Challah for Hunger Names New Executive Director



Rebecca Bar
Rebecca Bar (Standing) and family at a community challah bake at Congregation Adath Jeshurun in 2018 (Photo by Chris Kendig Photography)

Challah for Hunger, the national anti-hunger nonprofit based in Philadelphia, named Rebecca Bar as its new executive director on Jan. 21.

Bar, 37, is a long-time Philadelphia resident and Jewish communal professional, and has worked with organizations like Moishe House and Honeymoon Israel, among many others.

To the search committee set up by Challah for Hunger, Bar’s experience seemed a natural fit for the organization, which is seeking to expand its programming and advocacy work.

“She knows how to build an organization in that way, at this stage,” said Francesca Lo Basso, director of development, communications and strategy. The organization, she said, remains focused on building community and fighting hunger through “collective philanthropy,” a practice that Bar is intimately familiar with.

Bar replaces Carly Zimmerman, who led the organization as CEO for six years. Zimmerman, like Bar, was deeply tied to Jewish institutional life in Philadelphia, having been affiliated at various points with the Jewish Farm School (as a board member), Tribe 12 (as an UpStart trainer), Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Women of Vision and the Temple University Hillel (as Jewish life director), among other organizations.

Challah for Hunger started 15 years ago as the project of a single campus, raising money through challah sales to donate to a local organization combating hunger.

Today, more than 10,000 volunteers take part in those weekly bake sales at close to 90 campuses across the country, and the programming has expanded to include leadership development and anti-hunger advocacy training for students, along with family programming.

The Campus Hunger Project, started three years ago, deals specifically with advocating on behalf of college students struggling to afford food.

It was those three areas of focus — fundraising, leadership development and advocacy — that attracted Bar.

“There are a lot of organizations that focus on community, or organizations that focus on philanthropy, or focus on advocacy, and training new leaders, and deepening training of leaders, and … Challah for Hunger is unique in that we do all three of those pieces within one program,” she said.

It also helped that she and her family had previously participated in community challah bakes.
Bar moved to Philadelphia just before high school, attending Lower Merion High School and the University of Pennsylvania, where she first participated in anti-hunger advocacy. She has two sons, Micah and Jonah, and her husband, Matt Bar, is the director of Bible Raps.

Since she graduated, she’s founded the Moishe House in Philadelphia and seven of them in New York; oversaw the screening and training of residents for that organization; served as vice president for community partnerships for Honeymoon Israel, where she created an alumni leadership development program; worked as the Israel strategic coordinator for MyZuzah; and joined the Schusterman Foundation ROI Community, a global network of Jewish professionals. She also has consulted for organizations at the local, national and international levels.

That work, Bar said, has furnished her with the breadth of experience and perspectives to effectively lead Challah for Hunger.

“In my role as a professional over the past decade-plus, I’ve worked with a lot of different populations, doing various impact lifestyle programming,” Bar said. “Challah for Hunger is an opportunity to work with all of those populations together and truly make an impact, and that was a piece that was really exciting for me.”

Expanding the Campus Hunger Project is an especially exciting challenge for Bar, who worked on similar projects through Hillel when she was at Penn. She aims to not just deepen engagement with college students who already volunteer for the project, but to create a version of it that makes sense for family participation. Fighting campus hunger, Bar said, is “really an area where we stand to see change.”

“I got involved fighting food insecurity as a college freshman at the University of Pennsylvania through my involvement with the Tzedek Hillel committee,” Bar said. “Becoming an advocate for hunger relief at the same time my Jewish identity was crystallizing was a pivotal moment for me, and I am thrilled to continue those efforts leading this great organization as we continue to grow.”; 215-832-0740


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