Videos

Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

Nishmat

Videos

Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

Pnimiyut Seminary

Videos

Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

Tiferet

Program: 

Videos

Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

Videos

Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

Migdal Oz

Videos

Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

Yeshivat Lev HaTorah

Mary-Brett Koplen

Josh Laurence

Josh Laurence

Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies
While working as a youth director at Temple Beth Sholom in Florida, Miami Beach-native Josh Laurence decided to spend a year studying at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. "After first traveling to Israel with Birthright, I definitely wanted to return," says Josh. "Then the opportunity presented itself in the form of Pardes's year program—my mentor, Rabbi Robert Davis encouraged me to do it, my friend Miriam Farber registered, and the financial support from Masa Israel made it possible." 
 
Living in Jerusalem, Josh spent his days taking courses in Talmud, Torah, Social Action, Rambam, and Jewish Law. "I'd never taken part in such intense text study and the experience was invaluable," says Josh. "I became a lot more knowledgeable and confident in my abilities to teach others." 
 
When one of his teachers, Rabbi Levi Cooper, invited Josh to his house for Shabbat, Josh was given the opportunity to chant Haftarah at one of the neighborhood synagogues. "It was something I'd done many times at my Reform synagogue back home but it was a completely different experience," says Josh. "While usually there are a handful of people who also know the trop, in the Israeli congregation, people understood exactly what I was saying." 
 
When not in class, Josh had the opportunity to volunteer with PeacePlayers International, and facilitated basketball games for Arab and Israeli youth. On weekends, Josh traveled throughout Israel with friends. During a trip to a few settlements, one of Josh's teachers, Rabbi David Levin-Kruss, at Pardes called to make sure the group was safe. "A professor in an American university would never make such a call," says Josh. "But the faculty at Pardes was like that—always welcoming us to their homes for Shabbat and looking out for us." 
 
As the Youth Activities Director at Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest, Florida, Josh feels a lot more equipped for his work. "I can pull so much more meaning when unpacking Jewish texts and that makes me a much better teacher," says Josh. He continues to have weekly Skype study sessions with friends who have continued their studies at Pardes. 
 
Later that year, Josh returned to Israel to travel the country and visit friends. "I think it says a lot about my connection to Israel that I'm willing to drop $1200 on a ticket to return to the place where I just spent a year," says Josh. "After Pardes, I made a commitment to visit the country at least once or twice a year—whether for personal vacation or professional travel." Josh is currently applying to graduate school in education administration and hopes to continue working as an educator in the Reform movement. 
 
"But before continuing on that path, I may head back to Israel for another year or two to study or volunteer," says Josh. "There's nothing like being able to pick up the phone and tell an Israeli friend, I'm going to catch the 405 bus. Meet me on the beach in Tel Aviv.'"
Leor Kushner

Rebecca Karp

Rebecca Karp

Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies
 
Following her graduation from the University of Pennsylvania, Rebecca Karp was not ready to plunge into the world of graphic design, her main academic focus. Instead, she chose to further pursue her extracurricular interests from the past four years, which centered around Penn’s Hillel, through study at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, a pluralistic co-ed yeshiva in Jerusalem. 
 
Though Rebecca attended Reform and Conservative synagogues throughout her youth and was active in USY, Rebecca still craved a formal Jewish education. At Pardes, Rebecca found the tools she needed to explore her Jewish identity which, while always strong, had never been fully articulated.
 
Surrounded by individuals from all Jewish affiliations, at Pardes Rebecca could study in an environment that actively encouraged constant questioning and reflection. The synthesis of textual study and discussion helped Rebecca shape not only her personal Jewish identity, but her outlook on life, as well. “The critical thinking and story-telling, the opportunity to learn why we do the things we do and where laws come from—it affected my everyday sensibilities,” Rebecca says of her learning experience at Pardes. “I don’t have separate ethical and Jewish values. I live my life according to Jewish values.” 
 
During her time in Jerusalem, Rebecca discovered at Pardes an open and engaged community that extended well beyond the classroom. Instead of serving as mere springboards for each other’s ideas and beliefs, students provided one another with support and mutual understanding. During Thanksgiving, a time of homesickness for many American students, Rebecca prepared a meal for 16 religiously diverse female students in her apartment’s kosher kitchen. “There were women in short skirts, long skirts, pants, and shorts,” Rebecca recalled. “And we had all come to Israel with a common goal: to learn.” 
 
Upon her return to the United States, Rebecca began looking for jobs in graphic design, but her heart yearned for something more. When she landed the job as assistant director of the American Jewish Committee’s Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey chapter, she was thrilled. The opportunity, which includes working with different ethnic groups in the United States to promote mutual cultural education, allows Rebecca to instill the values of understanding and openness, so central to her Pardes experience, in her own community back home.
 
Upon her return from Israel, Rebecca also sought to create a Jewish community similar to that which existed at Pardes. She began a Moishe House in Philadelphia, where she lived with several other Jewish post-college individuals who create Jewish-themed events for young adults in the area. Jews from all backgrounds and denominations attend the events, which have included Shabbat dinners and a documentary followed by a discussion about the Falash Mura Ethiopian population in Israel.
 
Looking back, Rebecca believes that her work in the Jewish community was inevitable. “But without Pardes, I couldn’t have gotten there,” she says.