These and Those

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

[PCJE Graduation] Who is Brave, not Crazy?

Posted on June 11, 2014 by Cara Abrams-Simonton

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My PCJE graduation speech:

carsimGood evening. It is an honor to stand before you today as I graduate from the Pardes Educators Program. Over the past two years I have been privileged to study in this very Beit Midrash and in the classrooms of Pardes. In this room I have fallen in love with text study – its richness, complexity, mystery. It is hard for me to believe how much I have learned in just two years.

I feel blessed to have been offered such amazing and unique learning opportunities and am so thankful to the AVI CHAI Foundation for their investment in this program. As a student in the Intensive Tanach Track, I was fortunate to study many books of Tanach in depth, decoding and wrestling with text, asking questions, grappling with the mesharim’s questions and more.

Last year when I was preparing for student teaching, I memorized one mishnah from Pirkei Avot. Eliana Selzer, my mentor teacher, herself graduate of the Educators Program, had told me that I would teach the fifth graders mishnah alef of perek dalet, helping them to memorize, translate and understand the mishnah.

As I studied this mishnah, I grew to love it. It became “my mishnah.” This text is very special for me – it symbolizes the growth I have experienced in my studies during these two years.

בן זומא אומר:

Ben Zoma would say:

איזהו חכם? הלומד מכל אדם

Who is wise? The one who learns from every person.

איזהו גבור? הכובש את יצרו

Who is strong? The one who conquers his inclination

איזהו עשיר? השמח בחלקו

Who is rich? The one who is happy with his portion

איזהו מכובד? המכבד את הבריות

Who is honorable? The one who honors their peers

I have learned from many wise people here at Pardes and in my life here in Jerusalem. I am overwhelmed with gratitude when I think of these individuals.

I would like to specifically thank Michael Hattin, my advisor and my teacher. The warmth, passion and commitment you dedicate to your teaching has been an inspiration.

Thank you to Neima Novetsky, who introduced me to approaches to teaching Tanach which I know will inspire and guide me in my future as a teacher of Tanach.

Thank you to Gail Kirschner, who has felt like a mother watching out for my every need, from a student visa way back when to a calendar clarification for next week.

Thank you to my teaching coaches, Aviva Golbert and Ilana Lipman. It is difficult for me to express how much your mentorship has meant to me.

Thank you to Judy Markose, who told me almost two years ago to “be gentle with myself” and has continued to support my development as a day school educator. I am so thankful for the encouragement and guidance you have given me. Thank you also to my hevrutot, to my peers in Cohort 13 and in the PCJE and Pardes communities. Thank you also to my cousins, my Israeli family, whose home and love have meant so much to me.

Lastly, I want to thank my family and friends back home, who told me that I was brave, and not crazy, to move to Jerusalem to pursue my dreams.