These and Those

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

Pardes Executive Learning Seminars. . . ‘truly a part of paradise’

Posted on October 9, 2018 by David Greenspoon

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“What is Pardes’s Executive Learning Seminar? For me it is a chance to engage in serious study with amazing learners and teachers, concerned with an application of Jewish wisdom to our larger world, in a setting dedicated with a radical commitment to real pluralism. For me, Pardes is not just The Orchard. It is Gan Eden, truly a part of paradise.”

-Rabbi David Greenspoon, Seminar Alum Summer 2018, Leesburg, Virginia

Excerpts from a sermon given on Yom Kippur by Rabbi David Greenspoon of Congregation Sha’are Shalom in Leesburg, Virginia.

He wrote…..

This morning I would like to share some thoughts inspired by some of my experiences here and in Israel that inform the idea of community. It starts with a story from my time at the Summer Executive Learning Seminar at Pardes this summer. It is a story of radical welcoming, and one that profoundly touched my soul.

My trip was in the last part of the observance of sheloshim, the 30 days after the funeral of my father. Before our lunch break we had an opportunity to take time for the daily afternoon or minhah prayer service. Pardes is non-denominational and proudly claims a pluralistic identity in Israeli religious society, but it comes from progressive, modern Orthodox origins. It is no surprise that the optional traditional minhah service with a mehitzah, the divider for gender separation, always quickly makes its minimum ten and then some.

Most of the students were men happy to daven in that setting, if they were going to daven. On the other hand, the egalitarian minyan sometimes needed a little assistance to get to ten. It was in this minyan that I was davening, and for that matter typically leading the service, as is traditional for a mourner during the 30 days. The staff rallied to fill in the missing people. A staff person would note how many were needed, see if more students were on the way in, and then turn to the staff to fill in if there was a gap. Regularly I would turn around to see staff, including orthodox observance women, present to get us to minyan or beyond, so I could say Kaddish for my dad. It is nearly impossible to describe how touched and moved I was by this deep act.

It was one of the holiest experiences I’ve ever had in Israel, or anywhere else for that matter. The kindness extended to me, a relative stranger to most of the staff, did more than made me feel welcome. It made me feel I mattered. It has moved me to tears more than once during and even after my trip.

It is this feeling of being connected and knowing we matter that is the most important factor defining the priorities and efforts of many congregations today……

This was my 2nd Pardes experience; I previously participated in the Summer Curriculum Workshop. I look forward to more opportunities to connect with Pardes to come.


For more information and to book your spot on the next Pardes Executive Learning Seminar, click here.