Rebecca Bar was born in Milwaukee, but her mission has taken her across the country and abroad.
Bar, 40, moved to Philadelphia with her family right before starting high school. She spent her freshman year of college at Syracuse University before returning to Philadelphia to finish at the University of Pennsylvania.
Bar spent a year in Israel and worked with the American Jewish Committee when she again returned to Philadelphia.
Bar lived at the Moishe House for four years while working at AJC, then worked with the Moishe House for another four years, holding regional and national positions.
After that, she became the vice president of community partnerships for Honeymoon Israel, where she managed its city directors, focused on alumni initiatives and coordinated with national partnerships to help young committed couples experience Israel with other young couples to build a community.
In 2020, Bar, who has worked in the Jewish community for her entire professional career, took on her next challenge as executive director of Nazun, a student leadership organization that aims to alleviate food insecurity for college students.
The organization was founded in 2004 at Scripps College in California by Eli Winkelman as Challah for Hunger. Last year, the organization rebranded itself, changing its name to Nazun (which means “we will nourish” in Hebrew) as a result of feedback from the organization’s student members.
Nazun’s headquarters have been in Philadelphia since 2014.
For Bar, her work at Nazun ties directly to her Jewish identity. Even in the face of the pandemic, Bar held tight at Nazun; the organization didn’t lose a chapter — instead growing to include five more.
“I started in January of 2020; I had worked at Nazun for exactly 50 days before we sent everyone home for the pandemic,” Bar said.
Nazun pivoted to selling challah bake kits and hosting bake sessions on Zoom to continue selling challah to fund its philanthropic efforts.
So far, Nazun has donated more than $2 million from challah sales. Each chapter gives 50% of its profits to local philanthropic efforts and 50% to Nazun’s national partner, Swipe Out Hunger.
According to Bar, they still have a long way to go.
“Thirty-nine percent of four-year students are food insecure. That means they don’t know where their next meal is coming from or don’t have access to nutritious meal options,” Bar said, citing a statistic that came from a 2019 survey conducted by Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community and Justice.
“No student should have to choose between food and their education. We know that there are so many challenges in college with getting an education and then to have food or access to nutritious food be a barrier to success? I just don’t think anybody should go through that.”
Bar’s next plans with Nazun involve meeting more of the community to witness the impact of its work firsthand and to continue to grow the organization.
“While we have chapters on 65 college campuses, we also have 13 community sites around the country, and we’re always open to new chapters and initiatives,” Bar said.
Bar’s work at Nazun resonates with the Jewish values she strives to portray in her everyday life.
“Judaism has really strong values around not putting stumbling blocks in front of the blind or embarrassing anyone when they are in need — the value of repairing the world and leaving it a better place than you found it. These values play out in my work,” Bar said.
Even though her career keeps her on her toes, Bar does it all with the support of her husband, Matthew, and their two young sons.
To refresh, she bakes challah (of course), takes walks with her family, works out and entertains friends.
Bar swears by Nazun’s challah recipe, which can be found on its website at nazun.org. The recipe can be modified to be vegan. JE