Retrospective of a retired Pardes board chair

In Short

What has impressed me about Pardes and seemingly, the motivating factor for everyone involved, is the incredible impact our graduates have had and continue to have, particularly on the American Jewish Community.

I recently stepped down from serving five years (2016-2021) as board chair of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. It was an honor to serve, and I can truthfully say that while I have been chair of some community organization for each of the last 50 years or so, this was the best volunteer job I ever had. The combination of dedicated volunteers and highly motivated professionals throughout the organization, both here in Israel and abroad, simply made the work quite enjoyable, the day-to-day challenges notwithstanding. 

What has impressed me about Pardes, and seemingly, the motivating factor for everyone involved, is the incredible impact our graduates have had and continue to have, particularly on the American Jewish community. As we approach our 50th anniversary as an institution, it is impressive to see these facts validated by the numbers.

Pardes’s alumni include (based on last year’s statistics)…

  • 512 ordained rabbis across all denominations
  • 56 rabbinical school students in various denominations
  • 499 who were or are day school professionals, of whom 23 were or are heads of schools and 382 were or are teachers. This makes Pardes the largest source of day school professionals in the non-Orthodox community.  
  • 405 who were or are Hillel professionals, of whom 57 hold or held the position of executive director.
  • 45 university professors or instructors in Jewish subjects
  • 143 synagogue Judaic studies educators. 
  • 160 Wexner Graduate Fellows (27% of all Wexner Fellows). 
  • 180 Dorot Fellows (53% of all Dorot Fellows).

I was motivated to consider all of this because of new announcements this week of additional community designations where Pardes alumni took center stage as well. Specifically…

  • 20% of the latest (Class 6) of Wexner Field Fellows are Pardes alumni.
  • 37% of the latest recipients of Covenant Foundation grants are Pardes alumni

Moreover, all of this progress has continued apace during the COVID epidemic as the Institute’s enrollment has grown both in resident students in Jerusalem and in an explosion of participants in on line courses as well. In addition, the launching of Pardes North America in early 2021 in the midst of the pandemic was not only a statement of faith in the future of our work there, but also a commitment to affect the beit midrashification of Jewish life in North America.

All of this work will be significantly enhanced when the new Israel headquarters of Pardes, Beit Karen, will be ready for occupancy, within just a few years. Construction is currently under way on the new iconic facility in Jerusalem, which will occupy the first five floors of an 18 story building in the Talpiot area of Jerusalem. Upon completion, it will make it possible for Pardes to significantly expand its offerings both locally and internationally. The building will be a shining manifestation of the statement in Psalm 122, “Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.”

For me, all of this was a special experience that does not happen in every organization. I will be eternally grateful for having had the opportunity to serve in this role. May Pardes go from strength to strength under its new lay leadership during these challenging times.

Sherwin Pomerantz is a 38 year resident of Jerusalem, CEO of Atid EDI Ltd., a Jerusalem based international business development consultancy, former national president of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel as well as past-chair of the board of Jewish  Education of Metropolitan Chicago. He is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.