These and Those

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

[Student Profile] Marty Flashner

Posted on January 30, 2013 by Derek Kwait

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Marty (R) with Dennis Prager

Originally hailing from Boston, Marty Flashner has a wife and three kids, a law degree, an MBA, and worked for almost thirty-three years with Ernst & Young, one of the largest professional service firms in the world, including running the firm’s tax practice in Connecticut for the last ten years. Yet, for all this career success, Marty now wants nothing more than to leave an impact in his local Jewish community.

He characterizes his early experiences with Judaism as “kind-of mixed.” In third-grade, he rebelled and stopped going to Hebrew school, thus ending his formal Jewish training in childhood. “It was actually much later in life that I really started reading the Chumash and studying it in a more rigorous way,” he said. This study drove a desire to become more involved in his Jewish community, so he began volunteering for a number of different Jewish charities, including his temple, the UJA Federation of Greenwich, CT, and even serving on the board of Carmel Academy, a Jewish day school.

The more he learned, however, the more he realized that there was only so much he could learn in New England. Thus began his journey to Pardes. As he describes it:

For a long time, I’ve wanted to study Judaism in a more rigorous way than I was able to do at home. I was familiar with Pardes having been at a Shabbaton that Pardes ran many years ago and then came for an Executive Session Pardes ran a couple of years ago and loved both experiences, and I thought the faculty did a phenomenal job, very, very good teachers. And I think that’s probably one of the things that distinguishes this program. I mean, the material is the same wherever you go, right? Talmud doesn’t change someplace else, but it’s the quality of the experience that I think really distinguishes the program. And so it was a natural [choice] to come here. And the opportunity to live in Jerusalem for a year was also a big draw.

Besides the teachers and the learning, Marty also appreciates the experience of being part of a community of mostly younger people. His time at Ernst & Young, an environment where, “we hire a lot of kids off of campus…. I would say the majority of people in the firm are probably under thirty, and if you say under thirty-five, it’s a huge percentage,” prepared him to live with the younger student body at Pardes. There is one key difference, however—there he was a boss, here he is a peer. He has relished this opportunity, however, and has become an invaluable and beloved member of Pardes’ very close-knit Level Bet classes, whose otherwise twentysomething members, upon mention of Marty, will invariably smile and say things like,“He’s awesome!” or “I absolutely love him!”

Marty has high expectations of life after Pardes and plans to fully capitalize on his Pardes investment. Upon returning to America, he plans on continuing his involvement in Jewish charitable work, and looks forward to taking fullest advantage of his heightened textual skills—even considering traveling to New York to take advantage of the wider Jewish learning opportunities his Pardes experience has now opened up to him.

But he knows that learning only for yourself isn’t enough:

I’d like to continue learning, and also I think maybe to share it in some fashion. Because, look—I’ve had an incredible experience here, and if it just stayed with me then it doesn’t really help the Jewish world in the same way that if all Pardes graduates felt an obligation to share their knowledge in some fashion.