They are leading and creating organizations and businesses of all kinds, responding to humanitarian crises, writing novels, educating at all levels, creating works of art, and so much more! In celebration of Pardes’s 50th, we are highlighting 50 standout alumni whose accomplishments exemplify the rich texture of the Pardes community worldwide.
Rabbanit Sara Wolkenfeld works as Chief Learning Officer at Sefaria. Sara also directs her local mikvah in Chicago, and chairs the Education and Leadership Subcommittee at the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Chicago.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SPOT IN JERUSALEM?
I love Adderaba, a fantastic bookstore in Rechavia. It is so much fun to browse for books there. The shelves are organized according to a logic that only the owner understands, so I’ve had lots of nice conversations with him while he helps me find books.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE CLASS AT PARDES?
I was in Rav Elisha Ancselovitz’s Gemara shiur, and I loved it because it was so deeply formed by the personalities of the teacher and all the participants. Rav Elisha has a very unique teaching style, and each person brought their full self to the class. Years later, I have discovered that I still have parts of Masekhet Ketubot memorized.
CAN YOU SHARE A SPECIAL PARDES MEMORY?
On my first day at Pardes, I met my bashert hevruta, Yaffa Epstein. I remember sitting with her talking about Gemara, women in Judaism, and just everything (we covered a lot of ground in our first conversation) and deciding that we wanted to learn together. Nineteen years later, we are still learning together weekly.
WHAT DOES THE JEWISH WORLD NEED MOST RIGHT NOW?
More Torah learning.
IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY SHABBAT GUEST, WHO WOULD IT BE?
Honestly, it has been a very long time since I have seen most of the Pardes faculty. I would welcome the opportunity to host all of them at a Shabbat meal, ask about what’s new at Pardes, and hear words of Torah from them. I miss the chatter of the Beit Midrash and the chance encounters in the hallway, and I would like to have a reunion.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR WORK?
I’m proud that I help make Jewish texts more accessible to more people.
HOW DOES PARDES CONTINUE TO AFFECT YOU TODAY?
Pardes gave me an appreciation for the transformative experience of people from all different Jewish backgrounds engaging deeply with Jewish texts. My time learning there continues to motivate my work as I try to help open up learning experiences for others.