These and Those

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

[Alumni Guest Post] Opening Eyes

Posted on September 3, 2012 by The Director of Digital Media

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by Pardes Summer Program 2012 Alumn Jason Kravitz

L’takken olam b’malkhut shaddai. Three times a day in our repetition of the Aleinu, we are reminded of the need and responsibility to repair the world.  Each of us has our own special memories of the lives we have touched.

Six years ago, I was granted one of life’s most precious blessings – the gift of giving a child the ability to see the world. For those of us who struggle without our corrective lenses, we don’t take for granted the beauty of the world around us.  In my case, I led a program to ensure that 63,000 of the poorest children in El Salvador would not go blind from a lack of Vitamin A. Helping to prevent childhood blindness for 63,000 children, dayenu.

As part of the launch of this program, I joined the vitamin executive who donated the vitamins to the local NGO. One day we had the opportunity to see a seven-year old girl who suffered from strabismus undergo a successful surgery.  A few weeks later after we returned to San Salvador, she was fitted with her first set of eyeglasses.  I’ll never forget the sheer excitement the girl exhibited when she first saw what the world looked like. For the rest of my life, I’ll remember that moment and am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to experience that with my own eyes.

I share this story because over the last three weeks our rabbis and teachers have opened our eyes, hearts, and minds to so many new beautiful aspects of Judaism and Jewish learning.  Just like the overwhelming feeling that the little girl in El Salvador had, I felt and witnessed a similar excitement during moments our teachers opened our eyes to a passage in the Talmud, or the Tanakh, or something in our spirituality or social justice classes. The experience has truly been eye opening.

In the Beit Midrash and in our classes we have discussed many of the brilliant sages from long ago, but at least speaking for myself, I’ll forever think of my teachers and reflect on what we’ve learned as I go throughout my life. While we may only represent a brief moment in the history of Pardes, I know all of us will remember these three weeks for the rest of our lives.

I recall my rabbi back home telling me before I left not to have any expectations and just soak up the entire experience. He said that my havrutas would turn out to be some of the most impressive people I would ever meet. He was spot on.  I stand here humbled in front of so many brilliant minds and beautiful hearts. Thank you to all of you for opening your hearts and minds to each of us as we explored our respective connections to Judaism.

As we return home—to our communities, families, jobs—let us not forget the wonderment that we’ve experienced over the last few weeks and open the eyes of our friends and loved ones. In honor of our experience and our teachers over the last three weeks, I look forward to hearing many more stories about the lives we’ve changed back home in order to perfect the world.