A Pre-Shavuot Virtual Yom Iyun (Day of Learning)

Program Description

Pardes Beit Midrash B’Darom is Going Virtual!

Holy Relationships: Exploring Our Spiritual Identity

Join us on Sunday, May 17 for a Pre-Shavuot Virtual Yom Iyun (Day of Learning) with online sessions led by Pardes faculty and Ramah Darom educators from all over the United States and Israel. Together (virtually), we will study Holy Relationships: Exploring Our Spiritual Identity.

The chag (holiday) of Shavuot is the celebration of the Jewish People receiving the Torah and entering into a sacred covenant with God. Our texts say that three thousand years ago, at that time in our nation’s history, God’s hand could be seen and felt in the everyday lives and ultimate destiny of the Jewish People. But what exactly is the nature of our relationship with the Divine today, when our connection is less tangible and certainly less agreed-upon? Join us this Shavuot as we examine what it means to inhabit a holy relationship and to own a spiritual identity.

Sunday, May 17 2020
11am-3pm EST / 8am-12pm PST / 4-8pm BST/CEST / 6pm-10pm IDT
There will be short breaks between sessions.

Zoom links provided upon completing the registration.

Rabbi Leon Morris

Rabbi Leon Morris is the President of Pardes and is the first alumnus to head the institution (Year Program alumnus ’94-’95; Summer Program alumnus ’93 and ’94). Leon made aliyah with his wife Dasee Berkowitz (Pardes Year Program alumna ’94-’95) and their three children in June 2014, after serving as the rabbi of Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, NY. He was the founding director of the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning at Temple Emanu-El (now the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center) in Manhattan. Before coming to Pardes, Leon served as a Vice President for Israel Programs at the Shalom Hartman Institute and was a faculty member at Hebrew Union College.

Ordained from Hebrew Union College in 1997 where he was a Wexner Graduate Fellow, he has worked extensively with the Jewish community of India, beginning in 1990 when he served as a Jewish Service Corps volunteer for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. He was also a Mandel Jerusalem Fellow. Leon has taught at Orthodox, Conservative and Reform institutions and is a regular contributor to the Jewish, US and Israeli press. He is an editor of the new Reform High Holy Day machzor, Mishkan HaNefesh and is a contributor to Jewish Theology in Our Time: A New Generation Explores the Foundations and Future of Jewish Belief (edited by Elliot Cosgrove, Jewish Lights, 2010).

Rabbi Meir Schweiger

rabbi meir schweiger

Meir teaches Chumash, Parshat HaShavua, Mishna, Talmud, Halakha, Siddur and Interpersonal Relations at Pardes. Meir made aliyah in 1972 from the Bronx, NY, immediately after graduating from City College in New York with a B.A. in Mathematics and Physics. He did his advanced Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University, Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and Yeshivat Har Etzion, receiving ordination from Rabbi Zalman Nehemiah Goldberg of Jerusalem. He received his M.Ed in Teaching Bible from the Herzog College in Gush Etzion.

Before coming to Pardes, Meir taught Talmud and Bible at the Shapell College of Jewish Studies. Over the years, he has also taught at a number of other institutions in Jerusalem, including Michlala, Nishmat and Beit Midrash L’torah. Since 1977, he has been a full-time faculty member at Pardes and has taught more hours and classes than anyone else on the staff. In addition to teaching, Meir has been responsible for the “affective” side of Pardes, coordinating and supervising tefillot (prayer), tiyulim (hikes), shabbatonim, and pre-holiday yemei iyun (full-day study programs). His official title is Mashgiach Ruhani (Director of Religious Life), which reflects the impact he has had on the personal and spiritual growth of many of our students. For more than 10 years, Meir was the Director of the Pardes Fellows’ Program, for returning, 2nd year students, and the Educational Director of the Executive Learning Seminar. For three years, Meir was the mainstay of Pardes’ podcast series on the weekly torah portion, and he has over 200 recordings online.

Rabbi Dr. Meesh Hammer-Kossoy

pardes institute meesh-hammer-kossoy

Meesh teaches Talmud and the Social Justice Track at Pardes. Originally from Washington, D.C., Meesh has a B.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University, and a M.A. and Ph.D. from New York University. Her dissertation explored the courageous manner in which the rabbis of the Talmud created a new criminal punishment system. In 2015, Meesh completed her studies at Beit Midrash Har’el and received ordination from Rabbi Herzl Hefter and Rabbi Daniel Sperber.

Meesh is also a graduate of NATIV, Pardes, Midreshet Lindenbaum, Drisha, and ATID. She has received many fellowships including Lady Davis, National Foundation for Jewish Culture, Memorial Foundation and ATID. She has also taught at NYU, Drisha and Midreshet Lindenbaum.

Despite having written her dissertation about criminal punishment in the Talmudic period, Meesh is known by her husband and three children as a lover of mercy and kindness.

Rabba Shani Gross

rabba shani gross

Rabba Shani Gross is the Director of North American Programs at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. Shani most recently served as Pardes’s Assistant Director of Education NA. Shani earned rabbinic ordination from Yeshivat Maharat, is a Wexner Graduate Fellow/Davidson Scholar (Class 29), and a former Hillel Fellow for Rabbinic Entrepreneurship (OOI). Shani was the Director of the Silicon Valley Beit Midrash, a center of learning on the West Coast that empowers Jewish people of all backgrounds to study classic Jewish texts in a pluralistic, warm and intellectually challenging environment. When not teaching, Shani can usually be found with her husband Chaim, chasing after their two beautiful sons, Elan and Navon.

Aviva Lauer Golbert

Aviva is the Director of the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators. She majored in Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, and earned a Masters degree in Midrash at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies.

Aviva is a Jewish educator with over twenty years of experience in curriculum development, classroom teaching, school administration and educational consulting. Upon making Aliyah in 1996, Aviva developed formal and informal educational materials for Melitz and at the Leo Baeck Education Center, where she also gained experience in teaching pluralistic Judaism. She then served as the head of the department of Jewish Studies at Immanuel College, London.

Working at the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators since 2009, Aviva has been a teaching coach, director of recruitment, director of the Summer Curriculum Workshop, and Assistant Director of PCJE before taking on her current role in 2017.

Rabba Yaffa Epstein

Rabba Yaffa Epstein is the Director of the Wexner Heritage Program and oversees the development and curriculum for these dynamic lay leaders throughout the United States and North America who take part in the program. Yaffa most recently served as the Director of Education, North America for the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies where she implemented a comprehensive educational vision for the advancement of the institute in North America. A member of the faculty for Pardes since 2004, Yaffa has also taught at Yeshivat Maharat, the Drisha Institute, the Dorot Fellowship, and Young Judaea on Talmud, Jewish liturgy, Jewish law, constructive disagreement, leadership and women in Judaism. Yaffa received Rabbinic Ordination from Yeshivat Maharat and holds a Law Degree from Bar-Ilan University. She has lectured at Limmud Events around the world, has written curriculum for the Global Day of Jewish Learning and has created innovative educational programming for Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. When not teaching her incredible students or studying Torah, Yaffa enjoys exploring new coffee shops and listening to the Indigo Girls.

Eliana Leader

Eliana Leader is the Director of the Kaplan Mitchell Retreat Center at Ramah Darom, and a long-time Jewish professional and experienced community builder. Eliana has passionately served the Jewish world through professional roles such as the Executive Director of Cong. Ohr HaTorah, and Experience Imagineer and curriculum developer for Jewish Kids Groups. She also serves the Jewish community through a variety of local volunteer roles and currently serves on the Executive Board of Limmud North America. She has a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Jewish Studies from the University of Maryland, and a Graduate Certificate in Experiential Jewish Education through the Center for the Jewish Future at Yeshiva University. Eliana was named in 2017 Jewish Atlanta’s 40 Under 40 and is the recipient of the Abe Schwartz Young Leadership Award from the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. She and her husband, Yoni Kaplan, have two incredible daughters, Aria and Solelle.

We will offer designated sessions geared for current Jewish Professionals that will directly address their work in the field. The schedule below indicates which sessions are meant for Jewish professionals in the class title descriptions.

11am-12pm EST

Opening Panel
Featuring Rabbi Leon Morris, Rabba Yaffa Epstein, Rabbi Meir Schweiger, and Aviva Lauer Golbert with moderators Eliana Leader and Rabba Shani Gross.

12:30pm EST

Identity, Spirituality and What gets in the Way
Rabbi Dr. Meesh Hammer-Kossoy
The great modern Jewish thinker, Rav Yitzhak Hutner (The Pahad Yitzhak), asks: What prevents us from realizing our sense of self and connecting spiritually? How can Torah help? His conclusions are especially relevant for our current time. We’ll engage in a close read of Pahad Yitzhak Shavuot 21.

Aaron, Moses, and Miriam – Siblinghood in the Torah, and in the Midrash
Rabba Yaffa Epstein
This session will explore three of the most complex characters in the bible from a perspective that we don’t often discuss – – their siblinghood. We’ll see how the Torah describes their relationships, and how the Rabbis of the Midrash then interpret, reinterpret, and reinterpret again those relationships and what that can teach us about sibling relationships today!

Smelling Mount Sinai
Eliana Leader (For Jewish Professionals)
Exceptional Jewish education allows for each individual Jewish journey to be identifiable with and connected to the collective story of the Jewish People. By combining personal identity, subject matter, and the right teaching methodologies together, any topic can become a powerful and “sticky” learning moment. In this session, we will look at the story of the giving of the Torah as an example of a Jewish experiential moment in history.

2:00pm EST

Becoming a Servant of G-d
Rabbi Meir Schweiger
In our session, we will study two figures, Avraham and Moshe, who are referred to, in the Tanakh, as “servants of G-d.” We will examine how each one of them needed to go through a transformative process before he could earn this title.

The Sexual & The Sacred
Rabba Shani Gross
By examining Biblical and Talmudic texts, we will explore the degree to which our tradition enables us to tap into the spiritual through the sexual. Can human sexuality be a tool to access the divine? We will investigate this question as we study the relationship between ritual, sacred objects, and sexuality – how are these categories kept distinct, when tradition blurs the lines and possible implications for our own lives.

The Holy Relationship between Supervisor and Supervisee – A Tale of David and Nathan
Aviva Lauer Golbert (For Jewish Professionals)
King David (whose date of birth and date of death, according to tradition, were both on Shavuot!), was a leader with some serious weaknesses. However, he was also considered the best king who ever lived and the progenitor of the Messiah. How might we reconcile those two components? Our answer lies in the story of how he relates to his most important supervisee – Nathan the Prophet – and can inform how we interact in our work lives today with those we oversee.


Rebecca Guttman

Guest Relations

Phone: (404) 531-0801 Ext. 9215

Email: rguttman@ramahdarom.org