Learning Environment

English is the primary language used in conversation at Pardes. Classes are taught in English, and discussions are held in English. The texts we study are primarily in Hebrew and/or Aramaic. No matter what your previous experience is with Hebrew, our teachers will help you improve your skills. Translations are often available; however, you will also be challenged to understand the nuances of the original text.

Students with all levels of Hebrew come to Pardes, including beginners. We do require that you attend at least one month of Hebrew language classes (ulpan) before you start classes at Pardes.

Click here for more information about ulpanim.

There is a saying at Pardes: “The teachers say the best thing about Pardes is the students, and the students say the best thing about Pardes is the teachers.” And it’s true!

Pardes faculty and students enjoy a deep respect and admiration for one another, and close relationships often develop. Community shabbatonim (Shabbat retreats), tiyulim (trips), Shabbat and holiday meals in faculty homes, social action projects, a variety of Israel education programs and special seminars provide opportunities for students and faculty to share together beyond the classroom. Teachers often become lifelong mentors, both professionally and personally.

Click here to read about one student’s perspective of visiting faculty for Shabbat.

Pardes is non-denominational and co-ed. Our teachers and students come from a variety of different backgrounds and perspectives. This diversity creates opportunities that facilitate personal and communal growth. We encourage our students to think critically, identify nuance and appreciate the importance of debate and differing opinions in Jewish tradition and contemporary Jewish dialogue.

Classes are highly interactive and emphasize discussion and exploration as opposed to lecture-style or frontal instruction. Many classes focus on havruta (study partner) learning. See “What types of teaching styles are used?” for more information.

Pardes students explore modern Israel in this same spirit. Students learn from a diversity of perspectives, think critically and wrestle with some of the most challenging issues facing the Jewish State today.

We differ from university programs in that people who study at Pardes are here for their own personal enrichment regardless of their academic/career goals. Pardes does not give tests and grades, and people study not to fulfill requirements but to fulfill their personal interests. Classes are taught not only as an academic pursuit of information, but also as a forum for engaging in religion, faith, spirituality, history, culture and tradition in a deeply personal way.

Just as Pardes students come from many different backgrounds, they leave Pardes to pursue many different paths. The common denominator is that all are empowered to make more informed choices.

Classes are highly interactive and emphasize discussion and exploration as opposed to lecture-style or frontal instruction.

Most classes are seminar-style in small groups of about 10-15 students. Classes at Pardes combine the teacher’s presentation, class discussion, and learning with a study partner (havruta). Learning with several study partners (havrutot) is a rewarding and critical component of the Pardes experience. You and your study partners help each other dig deeply into the texts you are studying by challenging each other and your other classmates with interesting questions, new points of view and fresh perspectives.

Each faculty member has his or her own specialty and schedule. Although the vast majority of students at Pardes find tremendous benefit in learning in regular Pardes classes, there have been instances of students arranging a private tutorial with a teacher.

As part of the regular Pardes schedule, we offer an organized time to study with a partner or independently in the Pardes beit midrash (learning center). Students who participate in Seder Erev (literally, “night seder,” an organized Monday evening time slot dedicated to independent study) have access to the Pardes library and to teachers who facilitate their learning. We can help pair you with a study partner, help you choose a topic to study, and guide you to the texts you need. Students often use this time to review what they learned in their regular classes, learn something completely different, and/or learn with someone with whom they don’t usually have the chance to study.

Pardes encourages you to interact with Israeli society and translate your Jewish learning into practice through the social action component of our program. We offer a range of social action options so that you can select an interesting project that you will find personally rewarding. If you prefer to pursue an opportunity not on the list, we can help you find a project that is right for you.

Click here to read about one student’s volunteering experience.

The best way to get the most out of a year of studying in Israel is to commit to studying full time. The year goes by so quickly, and there is so much to see and do and learn. There are often evening activities and supplemental classes. Weekends are usually taken up with Shabbat celebrations and festive meals. Also, most businesses are closed on Shabbat in Jerusalem. For all of these reasons, most students find it difficult to work while they are studying.

That said, some students do find ways to work, either by taking jobs that allow for flexibility or working remotely from the internet.