The Four Modern Pillars of Shmitah

Elyssa Hurwitz

About Elyssa Hurwitz

Elyssa Hurwitz recently moved to the Manhattan from Jerusalem, where she has been working toward her MA in Jewish Experiential Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. Prior to this, Elyssa worked in Greater Portland Hillel in Oregon as the Jewish Experience Engagement Associate and Ezra Fellow. Her work with students across multiple campuses focused on building relationships through innovative engagement and education, intentional community building, and integration of Jewish texts and traditions in a way that was accessible and relevant. Elyssa was born and raised in the California Bay Area, and graduated from Michigan State University after building her own major in the College of Social Sciences. Her overall studies were on the health of societies, which she explored through anthropology, religious studies, bioethics, and kinesiology. Her two main areas of professional interest are in experiential Jewish education and in the creation of ritual for the purpose of making meaning in liminal stages throughout people’s lives. She aims to continue to collaborate with those who want to create and facilitate intentionality and meaning-making in various spaces for young Jewish adults.

About The Four Modern Pillars of Shmitah

This essay is a culmination of a year’s worth of research, exploration, and innovation around Shmitah and its continued relevancy for Jews all over the world. The seven-year Shmitah cycle of the Jewish calendar opens up space, place, and time to help us consider how our lives could be more meaningful, fulfilling, and interconnected. Within Shmitah, there are four “pillars” that all of its ancient rituals come from, and this essay explores those pillars in order to open up a conversation about what modern rituals – rooted in traditional values and practices – we can create and utilize. We are living in a modern world that needs to lean on the historical, ever-shifting nature of Jewish practices to support individuals and communities internationally who are looking to build an informed connection to something greater and deeper than themselves.