These and Those

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

Student Reflection: Elaine Hochberg – Pardes Learning Seminar Summer 2021

Posted on July 15, 2021 by Elaine Hochberg

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This post was written by first-time PLS participant Elaine Hochberg. To learn more about the Pardes Learning Seminar program, which runs during the summer and winter, please visit

Where do I begin? I spent five days last week with Pardes for the first time. The experience was revelatory.

A few weeks previously, the new Senior Rabbi of our synagogue in New York City had contacted several congregants, including me, and asked if we would be interested in learning with Pardes. I knew about Pardes but had never participated in their programs before. I did not know what to expect, but I readily agreed to register.

The 2021 Pardes Learning Seminar was entitled Cultivating Courage & Resilience. This was an apt title for a post-pandemic seminar, but I was apprehensive about spending a week reliving some of the issues of the previous year. Nevertheless, upon inspection of the schedule, I realized that I was familiar with some of the faculty (in fact, I had been reading the book of one faculty member) and was intrigued by the titles of the courses. With registration completed, I waited for the seminar to begin on July 4th with a houseful of the family I had not seen in a year in tow and clear instructions that I would be occupied most of the day for five days straight.

Once the seminar began I was completely absorbed. The schedule was jam-packed but well organized. The instructors were well prepared and engaging, some were even remarkable in their presentation of new perspectives on texts that were very familiar to most. For me, the most memorable aspect of the program was the havruta breakouts. Attendees from all over the world thoughtfully and richly shared their input on the topics under discussion. To be frank, I was the most concerned about the havruta part of the curriculum, and am still somewhat surprised that it was the part of the program that I looked forward to each and every day.

It is hard to single out any one session from the week, truthfully, all were good. Each class that I took proved to be strong and thought-provoking. Each session contributed to my understanding that Torah is made and remade by those who engage in serious study. Traditional interpretations contrasted with newer perspectives, yet all were firmly rooted in text and a deep devotion to learning.

I thrill to think of this week with Pardes. I miss it already and look forward to the next time I can immerse myself in such a sea of learning. Also, I fully intend to thank my Rabbi for inviting me to attend the Pardes Learning Seminar. I believe many individuals would cherish the experience, and I fully intend to return to Pardes as often as I can in the years to come.