Posted on May 11, 2017 by Rachel Dingman
I looked back on a blog post I wrote in 2014–my first summer here at Pardes. The blog post was titled “I’ve been saying watermelon a lot”. This phrase comes from an amazing Shabbat meal I had at Yaffa Epstein’s house. Everyone started singing and I looked around filled with confusion. Yaffa said “Sing along, and if you don’t know the words, just say watermelon”. I said watermelon a lot that summer and to be honest I’m still saying it now. That summer I both felt an intense draw to a religion and people and also totally inadequate and like an outsider. There are still times I struggle with that.
In 2014 when Dean Bernstein told us that one day we would be the most Jewishly knowledgeable people in the room I totally didn’t believe him–last year I 70% believed him and this year–well, about 90%. In all honesty, I have felt like the most knowledgeable person in the room and at the same time I sometimes still need to say watermelon.
I am so grateful for the learning and growing I have done in this Beit Midrash, out in the shuk, and around the shabbos table with all the faculty, staff, and students here. I think about where I was when I wrote that blog post and where I am now–the difference is undeniable. These changes have been empowering, beautiful, and sometimes painful.
I really hope we can all take a minute to think about where we were when we walked in these doors and where we are leaving. I hope even more that we can appreciate the differences–the beautiful ones and the painful ones and that we find meaning and empowerment in every moment.
Rachel Dingman (Summer 2014, PEEP 2015-2016, Pardes Fellows Program 2016-2017)