of such positive energy. It helps me to be more positive. I appreciate how easily people smile here. That’s not normal in general Israeli society, where the culture can be more tense, especially here in Jerusalem. People at Pardes are generous with compliments, conscious of hakarat hatov and they genuinely desire to make the world a better place. Pardes students give me hope for the future both in Israel and the world.”