1. When were you at Hadar?
I live in Bend, Oregon.
2. What are you up to?
I am a field instructor at New Vision Wilderness, a leading therapeutic wilderness program for adolescents and young adults working through acute/complex trauma. This means I spend eight days at a time living with and supporting these clients in the woods, and six days out of the woods. It is incredibly intense, challenging, and meaningful work.
3. Is there a beautiful piece of Torah from your Hadar days that you keep close to your heart?
Rav Aviva was my Gemara teacher in zman stav. I had never looked at a page of Gemara before and had a lot of anxiety about my learning. Rav Aviva was so supportive, kind, and deep. We learned Masechet Sukkah, about Lulav Ha’Gazul. What I take from that chapter is the concept of Hidur Mitzvah and how we interact with plants in the land around us to observe mitzvot.
The line in Sukkah ל ו, ב
“ערא דיר=קלאבאפילו בסיב אפילו אמר רבא”
“Even the bulb [of the] palm, even the fibrous sinew,” Rava defends using all parts of the palm tree as a binding for the Lulav. He defends this to not include a fifth species as a binding, making the lulav invalid, but to me it also has an environmental message about using all parts of a plant. When I shared this with Rav Aviva, she replied “The Key Foods in Riverdale has its disposable plates in the Kosher foods aisle, which is very sad to me.” That piece of Torah allowed me to I ground my belief that we should not create immense waste to fulfill mitzvot.
4. If you could describe your experience at Hadar in one word what would it be?
Hadar has created a space that is simultaneously and unapologetically halakhic, inclusive, egalitarian, and serious about text learning. These things are hard to balance in the Jewish world! I never felt those boundaries pushing up against each other at Hadar in a negative way…it was like an island, I guess. Hadar was my first-ever text learning experience. It also provided an observant peer community that I could bring my full self to. Hadar expanded my brain, spirit and heart in so many ways. This sounds cheesy, but I am still discovering those ways one year later.
5. Can you tell us a little about your micro grant work?
I brought Living Room Learning, a requirement of the Hadar year fellowship to Bend. Last year, I did Living Room Learning at CUNY Hunter Hillel; I had so many fun and meaningful conversations there while learning Aggadah from Talmud. I used some of those same source sheets for here in Bend! It has been great so far, with about fifteen people in attendance each time. We always eat pizza, salad, and brownies. The fourth one will be a potluck! There are almost no text learning opportunities here, so people are eager and excited.
6. How have Torah and mitzvot changed your life (post Hadar)?
Committing to observance before Hadar made me feel isolated from my family and friends. After a year of really integrating Torah and mitzvot in my life in a serious way while at Hadar, I am more comfortable communicating my boundaries. More important than that, I communicate and live my values. My second weekend here, I had a few friends over for Shabbat dinner. The next week they asked “Are you having Shabbat again this week?” I replied, “Yep! It’s every week.” With my work this year, prayer and having the structure of mitzvot in my life has been extremely grounding and meaningful.