These and Those

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

[Alumni Guest Post] Dear Pardes Year ’13

Posted on May 26, 2013 by The Director of Digital Media

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Shanee Michaelson (Spring '12, Fall '12)

Shanee Michaelson
(Summer ’11, Spring ’12, Fall ’12)

Dear Pardes Year ’13,

It’s been nearly 4 months since I’ve seen you all. Now most of you are getting ready to return to North America. Here are a few things I’ve experienced since I’ve been back. I hope this helps prepare you!

  1. Size Matters
      Everything is a lot bigger in America. This includes the streets and highways, stores and clothes, restaurants and food portions. One of the first places I went to after landing in Los Angeles was a local 7/11. I was rather shocked at how big it was. You could fit 3 makolets in there easily. Getting a “small” slurpee that’s over twice the size of an Israeli coffee is also a bizarre experience. It feels as if everything has been super-sized while you’ve been away. The funny thing is that you realize it was always like this- you just never perceived it before.
  2. The Friendliest non-friends you’ll ever meet
      What is with customer service in the US? I just need to buy one or two things and they are showing me around the store and chatting up a storm. Why are they so friendly to me? I must look really awesome today!
  3. Speaking of shopping
      They do this thing at markets here- it’s called getting in line. No one pushes! They just STAND THERE. I think I might get used to this…
  4. Jesus and porn
      I had a long drive up from Florida through the Southeastern United States up to Washington DC. Along the way, every other billboard was either about finding Jesus (Jesus loves you!) or finding porn (erotica, next stop). It was a most unusual combination, especially after being in a shall we say “sheltered” city like Jerusalem for a year. I don’t think I ever saw a billboard that said “HaShem, next stop.” If only.
  5. Pardes community continues
      It truly does. What a wonderful gift! Not only do most people in the Jewish community recognize Pardes, but the friends I’ve made in my year of learning stay connected. I connected with friends of a friend in Montreal, who introduced me to that vibrant Jewish community. In Boston I ran into many Pardes alumni while visiting my former roommate. This weekend I’ll be at a wedding of alumni-friends in Florida, where I’ll also be hanging out with former chevrutot.

The adventure continues! So after all those ups and downs of being in Israel- the difficult days where you just couldn’t focus on Gemara or when you felt sick and wanted to go home to something comforting and familiar- I hope you leave with fond memories and feelings that the good outweighs the bad. I know I still think about Israel every day and having been on the list-serve all this time I still felt connected to what everyone was doing there at Pardes week-by-week. Thanks Karen! But seriously, how can a birthday go by without Annie singing her song? How do I get my hair cut without Laura? Do yoga without Leah? Let a day pass without a hug from Mary Brett? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Speaking of which, why is there so much iceberg lettuce in America? Don’t they know that real salad has cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions and bell peppers? And why don’t they eat hummus here? Good hummus is difficult to find!

Class of 2013, enjoy your last few days. You did it- you actually lived and learned in Israel for a whole year. Mazal Tov!