These and Those

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

Pardes Seminars . . . ‘ Pluralistic, genuine, immersive, non-denominational, spiritual and academic’

Posted on August 25, 2019 by Larry Brooks

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This blog piece was written by Larry Brooks, alumnus of the Summer 2019 Pardes Executive Learning Seminar.

Pluralistic, genuine, immersive, non-denominational, spiritual and academic? For years I’d heard others describe Pardes this way. Still, I began the 2019 ELS summer program with a healthy dose of New York skepticism. Would the teachers be truly engaging? Would the participants be truly open and present? As it turns out, all of this and more so.

This year’s topic, Shaping Meaningful Relationships in a Lonely World, called us to create a genuine and collaborative space for learning. It obliged us to truly engage the individuals in our classrooms. It also provided us a compassionate mirror by which to view ourselves. In short, the content encouraged us as spouses, as parents, as children, as friends, as co-workers, and as members of the greater Jewish community to truly show up.

Through their example, our teachers made this so easy. They offered rich texts that elicited a healthy dissonance. Through havruta learning we reached real moments of enlightenment. Some lessons were general. All too often, our focus is down (are you reading this on a smartphone right now?) rather than on the people and on the road before us. Yet, others lessons sparked true paradigm shifts in the way that I viewed Judaism’s response to modern affairs. One lesson revealed the evolving, embracing stance of certain orthodox rabbis regarding the LGBT community. Interestingly, it wasn’t a modern text that changed minds. Rather, a verse from Genesis opened hearts. The experience was illuminating.

Weeks have passed since my Pardes experience. Yet, I still continue to reflect not only on the texts and commentary take-aways, but also on the people I met. The students, the faculty, the chef (we really should add a line in the birkat for David), and the staff are exemplary. Pardes really is a special place. All of the aforementioned superlatives and just one more – a place you shouldn’t miss.

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