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.
Maxim Delchev is currently serving as the Director of Jewish Education for Shalom, the umbrella organization for all Jewish community life in Bulgaria. Since March, Maxim has also been president of the Sephardic Orthodox community of Bulgaria.
CAN YOU SHARE A SPECIAL PARDES MEMORY?
I remember when I presented my community’s story in front of everyone. I explained events that, at that time, were not comfortable discussing and teaching; the complicated story of saving Bulgarian Jewry. I only had 5 minutes! I looked around the Beit midrash and saw all of those people, my Pardes cohort and my teachers, who only 5 months before were totally strangers, but at that moment they gave me the strength to tell my story and the story of my community. It was an incredible experience.
WHAT DID YOU DO FOR THE FIRST TIME AT PARDES?
I had a meaningful hevruta. Before Pardes, I thought that I needed a hevruta that was similar to me, with similar interests and worldviews. At Pardes, for the first time, I had the opportunity to learn from people that are very different from me, and that made me appreciate the Torah and our culture more.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE CLASS AT PARDES?
I really enjoyed Gila Fine’s class on understanding Talmudic stories and the heroines in those stories. I found many connections to my non-Jewish education and knowledge, and those classes helped me in connecting ideas from the Jewish and non-Jewish world. This is incredibly valuable to me now in my role as an educator.
IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY SHABBAT GUEST, WHO WOULD IT BE?
I would invite my grandparents z’l, who grew up during the Holocaust and made the decision to stay in communist Bulgaria. I have never had the opportunity to have a Shabbat meal with them, as Shabbat did not exist in our family, though it did exist for them when they were children. I am not sure what I would ask them, I would just sit and listen.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SPOT IN JERUSALEM?
The bench at Yacov Sheskin street. During my first month in Jerusalem, I was constantly going through that small street next to the Hansen house. It is one of the steepest streets in the city. And right in the middle there is this bench where you can just sit and take a breath. For me, Jerusalem is like this street; a breath-taking experience where the people, history, and emotions can easily overwhelm you. And you need that bench like you need the Torah in Pardes classrooms, so you can be prepared for the next day in the city and its emotions.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR WORK?
I am most proud when I am able to teach Torah. To anyone. And to learn from anyone. To teach and learn from my 7th graders, to teach and learn from my camp team, and even to teach and learn from the President of Bulgaria for Pesach. I am proud of my work when I can ignite the same spark and light that someone ignited in me decades ago.
HOW DOES PARDES CONTINUE TO AFFECT YOU TODAY?
Pardes taught me that every day, even in the most stressful and exhausting moments, we can put aside time for Torah and learning. This is a principle that I try my best to continue to follow.