These and Those

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

Bring-your-Mom-to-Pardes Day

Posted on February 20, 2012 by Mira

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The shift from first semester to second semester started during our week off when half of Pardes went on a tiyul to the Arava desert. I’m not a hiking fan, but I love the desert in Israel and have always felt connected to it. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to reflect on my time so far at Pardes and my goals for second semester. The second day of the trip, I stayed on the kibbutz and enjoyed the amazing surroundings in the warm sun and towards the late afternoon, went with a friend out of the kibbutz borders to a little gazebo in the desert. There, we silently watched the sunset over the ancient, stoic mountains. After these three days in the desert, I was more ready than ever to return to Pardes, this semester as a full time student.

But then on the afternoon of our first day back at Pardes, I came down with strep throat. Being sick away from home and family continues to be a difficult experience. I spent the first week of second semester sick in bed and definitely felt it as a setback from the previous week of clarity in the desert. Luckily, my strep was cured (thank scientists for anti-biotics) the day before my mom came for her eight-day visit.

Having my mom, Carol, here to visit was such a wonderful experience that I know will continue to resonate throughout my life. My mom has her own personal relationship with Israel as she made aaliyah in 1973, six months before the Yom Kippur War. She volunteered during the war helping women pack First Aid kits for the soldiers and doctors. She lived on a secular kibbutz in the Negev called Kibbutz Ruchama for 4 years and then finished her BA at Hebrew University where she met my dad, Stephen, who was there on his college junior year abroad. After six years of living in Israel, my mother returned to America to be with my dad but her love never diminished.

Every time she comes back, she falls in love with the land, the history and the people all over again. She traveled all around the country and saw almost every one of our friends and family from Jerusalem to Haifa to Rosh Ha’ayin to Kibbutz Ein Tzurim near Ashkelon.

While she was here, it was my saba’s second yahrzeit, which was a special opportunity for us to remember him together in Jerusalem. My saba, Charles Swartz z”l, was a passionate Zionist who took his first trip to Israel (a 50th birthday gift to himself) in 1961. On that trip he found a distant relative of my savta’s who survived the Holocaust, Esther Ramiel, living on a religious kibbutz, Ein Tzurim. We constantly thank my Saba for finding Esther and her beautiful family of four grown children and ten grand children. Saba returned to Israel a total of twelve times including a long term stay in Bat Yam. Throughout my life I remember getting letters (yes, paper, snail-mail letters) from my Saba about how important it was that I visit Israel and understand that we are part of a bigger story.

This important day of memory for my Saba was made even more beautiful by the participation of the Pardes community. Not only was everybody open, warm and welcoming to my mom, but also created the comfortable space for her to say kaddish. For a special egalitarian Ma’ariv minyan the evening his yartzeit started, eleven people stayed after school, davened with us and listened to some short stories about my Saba’s amazing life. Honoring his memory at Pardes with my chevre, and with my mom, was such a blessing that he would have loved.

Having my mom come to my classes at Pardes for two days added a different perspective to my experience. After having been here for five months at Pardes, I have gotten complacent about living in Jerusalem and I thank my mom for reminding me how amazing it is. This was also her first visit to Pardes and she got to sit in on all of my classes, which was very special for us both. We worked as chevruta in all of my classes and she got a taste of how the system works here.

In “Relationships” with Tova Leah, my mother and I got to speak about how we listen to the different aspects of our souls… what a wonderful opportunity. In “Peace and Conflict,” my mom’s passion for current events and politics came out in a new light.  Studying Shemot with her in Levi’s class, she came up with interesting insights and relevant stories. In Meesh’s Talmud class we were able to catch-up on our lives, and our perspectives on Israel and Judaism. This experience of being chevruta with my mom opened a new kind of dialogue between us, and added a new level to our relationship.

Seeing Israel through her eyes reminded me what a blessing it is to be living in Jerusalem, studying at Pardes and having such a beautiful community at this very time in Jewish history. After this amazing week with my mother in Israel, I felt reinvigorated to really get as much as I can out of this amazing opportunity.