These and Those

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

Pardes: A Place Where Boundaries Fall Away

Posted on June 4, 2020 by Joseph Blumberg

This article was written by year program student Joe Blumberg (Summer ’18, Year ’19-’20).

As an aspiring Jewish educator, my time at Pardes was everything I could have asked for. I learned how to read a page of Gemara, I met brilliant teachers and role models, and I continued to deeply explore my own Jewish identity. The anxiety and intimidation I felt when I first walked into the beit midrash last September has been transformed into confidence and exhilaration, and I feel so empowered by the incredible learning and growing that I’ve done in the last nine months.

But the best things about spending time at Pardes aren’t advertised on the website. Of course, the rabbis and classes are fantastic, the learning is deep, and the experience of studying in Israel is magical. But my Pardes experience was so much more than that. For me, Pardes is about the spontaneous divrei Torah that my teachers share on hikes
in the Negev. It’s about sending a message to a rabbi with a short question about the class, and ending up on a long phone call about everything from the class to politics to my future as a Jewish educator. It’s about singing zemirot with my friends around my Shabbat table on a Saturday afternoon. It’s about spending hours probing the depths of
a challenging passage of Tanakh with my chevruta in a corner of the beit midrash, giggling about grammatical curiosities that only Pardes students could find amusing. And it’s about the feeling of transcendent connection that happens when I lead my friends in prayer after a long day of learning. All of these moments envelop and enhance the
amazing Torah study that happens at Pardes, and they are what makes the experience truly extraordinary.

Pardes is a place where boundaries fall away, leaving an incredibly open, diverse, and committed community in their place. I’ve had chevrutas with students who are radically different from me — politically and religiously — but the differences only made our learning stronger.

I’ve had deeply personal conversations with rabbis who are uncannily willing to be vulnerable with their students. There’s a profound sense of respect for others at Pardes, and it creates an environment where both students and teachers are unafraid to bring their whole selves to Jewish texts and to the community. The intentionality and warmth of the Pardes community is a model for the Jewish world, and I feel proud and blessed to be a part of it.