Posted on June 8, 2014 by Andrea Wiese
My PCJE graduation speech:
Four years ago when I came to Pardes for the first time, I sat in on Tovah Leah’s Personalizing Prayer class. It was intimidating. But Tovah Leah is very calming and I felt at home… I remember something about three shofar blasts. I had NO IDEA what she was talking about…but I LOVED every second that I was with her learning. I knew I was coming here…I didn’t know it was going to be for three years…
So I’m going to sum up the past three years in ONE mishna: (Simple!)
הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, עַל שְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים הָעוֹלָם עוֹמֵד, עַל הַתּוֹרָה וְעַל הָעֲבוֹדָה וְעַל גְּמִילוּת חֲסָדִים:
He used to say:
On three things the world stands. On Torah, On service [of God], And on acts of human kindness.
To me this mishnah is really about relationships, which, go figure, there are three! one with ourselves (Torah), one with HaShem (Avoda/service), and with others (Gemilut Chasidim).
I think this mishnah is appropriate for my time at Pardes because (in reverse order,) 1. Like gemilut chasidim, I have learned how to be part of a Jewish community, and to serve and help others with kindness and a full heart. 2. Avoda, I have deepened and strengthened my relationship with HaShem…and 3. Torah, you may question this, but my relationship with Torah is really the struggle, and thus growth within me, I have learned to love and respect myself; to see and feel HaShem in myself and thus I feel, I have been able to shine my own light brighter than ever before.
The next three I’d like to talk about are my 3 אמהות at Pardes. Gail, Judy, and Aviva. To give each justice, I’d probably need three hours, but as you know, I have three minutes. During my three years, these three women have been unwavering in their support, and yet all unique. Being far from my own mother/family for so many years, they really are my mom here. Each has been there for me in indescribable ways. Gail is the אמא that no matter what you do there is unconditional love. Judy is the אמא that right out the womb she knows the plan for where you need to go and what to do to succeed, never losing sight of the big picture. Because she is your mom, she can say the things that are hard to hear, but must be heard. (or at least the things that I needed to hear) And Aviva is the אמא holding your hand and helping you back up when you fall, encouraging you to try again and again. These three women have given and given and given, and I have taken and grown.
I think I can speak for everyone that we all love our coaches and staff. We have bought two siddurim, the Koren children’s siddur and the Koren “older” children’s siddur, Ani Tefilla for the office. Just as a siddur is a guide to help us connect to HaShem, you have been a guide to help us connect with our future students. We hope that they will be used by many future educators as well.
The last three are the staff, my peers, and teachers. The staff – without whom, Pardes couldn’t function. I’ve never been part of an institution whose entire staff believed in its mission so wholeheartedly. My peers over the past three years have challenged me and given me friendships that I will cherish for the rest of my life, and finally, my teachers, whom words could never be enough to describe.