They are leading and creating organizations and businesses of all kinds, responding to humanitarian crises, writing novels, educating at all levels, creating works of art, and so much more! In celebration of Pardes’s 50th, we are highlighting 50 standout alumni whose accomplishments exemplify the rich texture of the Pardes community worldwide.
This week, we celebrate a Pardes couple, Matt and Rebecca Bar.
Matt is the founder of Bible Raps, a full-time nonprofit expanding its focus on co-leading a collaborative organization with other hip hop pedagogues called Rappers and Rabbis. Bible Raps has sold 2,500 albums and performed in stage shows and collaborative musical workshops for more than 125,000 youth in 75 cities in the U.S., U.K., and Israel including summer camps, conventions, and Jewish educational settings.
Rebecca is currently the CEO of Nazun, a national leadership development nonprofit focused on inspiring and equipping leaders to end college hunger. .
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE CLASS AT PARDES?
Matt: It’s hard to say my favorite. I want to give a shout out to Tova Leah, she was an incredible teacher for people without much Judaism in their upbringing. Her class was vital. My favorite class was with Michael Hattin. The way he made a more than full picture of the stories in the Tanakh using the commentators was very exciting.
Rebecca: Chumash (Bet) with Levi Cooper. The year I was at Pardes we were learning Shemot. I loved reading the text along with the commentary and learning all of the deeper meanings along with it. When it came time to head “to the Beit Midrash!” I was always full of excitement to see which commentators I identified with that day.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR WORK?
Matt: I’m proud of the quality of the programs and music that we’ve made.
Rebecca: I am most proud of how I have brought my authentic self into my work and everyday life. It is something I strive for continuously, and sometimes stumble at, but it continues to be a fulfilling work in progress. Being able to be myself extends to encouraging others to be themselves. I find that only when we are true to our cores can we make change — and that is what we are all after — to change the world for better.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SPOT IN JERUSALEM?
Matt: Definitely the beit midrash at Pardes. Unquestionably. I hope I spend at least dozens of more hours there before it’s all said and done.
Rebecca: Machane Yehuda is my favorite spot in Jerusalem. I would go almost weekly to do my grocery shopping and was able to practice my Hebrew, see the locals of Jerusalem (not that I didn’t love my Anglo Pardesniks), and get a real feel for the hustle and bustle of living in Israel. I often spent moments in Israel very quiet — but that wasn’t possible at the Shuk! I was able to proudly use my voice and loved interacting with all of the vendors and other shoppers at the Shuk.
WHAT DID YOU DO FOR THE FIRST TIME AT PARDES?
Matt: Prayed consistently and played flag football at Kraft Stadium.
Rebecca: Reading in Aramaic and translating it into English!
HOW DOES PARDES CONTINUE TO AFFECT YOU TODAY?
Matt: My Torah is from Pardes. It is my Sinai.
Rebecca: I always say that Pardes changed my life.
At Pardes, I realized how much I appreciated living “in Jewish time” and started thinking about ways I could use my skills from school within Jewish organizations back home. Pardes set me on my trajectory of working in the Jewish communal world and I have never looked back.
I am so proud to have been able to also bring my love for Pardes to every position I’ve held. Notably, I was a resident in one of the first Moishe Houses to bring Pardes educators to our home as an event to share the gift of text study with our community. Most recently, I am thrilled that we at Nazun were able to partner with Pardes to infuse all of our facilitation guides that we share with our college campus chapters with Torah learning and text study in a collaboration with Pardes educators. We now have a robust database of Torah learning on hunger to share with the next generation of potential Pardesniks.