Who We Are
Seth Kennedy

1. When were you at Hadar?

I was at Hadar for the summer of 2012

2. Where are you now (physically)?

I live in Lakeview, which is a neighborhood of Chicago with a very sizable young adult Jewish population (not to mention a rather substantial Hadar alumni community)

3. What are you up to now?

I am coming to the end of my second year at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. I will be heading to Washington, DC for a summer as the Peggy Browning Fund Fellow at the Service Employees International Union General Counsel's Office, and then heading back to Chicago to finish up law school.

4. How have Torah and mitzot changed your life (post Hadar)?

Torah, mitzvot, and my Jewish community play a huge role in my life. With work and school taking up most of my time during the week, Shabbat is my chance to relax. The community at my synagogue in Chicago is warm and energetic, and there are no shortage of different minyanim to choose from on a given Shabbat. The shul also offers a variety of study options - including several featuring members of the Hadar alumni and faculty communities. The Jewish world of mitzvot and Torah is definitely one of my main social outlets and one of the places I turn to relax and have fun.

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

To sum up my Hadar experience in one word, I would have to choose "reenergizing." I went to Haverford College, a small liberal arts school outside of Philadelphia. While it was, to paraphrase Ms. Poppins, practically perfect in every other way, one thing it lacked was a vibrant and energized observant Jewish community. I was the only Shomer Shabbat student on campus, and observance felt challenging and isolating a lot of the time. My summer at Hadar immediately followed my graduation from Haverford. It was incredible to spend those 10 weeks in a community of young, energized, observant Jews committed to study, davening, and community. It was a feeling that had been sorely missing during my time at Haverford, and those ten weeks reminded me what motivated my lifestyle choices in undergrad, why I stuck by my observance even when it felt so isolating, and why those practices meant so much to me.

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

As a law student, I think about my time at Hadar with some regularity. The American common law system developed very similarly to the way rules developed in the Talmud and throughout rabbinic literature: you start with a basic rule, and then apply it to complex hypothetical cases; throughout a series of applications, you develop practices that seem totally different from the initial rule. The parallels between the studies of law and talmud fascinate me, and often lead my mind back to my time spent at Hadar.

If I had to pick one specific event that made Hadar come to mind, it would be my wedding this past August. My wife and I are both committed traditional egalitarian Jews. I started a lot of conversations with faculty members at Hadar while I was there about what options there were to keep our wedding ceremony traditional but to make the traditionally gendered ceremony more egalitarian. In consultation with Rav Eitan, Aryeh Bernstein, and Amit Gvaryahu, we composed a supplementary Ketubah to parallel the traditional Orthodox text. Our wedding ceremony was also officiated by a Hadar alumnus, Rabbi David Russo. Seeking to strike the balance between maintaining our Jewish traditions and our desire to be as egalitarian as possible brought Hadar to mind in very concrete ways.