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.
Tony Westbrook Jr. is the Director of Jewish Service Learning for Repair the World.
Tony’s work falls in the intersection of Jewish education and JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, inclusion). He strives to make Jewish education more accessible in terms of how we teach, bringing a plethora of diverse Jewish voices to the conversation, and using Jewish texts and wisdom to make the world a more just and equitable place.
SHARE A PARDES MEMORY.
Singing Yedid Nefesh and Mizmor L’David on a Pardes Shabbaton up north—-we sang with our full hearts as the sun descended in the west. Students and teachers were crying as we sang. It was one of the rare moments in which I think we were all truly sad that Shabbat was ending. I’ve never experienced anything like it since then.
HOW DOES PARDES CONTINUE TO AFFECT YOU TODAY?
Pardes and the incredible teachers gave me a model for what it means and how it looks to be in community with people who are different from me, how to live in an authentic manner, and how to build community. All of these are core parts of my identity as a Jew, as a Jewish professional, and as a human in this world. The lessons I learned at Pardes continue to provide me with the framework for moving through the world and how to address problems as they arise.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR WORK?
I’m most proud that I’ve been able to connect many people to Jewish tradition and customs through my social media work. I truly believe there is more than one way to be, do, look Jewish and no one way is more authentic or right than another. All the differences add to the diversity that is the Jewish people.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE CLASS AT PARDES?
Mishna/Talmud with Rabbi Dr. Meesh Hammer-Kossoy. This was my first introduction into the world of Talmud. Meesh made the Rabbis, the discussions, jump off the page and really come to life. She modeled what it meant to add one’s own voice to century-old conversations and what it means to grapple with the text—a skill and a gift I use with my students!
WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE?
I will forever be indebted to Pardes for investing in my Jewish learning and identity. Because of the learning I received at Pardes, I’ve been able to do incredible things in the (Jewish) world, such as facilitating a racial justice beit midrash for the Wexner Foundation, engaging thousands of people across the world through my social media content, and so much more! Pardes introduced me to people and concepts that challenged my views and gave me room to grow to become the best version of myself!