These and Those

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

A Reflection Of Time At Pardes

Posted on July 28, 2014 by Joanne Pollack-Reed

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joannereedIt was a gigantic leap of faith to apply and attend Pardes this summer. Forefront in my mind was if I, a 51 yr old – out of school forever- mom would be able to keep up. Would I be that student that clearly did not belong?

My fears were put firmly to rest at the first “getting to know you” meeting. The majority of the students fell between 20 and 30 yrs of age (a guess) . But there we were, a respectable showing of adult learners! As I got to know all ofthese people I was so inspired by their backgrounds, affiliations, independent as well as formal education. Yes, I would be challenged, but the kindness and enthusiasm emanating from this group displaced my anxieties about keeping up.

I came from a community where there are limited opportunities for women to learn Talmud, so I took this opportunity and chose Talmud as one of my classes. I was in over my head. But it really didn’t matter for my summer experience. (I do suggest, however, that if you are doing the year program, you choose your class level more carefully than I did!) I was there for self enrichment and to learn a skill set. I LEARNED. I learned that I didn’t know an enormous amount, but instead of being crushed, I was inspired and helped along. My teacher, David Levin-Kruss, nudged, pushed and pulled us along. I never felt “less than”. Instead, my class and David expressed pride in the progress made. I absolutely will find a learning partner in Baltimore and continue my learning.

Obviously, I was in Israel during very difficult times. My plane landed the day the 3 boys were found… and from there things went from bad to worse quickly. I must tell you, 100% from my heart, I never felt unsafe! I was scared when the sirens went off and I was scared when I watched the news. But, living day to day, was a beautiful experience. Life goes on as normal. It must. If it didn’t, then terror has won. Israel in MY land. No matter if I am living in the USA.

Every morning I visited the same bakery for my coffee (and made friends with the barista), I shopped at a few regular grocery stores (and figured out which people spoke English) , I ate at restaurants (The FOOD IS SO GOOD!), etc…. every place I went I was aware of my surroundings in case a siren went off and that posed a stress I was unfamiliar with. That was difficult for me to put into perspective. However, given the fact that I was determined to not let terrorist win, I worked to put my fears into perspective. The Pardes staff was forthcoming with information and that made a huge difference. I did make the concession to call my mom (yes, a 51 yr old called her MOTHER) everyday. It made her feel better. I spoke and emailed to friends and family everyday. That went a long way to counter act the media.

I can assure you that I would send my children to Israel. That is how sure I am of the safety of the Country.

I would encourage you to go to Israel, go to Pardes ! This is a unique opportunity to learn with all “flavors” of Jews. You will be respected and learn to respect differences you didn’t even knew existed. Learning for credit is useful and perfect for a degree. Learning for the sake of delving into this complex beautiful thing we call Judaism is an experience you will treasure.