Posted on June 16, 2013 by Ben Weiss
So this blog post rises out of a series of conversations I’ve had with Pardes students and faculty. There is a (mis)conception that Pardes is a bubble. It is perhaps one of the pitfalls of living in an expatriate environment. It is very easy to stick close to one’s institutional community and let things end there. I would argue that there is another path. With a little initiative there is a lot to do outside the Pardes bubble.
When in a strange place, one of the most useful ways to make new friends is find a common interest group. That way you’ll have a cohort with whom you have something to talk about naturally. It can be anything: left wing politics, rock climbing, kosher cooking, you name it. There’s probably a group in Jerusalem that meets regularly and discusses it or does it. Having a bit of Hebrew also helps, so whatever preparation you can do before you get here will be huge plus on the ground.
Pardes fills the day, 14 hours in some cases, with fantastic programming. Pardes is also a non-coercive environment. Prioritize. Decide that that rock climbing trip with 10 Israelis is more important to you than this week’s Community Lunch. Or don’t, but remember that you get to make the call. Volunteering is meant to be a part of this, so I can’t stress enough that when you search for a project try to find an organization where you’ll get to interact with people who have a similar interest to you.
I had a truly wonderful time at Pardes and in large part it came down to the quality of the faculty and staff and the programming they put on. The icing on the cake, however, was the opportunity afforded to me to explore Jerusalem and Israel on my own terms. Aside from the learning, it is those chance encounters I have had while I am here that will be the strongest memories I take home with me. That freedom is, perhaps, the essence of what sets Pardes apart as a rigorous, but non-coercive Yeshiva.
Next up: Why I am not becoming a professional Jew…