Masa Israel Journey Blog

Published : August 22, 2012
By Alex Willick, Otzma
Gourmet ice coffee and my Hebrew notebook are good friends of mine in Israel:
A bona fide child of the Tri-State Area, Alex Willick was born in Bergen County, NJ, raised in Westport, Connecticut, and subsequently lived in New York City.  He graduated from Colgate University in 2009, where he studied music and philosophy, both of which continue to be passionate areas of study.  He has spent the last few years working for the Jewish community in New York City, including a year and a half at UJA-Federation of New York and some time at Heeb Magazine.
Since the summer of 2011, Alex has been living in Israel as a member of Project Otzma, and he is happy to have the opportunity to live and serve with the people he loves, in the country he loves.  After a year of living in places that tourists rarely have the opportunity to visit, he cannot wait to be back and making Israel an even greater part of his identity. In August, 2012, he will be beginning his graduate studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, and will be a candidate for a Master’s in Jewish Experiential Education with a specialty in Israel Education in 2014.
Alex is also a musician, writer, and photographer, and his blog can be found at


Published : August 21, 2012
It is difficult to sum up these past 3 years at Pardes - the memories, the moments, the worlds that existed on this 3rd floor hidden paradise along with the teachers, the knowledge, the learning and the constant flow of engaging conversations.
Who I was three years ago is not exactly who I am today, and I have Pardes to thank for that. I came not knowing what to expect, packing up my bags after college graduation and landing at Ben Gurion airport, without even so much as an address in Jerusalem or a phone number to dial to let someone know I had arrived.  I am leaving a confident and inspired member of the Jewish people, with an enormous Pardes community eager to greet me in the States.
In משלי כב:ו (Proverbs 22:6) the text reads:
חֲנֹךְ לַנַּעַר, עַל-פִּי דַרְכּוֹ--    גַּם כִּי-יַזְקִין, לֹא-יָסוּר מִמֶּנָּה
I read this text according to PaRDeS - pshat, remez, drash and sod.
The pshat is the straightforward meaning of the words:
Educate a boy according to his way, and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Remez is the hint:
When you allow people to be who they are, the best results emerge.
Drash is my explanation:
I believe this text is saying that there is no derech (way) with a capital D. There is no one right path to Judaism and building Jewish identity. Teach every student in their own way, to follow their path confidently and to love Judaism in the only way they know how. When they are older and look back at their education, the words, lessons, values and fiery passion will continue to be lit inside of them.
Finally, sod, the secret:
Maybe this isn’t the secret that the text is trying to hide. In fact, maybe it shouldn’t be a secret at all. This text is extremely significant to me because it represents Pardes. I was allowed to flourish as a student because of this these exact words. Every teacher I have learned with here models and represents precisely what I love most about Jewish education. I have been taught in a way that speaks to me and shaped my education and identity, and because of that I can boldly say that it will stick with me forever. I am so grateful for this opportunity. 

Explore The Blog