Who We Are
Rena Singer

1. When were you at Hadar?

Two years non-consecutively: ‘13-’14 and ‘17-’18.

2. Where are you now (physically)? 

Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, on my couch. 

3. What are you up to now?

I am in my last semester of rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion. I also co-run an online resource for fresh, accessible Judaism,  called Modern Ritual (@Modern_Ritual or you can find it at modernritual.org).

4. Is there a beautiful piece of Torah from your Hadar days that you keep close to your heart?

Rav Jason taught us a story from the Tosafot on Massekhet Shabbat 87b where the Egyptian firstborn children hear that they might die in the final plague. They go beg their parents and Pharoah to end slavery, but the adults are so stuck in their patterns that they cannot see what is coming and refuse to change. It is such a tragic and poignant metaphor for gun violence and global warming. 

5. If you could describe your experience at Hadar in one word what would it be (feel free to elaborate beyond a single word)?

Energizing. I loved being completely surrounded and inspired by people who were all pouring Torah into and out of their hearts with the same hunger, ferocity, and love.

6.  How have Torah and mitzvot changed your life (post-Hadar)?

Spending time with people who were engaged in such serious dialogue with the ideas and practice of various mitzvot challenged me to be less immediately dismissive of some of the mitzvot that aren’t obviously “meaningful” from a modern perspective. I learned that many of the mitzvot feel entirely different when they are kept by a community as opposed to an individual. 

7.  Is there a time this past year when Hadar specifically came to mind? 

I am writing my thesis on articulating contemporary Jewish ideas about beauty in a world that is sick in its relationship to beauty. I have drawn heavily on our study of Massekhet Sukkot and particularly the etrog. I love the argument in Sukkot 35a that the etrog tree is the most “hadar” because it can sustain the growth of fruit throughout the year in all different stages. Hadar has facilitated so much growth for me personally in different stages of my life and I am extremely grateful!