"I want to help guide contemporary Jews toward seeing their social and political activism as extensions of their spiritual life, viewing prayer as a powerful response to the human condition and relating to one another as holy brothers and sisters created in God's image." So says Michelle Dardashti, a student of The Rabbinical School of The Jewish Theological Seminary who definitely has the energy and vitality to realize her vision in whatever form her rabbinical career may take.
Now in her fifth year of study, Michelle is also working toward an MA in Education from JTS's William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education.
On her passionate journey to make the world a better place and engage with her "global Jewish community," Michelle has made an impact wherever she has landed. Spending six months in Uruguay after graduating from college, she volunteered in the Jewish community of Montevideo and filed articles as a stringer for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Michelle moved from South America to Israel, where she spent two years, first as a Dorot Fellow and then working for the Nesiya Institute.
Michelle led a Taglit-Birthright tour in 2007 and served as an educational consultant for Birthright Israel NEXT. While studying in Jerusalem this past year as part of her Rabbinical School program, Michelle organized and produced a popular event that explored Judaism and homosexuality in Israel through the arts, and also turned her talents to bridging the divide between Israelis and Palestinians through work with Encounter programs.
Now back in the US, Michelle is beginning her first of two years as the Marshall T. Meyer Rabbinic Fellow at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side. No stranger to the community, she previously served as director of Family Programming at Congregation Shaare Zedek, and will conduct High Holy Day services at JTS this year for the third year in a row.
For Michelle, it is actions, not words that make a difference. During her time at JTS, Michelle participated in a cross-seminary course in community organizing through Jewish Funds for Justice and was also part of the American Jewish World Service Rabbinical Student Delegation to El Salvador (2006). As her program follow-up project, she created a Purim-themed concert, "Esther in Africa," which raised upwards of $6,000 for the AJWS Sudan Relief Fund.
When Michelle says, "I want to be a model, teacher, and guide towards living a conscientious life of meaning and gratitude through the lens of the Jewish tradition," it is readily apparent that she is well on her way to becoming all three.