These and Those

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

Teaching and Learning – Pardes Turkey trip 2018

Posted on March 23, 2018 by Maxim Delchev

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We just came back from the Ulus School in Istanbul, where we spent our two days learning together with the high-school students about Pesach. And we decided instead of sharing with you what we taught in the school (we hope that the kids will share that next Friday on their Pesach celebrations at home), all of us will share what we learned from our students in the last two days. And in no particular order, here we go… Starting with…


In one of my groups we were discussing the idea of slavery and if it is possible the story of Egypt to be repeated. And one of the girls told me: It is impossible to be slaves again. It can be worse and we can have bad times, but we have the memory of our story and that is something that will keep us from being slaves without rights again.


One of the things that amazed me in the last two days were how easy the kids were adapting the texts we were studying together – from the Haggadah and the Book of Exodus with their local Jewish history and traditions. It looked like after every class I am ready to write my own Turkish version of the Haggadah – as there were more and more local stories coming alive from our text.


While we discussed freedom together in one of the groups, one of the girls asked me. Kezya, do you know what freedom is? I tried to explain but she interrupted me. Freedom is the ability to go to Jewish school and not to ordinary one…

Also, I learned the recipe for Burmuelos – a Sepharadi fried matza dish, that I am going to prepare for my friends when I go back to Jerusalem.


What is freedom? That was a question and a big discussion in one of our sessions here. And one of the kids asked me a question – Are you free to go and rob a bank? And I said – I don’t know. Am I free. And she answered: “Yes. You are free. Then you will go to the jail for many years but that is your free choice and even that this is very stupid, you can still do it. It is great to be free. But you also need some rules. Because then everyone will do stupid things.”



I was amazed how easy those students could see things from different perspectives. While we discussed the leadership qualities of the personalities in the Pesach story they asked me why we don’t include the Pharaoh as a leader of the story. And after that they presented me the idea that even as an evil person, he is also a leader and part of the story. And we should never forget that.



One of the biggest question that is standing between those students is the question what are we going to do after High School. And I spoke with few boys who have a big dilemma. Should I go to Jerusalem or Sweden to study in a nice university or should I stay and be part and helpful to my family and community… It was a question and a challenge that I don’t know the answer and it is incredible to see these young people, discussing and thinking over big questions and ideas.


The Roman philosopher Seneka said that “While you teach, you also learn”. We knew that even before coming to Istanbul. But now we know it worth for us even more – because we don’t just understand Pesach differently, we now understand this community in many ways that was not possible for us before.

But now it is time to prepare for Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom

P.S. More of our Turkey adventures you can find here and here. And if you don’t have time for reading scroll through our pictures here.