Posted on December 31, 2010 by Barer
n some ways it feels like yesterday that I walked into this apartment for the first time, toured Pardes for the first time, and met the people that turned out to be a fantastic and interesting community of friends, but nearly four months have passed. A few weeks ago, as the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ of my leaving Israel was just beginning to glimmer, I had a conversation with a Pardesnik in which I was asked a question that I immediately knew was one that needed further thought as my time to leave drew near. The question was: what am I going to take home with me from my time at Pardes, in what ways is my life going to change as a result of my time here?
I see my time here as being defined mainly by the friends I made and the community I had the privilege of being a part of, as well as the ongoing struggle to define for myself what it means to be Jewish – i.e. coming to terms with my Jewish identity. Therefore, if the changes I want to incorporate into my life as I re-enter the familiar life I have in Vancouver in two short days are going to truly reflect my time here, I must focus on these two broad aspects of the past four months.
First, maintaining connections with the new community I have made while here. This is no easy task, as after four months I am just getting truly comfortable in my life here, and can only conclude that there is so much more to explore and learn from the people that I have gotten to know. I truly believe that I have had the privilege of studying alongside many future Jewish leaders, whether they end up in the US, Israel, or elsewhere, and those are the exact people with whom I want to continue to develop lasting relationships. On the flip side, I have experienced for the first time what it is like to forget about the community of friends and family that I have always lived amongst back home. A reality I didn’t believe was possible has unfolded, and there is no question that the exact connections that I seek to maintain to fellow Pardesniks will be just as hard, if not harder, to maintain than those that I only did a so-so job of maintaining with friends and family back home. I expect that I will live in this ‘fragmented’ world from now on, always having connections that I hold dear in multiple places, yet only really being able to engage with those who are physically close to me at any given time.
On to what I was personally striving towards within the Pardes community. If I had been asked, in a moment of clarity, why I was coming to Pardes back in the summer, I may have been able to articulate that continuing to struggle with my Jewish identity was on the forefront of my mind. That is indeed how I would define my overall ‘project’ here, and why I am considering coming back for another year in September (no, not for the Educator’s Program, Sam). As for answering the question, not physically being at Pardes is no excuse to stop working on how I see Judaism and my place in it. Because ritual is so central to so many forms of Judaism, my own ritual observance, and all the changes and developments it will surely undergo in the near (and not-so-near) future must be a chief component of my bringing Pardes home with me.
As an idealistic young person, I have grand hopes and designs for what the Jewish world could and should look like. However, given that, in reality, change happens glacially, the best I can do is work hard and hope that I can inspire and influence others to do the same. Towards that end, taking more of a leadership role in improving a community like Pardes is an amazing opportunity, but one that I need to have clear goals for before I start. Those are the tasks that I set before myself as I start this next chapter of my life, coming home from a meaningful semester spent thinking and building a community in Jerusalem.
Posted on December 25, 2010 by Joel D.
Posted on December 13, 2010 by Barer
I’d like to focus on something I mentioned very briefly in my overview of Chanukkah which has been coming up in my mind as I consider life back home: namely, Hityavnut or Hellenization, or what would today be called assimilation.
The word gives varied messages manifested in different languages. Hityavnut is an example of a word that I find to have a different and deeper feel to it in Hebrew than its counterpart in English. “Greekify” hardly implies assimilation, and yet that is what Hityavnut would mean, on an extremely literal level. But that is not the most noteworthy part of this Hebrew word. Rather the fact that, as far as I could tell being around Israelis discussing issues of modern assimilation, Hityavnut is a word that means not only Hellenization (only meaningful in the context of discussing the Chanukkah story) but its modern meaning is also assimilation. I guess this could just be me falling for the allure of a language whose words encapsulate the history I learned growing up in Jewish day school, but which had no connection to the language I was speaking. I find it fascinating that I can understand the meaning of Hityavnut without understanding what the denotation of the word ‘assimilation’ as long as I know the Chanukkah story; English has nothing like it.
Returning to the content of this appealing Hebrew term, I have what amounts to a simple concern about living in a Jewish and a secular world simultaneously. Can one live in both worlds without being swayed ‘too much’ by either? What is ‘too much’? Can one have purely secular, non-Jewish interactions as well as purely religious, Jewish interactions and still keep all the varying world-views and lenses together in one’s head? While such questions have undoubtedly been asked endlessly by anyone who is not content to live in exclusively Jewish surroundings their entire lives, each time, and for each individual, it is slightly different based on each individual’s circumstances.
What should one’s goals be in living simultaneously in both worlds? The discussion with Israeli teenagers mentioned the Westernization of Israel in ways exemplified by the prevalence of Gap stores and other Americanized companies, and the fact that they are in English for the most part. No doubt language is more than the sum of its parts, and losing a language means so much more than losing the words, as the example of Hityavnut shows. But if recent news is any indication, we need more people that are deeply aware of more than one culture’s needs and concerns.
Posted on November 12, 2010 by יעל
My theology of religion is encapsulated in a Mr. Potato Head. Mr. Potato Head is a child’s toy in which a plastic potato can be decorated with attachments for eyes, arms, legs, noses, mouths, and clothing items such as glasses and hats. How does this relate to religion? I look at all religions having the same Continue Reading »
Posted on November 9, 2010 by Merissa
Today in class someone asked if I consider myself racially Jewish. I answered as honestly as possible on the spot, “I don’t know, I am still forming my Jewish identity.” My thoughts are quick, but not that quick. Later it occurred to me both why I was speaking in dissent, and how I define myself Continue Reading »
Posted on November 2, 2010 by Spirit Wolf
When once asked by a potential convert to explain the essence of Torah in a mere heartbeat, Hillel recited these famous words: “What is hateful to you do not do unto others. That is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary. Now go and study.” We would do well to remember this today: “True Righteousness” Continue Reading »