These and Those

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

[Alumni Guest Post] Coming Home

Posted on January 2, 2013 by The Director of Digital Media

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By Mira B. Shore [Summer ’09 and ’10, Year ’12]

Mira at Pardes

It has been 7 months since I was in the Pardes Beit Midrash. 7 months since I walked the streets of Jerusalem, honoring my ancestors and being part of the Jewish story. 7 months since I actively and constantly questioned my religion, my spirituality, and my relationship with Hashem. 7 months since I watched the sun set over modern Jerusalem, personally fulfilling Biblical prophesies of our presence here forever. Walking down Rechov Rivka and in through the small and hidden front door of Pardes, I have never felt more like I am coming home.

Though the entrance code has changed and there are new faces, it feels like I never left. Exiting the familiar elevator and stepping into the narrow hall that is Pardes, I felt my heart swell and tears build up behind my eyes. I was welcomed with enthusiastic hugs and knowing glances from faculty, staff and students alike and I knew this was home.

After spending an academic year studying and living here (Sept 2011-May 2012), while it was difficult to leave, I was ready. I have since moved to NYC, Upper West Side, into a Jewish communal apartment and started graduate school at Columbia Teachers College to get my masters in Mental Health Counseling… finally pursuing my dream job of being a therapist. But gradually, as time went on, I could feel something was missing. I knew I missed Israel, Jerusalem and Pardes, but I also knew I’d be visiting in December-January with my family so I was not too worried.

Winter Break finally came and my family trip was beginning. My younger brother, Doron (18), is on his gap year program with Habonim Dror, living and volunteering in Israel. His being here gave my family and I an opportunity to travel and while we were coming to Israel eventually, we first had a week of touring Istanbul, Turkey. It was our first time there and it was very interesting, beautiful and inspiring. However, walking down the narrow streets, bargaining at outdoor markets and seeing some of the familiar walls built by Sulieman I, made me long for Israel in a different, deeper way.  

Landing in Tel Aviv on Friday morning, after a short flight from Istanbul, I cried. Being in Israel made me feel whole in an indescribable way. Spending Shabbat in Jerusalem with part of my family (everyone except my older brother, Elon and my sister-in-law, Jamie) was profoundly moving for me and after a lovely dinner with family friends in Baka, we walked to and from the Kotel in the middle of the night. Almost as spiritual an experience as going to the Kotel at 12midnight on Shabbat is coming back to Pardes.

Exactly one year ago my mother, Carol, came to visit me at Pardes and joined our services to say kaddish for her father’s yahrtzeit. This was a very touching experience for me to be able to welcome my mom into our community and create a space for her to remember her dad, my Saba. Recently, my other grandfather passed away at the age of 84 and my dad is currently saying kaddish. I felt blessed and honored to be able to bring him to this same place to say kaddish among this amazing community.

Sunday we came to Egal Shacharit in the oh so special Room 5 and on Monday we were able to join in Community Davening. I knew that my old roomie and dear friend, Naomi, would ask me to participate in the service so I was ready, but I was not ready for what actually occurred. She gave me the 3rd aliyah and I was very excited to partake. When it was my turn to go up and thank Hashem for giving us the Torah, the person reading was none other than my old Humash (Shemot) chevruta and good friend, Derek, who was reading for only his second time.

Standing up there beside Derek I felt immense connection to everything around me. I was back in a place that helped me grow and discover parts of myself that I would have never known existed. I was privileged enough to bring my dad that day (and mom in the past) to this amazing place to share just a piece of the magic. I was standing next to my Humash chevruta, someone with whom I’ve shared many important experiences. And above all I was standing in Yerushalayim, Eir HaKodesh.

It’s hard to articulate just how amazing it feels to be here. Here in Israel, here in Jerusalem and specifically here at Pardes. Every waking moment that I get to be here (merely a week) I feel like my heart is exploding inside my chest, unable to contain the love, joy and blessings that I am experiencing.

How can I possibly thank this place enough for what it has given me? After 2 consecutive summer programs (’09 and ’10) and then the year program (’11-’12), I knew that it had given me more than I can even comprehend fully. However, after spending 7 full months away from this place, enough time to digest and incorporate some aspects of what I’ve learned into my regular life, returning here only makes me miss it more. Something special happens here, magical really. Pardes, a place I once felt did not understand me, a place I struggled with endlessly on many levels, now and probably forever will feel like coming home.