Pardes Rodef Shalom Schools Program

Program Description

The Pardes Rodef Shalom Schools Program is a unique middle school project that develops conflict resolution skills via the study of traditional Jewish texts. We help Jewish middle schools equip members of the school community to be skillful problem-solvers in social situations, active in the prevention of bullying and committed to creating a more peaceful world.

In 2012, the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators (PCJE) and the Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution (PCJCR) developed the Pardes Rodef Shalom (Pursuer of Peace) Schools Program.

The rodef shalom is a rabbinic model of a Jewish peacemaker who pursues peace between individuals, families, and communities. Throughout Jewish history, there were people known in their communities as rodfei shalom. Today, to be a rodef shalom means to be mindful in seeking to understand, respect and assist in constructively balancing conflicting needs and perspectives, between individuals and communities, in the spirit of mahloket l’shem shamayim (disagreements for the sake of Heaven).

The Pardes Rodef Shalom Schools program is the first of its kind to incorporate the cultural wisdom and values of Jewish text with contemporary conflict resolution theory and practice. Furthermore, the program’s holistic approach is designed to engage the entire school community in the process, including students, faculty, administrators and parents, thus increasing the likelihood of successful results.

The Pardes Rodef Shalom Schools Program goals are four-fold: (1) To engage students in relevant and rigorous text-based Torah study. (2) To develop students’ practical conflict resolution and engagement skills through a Jewish lens, that incorporates being a rodef shalom and the ability to engage in mahloket l’shem shamayim. (3) To provide Jewish educators with a new lens and set of tools with which to approach Jewish text study through crucial professional development and supportive coaching. (4) To strengthen the classroom and school culture through the integration of healthy mahloket and redifat shalom into core community values.

The Pardes Rodef Shalom School Program includes the following elements:

  • Rabbinic units: Seven inquiry-based units integrating Jewish texts and conflict resolution theory and practice. All units include a teacher’s manual, a student workbook, and e-options. The following is a brief description of each unit’s topic:
Unit Name Essential Question
Be of the Students of Aharon  How does one walk in the footsteps of Aharon, brother of Moshe?
The Strategies of the Rodef Shalom  What strategies can people use to act as peacemakers in situations of conflict?
Mahloket L’shem Shamayim 1- What is Conflict for the Sake of Heaven  When is engaging in conflict l’shem Shamayim (for the sake of Heaven)?
Mahloket L’Shem Shamayim 2 – Constructive Conflict Resolution  How does one resolve conflicts constructively in the spirit of machloket l’shem Shamayim?
The Rodef Shalom and Bullying Prevention – The Power of the Community  What can communities do to prevent and constructively respond to bullying?
Constructive Communication Through Tochacha  How can we constructively communicate with someone with whom we are upset in a manner that will both address the issue and not hurt the relationship?
Turning Enemies into Friends  To what extent can our acts of kindness begin to transform tense relationships?
  • Advisory Program: A two-part program consisting of 17 lessons focused on conflict resolution skills through a Jewish lens, designed for weekly advisory sessions or for a school with a limited Rabbinics program.
  • Supplemental materials: Includes holiday activities, stand alone lessons and ideas for Tefilah, parent education and other materials designed to engage a class or the school community.
  • Certification Program: A Pardes Rodef Shalom Certified School is one in which all members of the school community are mindful of themselves as rodfei shalom (pursuers of peace), seeking to understand conflicting needs and perspectives and balance them in a constructive way in the spirit of machloket l’shem Shamayim (conflict for the sake of Heaven). Click here for more information.
  • Participation in 9Adar: Jewish Week of Constructive Conflict.

Pardes is no longer accepting applications to PRSSP for the 2018-2019 school year. Schools who were part of the 2017-2018 PRSSP and wish to continue thought partnering may do so on an hourly basis. Contact for more information.

From the Pardes Rodef Shalom School Program students:
“It impacted me in many ways. One way it helped me was that now I can use my knowledge in everyday life and I also now know the difference between not involving God and inviting him in.”- Jessica.

“The lesson about people being left out was memorable because many young kids can relate to it.”- Eve.

“It made me rethink about how important my arguments are, and if it is really important to engage in some of them.” – Skylar.

— 8th grade students, Solomon Schechter Day School of Long Island, Nassau, NY

From Pardes Rodef Shalom School Program teachers/administrators:
Implementing PRSSP in our 7th grade Judaics classes is going even better than I expected — and my expectations were definitely high! Students are receptive to the texts and activities, and they are relating what they learn in Rodef Shalom to their lives. They love the interactive components and are really getting into the imaginative way that midrash functions to deepen teaching and learning. The program is going so well that we have decided to include components of PRSSP in our 8th grade rotational Judaic learning.
Dr. Sim Pearl, Davis Academy, Atlanta, Georgia

The night of parent-student learning, “Tuesday Night Texting” that engaged families in learning and applying PRSSP mahloket l’shem shamayim texts exceeded our expectations. Over 90% of seventh grade parents attended with their children. Feedback from parents included, “I am going to go home and do this with my other children.” …. It has been great working together.
Sean Herstein, Milken Community Schools, LA, CA

“Students were really into the learning, the experiences, the relevance. It was magical, Students loved the youtube clips and that text study was supported through links to current culture and current real life applications. This year, when 9th graders come back to visit, they continue to speak about the impact that Rodef Shalom had on them.”
— Ron Einhorn, 8th grade Rabbinics teacher, Epstein School, Atlanta, GA.

“The Rodef Shalom Curriculum has completely changed the way we approach a topic of learning; it takes each student below the surface, guiding their Torah study into more meaningful discussions and practical application. The students seem to be enjoying the learning and come to me every so often to share a Rodef Shalom moment they have experienced outside of the classroom.” Rabbi — — Yossi Kahan, Middle School Curriculum Coordinator and Judaics Studies Teacher, Scheck Hillel Community School, Aventura, FL.

“…Working together with the educators at Pardes, we have determined how best to use their resources, which include texts, lesson plans and activities…to help students bridge the gap between what they are learning in the classroom about how to ‘act Jewishly’ and going out to our service projects…Our goal through incorporating this program has been for students to know that each of them has the power to be agents of peace, whether it be through their visits to the Cleveland Foodbank, the Kosher Foodbank, StepStone Academy, The Shaker Nature Center, Heights Emergency, National Council for Jewish Women, Montifiore and Menorah Park, or through their interactions with their peers, teachers, families, or others that they may come in contact with.”
Daniel R. Weiss, Cheryl Stone, former Middle School teachers, Gross Shechter Day School, Cleveland Ohio.

For more information, please contact Joan Vander Walde, Program Director at