“ReJewvenate @ Pardes” is an opportunity for someone in the 40 plus age group who has not experienced immersive Jewish learning, to receive a grant from reJewvenate for Pardes’ three weeks summer program. With the support of generous donors, we set out to create new and unique opportunities for the 40 plus age group in the Jewish community as we believe that exciting and purposeful Jewish learning should continue throughout one’s life. Selected from a pool of applicants, Naomi Myrvaagnes was our first grantee last summer, and her moving impressions are described below. We plan on offering the grant again in the upcoming summer. If you’d like to donate – or apply, please let me know.
ReJewvenate @ Pardes: Pardes Summer Program and the Post-40 Set – by Naomi Myrvaagnes
As the first recipient of the reJewvenate @ Pardes grant for summer program learners over 40, I want to express my appreciation to Pardes and to the funders and initiators of the reJewvenate grant for the wonderful experience I had at the 2014 summer program. It was a wonderful three weeks of instruction and inspiration for the older student learning for the pleasure of it.
I know I am not the only person in my age group to love Jewish learning for its own sake, to benefit from adult education offerings and to grow my knowledge through reading. And surely I’m not the only one over forty who didn’t graduate from day school. I know I haven’t been the only one to believe that study in Israel was somehow beyond my horizon: where would I fit in? What about my spotty Hebrew? For many, there is also the question of cost. Thanks to the generous funders of the reJewvenate tuition grant, all these obstacles fell away for me.
I came, I immersed in study, I enjoyed. I felt entirely comfortable being part of the warm, inclusive, generous-spirited community that is Pardes. There is no Us and Them in the program; no Us and You, no Young and Old. The marvelous faculty talks to everybody equally, at a high level that is magically accessible to all.
Such teachers! They are so versed and so serious about the material and about teaching. Meticulously prepared for each class, with helpful handouts. So knowledgeable. Humble, engaging, easy-going, encouraging, energetic. Entertaining, as well. My vocabulary does not suffice to praise and thank the faculty sufficiently.
Even beyond all that competence, Pardes is a magical blend of seriousness of purpose and lightness of spirit. Faculty, students, and staff are all respectful yet warm and generous; committed to study and also to treating everyone else with respect and concern. July, 2014 was not the most serene time to be in Jerusalem, but even though the fighting was on everyone’s mind, Pardes was a haven of caring for the here and now of its people.
A few points I’d like to offer prospective older students. To engage in the program, even in the beginner level courses, it’s important to be able to read Hebrew, even just to decode the letters. The more Hebrew the better, of course. It doesn’t take a lot of Hebrew to keep up at a basic level, but in my view, at least basic literacy is necessary.
As for orientation of the program and how students of varying backgrounds and locations in the vast spectrum of Judaism fit in: the orientation of the faculty and of school practice (as with food and meals) is halachic, Modern Orthodox. The realm of ideas and approaches to Judaism and texts is thoughtful and wide, wide open. The program doesn’t even seem to work hard at talking a very inclusive language or responding to a wide range of viewpoints; it feels as though this openness comes naturally to faculty and staff. One does not feel the presence of any hidden agendas. Gender equality and inclusiveness are a given, as is open-mindedness on theology and social issues.
I had a wonderful experience in these three weeks. I learned a goodly amount of new material, which feels like a springboard for further learning. I feel privileged to have studied with this faculty and with the other students. Thank you, thank you, Pardes and reJewvenate.