These and Those

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

Bidding a Fond Farewell to Pardes

Posted on February 19, 2018 by Louise Szczerb

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The following is the Dvar Torah read out by Louise Szczerb on her leaving lunch. Louise worked at Pardes for 9 years as the Communications Director.

Having sat through closing lunches twice a year for nine years, plus one as a student in the summer program of 2006, you would think I would have known exactly what to say today.

The truth is I really struggled. You see, I didn’t have Arlene or Donna as sounding boards for my wild ideas. I didn’t have Alex or Meir to come up with that perfect Torah source or Zvi to write my jokes. I didn’t have Natalie to turn my thoughts into beautiful graphics, Emma to improve my click-rate or Joanne to help me with my Hebrew. There were no David Berman treats to keep up my sugar-levels. And when things got really overwhelming, I didn’t have Joel to help put everything into perspective.

So, I decided to do what every good Pardes student has done before me – and turn to this week’s parsha. As luck would have it, Terumah is all about the aesthetic. It painstakingly details every aspect of the structure of the Mishkan, lists the dyes used for the tent and priestly garments, the precious metals for the vessels, the rare gemstones for the breastplate and the specially formulated oils and spices for anointing and kindling. The sanctuary had to be as physically beautiful as the sacred and spiritual worship that it housed. What parsha could be more appropriate for a person who made sure that all Pardes materials should be no less perfect and beautiful as the precious and holy Torah study that takes place within its walls? On that note, if anyone would like to make a contribution to the Pardes Capital Campaign, feel free to see Jackie later on.

Teamwork is another major theme this week. God says: “Let them build something together” and the Israelites came together and each contributed to the Mishkan according to their ability. Some gold, some silver, some bronze, some brought skins and drapes, others gave their time and skill. The final result was breath-taking. Working at Pardes means first and foremost working as part of a team: Each staff and faculty member contributing in the ways they know best (or the way Joel says they know best) to produce the most stunning outcomes.

Whether it was a podcast, an article, proof-reading, market research, a tag-line, a post, a share, a trip to London, a source, a quote, a second opinion, an image, a synonym, an Americanization, a cameo role, a raiser’s edge entry, a trip to Istanbul, an acronym that only makes sense to us, a 9Adar brainstorm, a community lunch, a gushing reply-all email from a supportive board member or of course those memorable weekly staff meetings – each and every person here was part of the fun, the magic and the success that was created.

Today is bittersweet. I’ve spent the last 8 months taking care of my family full-time and made the decision to do so for a while longer. However in doing so, I am leaving behind the dream job. A job that gave me autonomy and flexibility, the chance to be at the forefront of a cause I truly believe in, surrounded by great people and great minds, learning and being challenged on a daily basis. Witnessing the individual transformations in the corridors and contributing to the big picture worldwide.

Jonathan Sacks notes that the Hebrew word for contribution, Terumah, means not just something we give but something we lift up – from the verb Leharim. The builders of the sanctuary lifted up their gift to God, and in the process of lifting, discovered that they themselves were lifted. God was giving them the chance to become “His partners in the work of creation,” the highest characterisation ever given of the human condition.

Likewise you, my colleagues, my teachers and friends, gave me the opportunity over the last nine years to contribute to, and at the same time be lifted, by the unique service to Hashem and the Jewish people that takes place here at Pardes.

I miss you all and look forward to watching Pardes continue to grow and bloom.

Thank you and Shabbat Shalom.