The Conspiracy

An End

In 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 who turned out to make up what came to be a fantastic and interesting community of friends. In reality, however, 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 was asked a question whose answer will be the topic of this, my last post. The question: What am I going to take home with me from my time at Pardes, in what ways was 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.

First, I am determined to keep in touch with the new connections I have made while here. This is no easy task, as after four months I have only recently gotten truly comfortable with 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.

On the flip side, I was surprised by how quickly and thoroughly I lost touch with friends and family in America, people amongst who I have always lived. I didn’t think that would be possible, and it only sheds light on how hard it will be to keep in touch with my new “family” in Israel. 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 a given time.

But what brought me to Pardes? 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 had been 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. However, just because I am not physically at Pardes does not mean I have to stop working on how I see Judaism and what my place is 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 to raise issues that will only improve Jewish communities that I am a part of.

Benjamin Barer is studying at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, one of Masa Israel’s 180 programs.

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