Earlier this month, the Sephardic Congregation of Paramus (SCOP), located on 140 Arnot Place, welcomed a new rabbi, David Pardo, and family into their community. SCOP, which started off as a small Sephardic minyan in Congregation Beth Tefillah, branched off last year to grow as its own shul, having been given the building by K’hal Adath Jeshurun’s Ashkenazi community. A number of the remaining members of KAJ now daven together with SCOP.
A Los Angeles native, Rabbi Pardo attended UCLA and later moved to New York City to pursue semicha at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. He also holds an MBA from the Heller School at Brandeis University.
Before moving to Paramus, Rabbi Pardo lived in Boston for four years, working as the OU-JLIC director at Brandeis University with his family. Connecting with young students eager to explore their Jewish identities was a self-described dream that he felt grateful to fulfill.
“We really clicked with the student body,” he said, noting that it was a magical four years. It was Rabbi Pardo’s first time being a rabbi of a community, an experience that, he said, reaffirmed his decision to go into the pulpit rabbinate.
When the rabbi and his family made the decision to move on and accept a new position in New York City as the director of Birthright Follow Up at the Orthodox Union, it was important to him to continue growing as a rav and educator. He heard from a friend that the Sephardic community in Paramus was looking for a rabbi for Shabbat.
“It felt very warm,” he said of his first impression of the shul when he came to visit earlier this year. “[It’s] like one big extended family,” he added.
The Pardos are excited about their transition to the Paramus Jewish community. Their three young daughters will have other children their age to play with, and the rabbi is excited to work with a more diverse congregation. The rabbi himself is half-Sephardic; his father is Turkish.
The excitement is a mutual feeling. Both the shul’s gabbi, Faraj Benji, and vice president, Kirk Levy, are happy with the direction the developing community is taking. Benji told The Jewish Link that he felt the community had “hit the jackpot” when the Pardos arrived. He admires the rabbi’s personable character. “Our community is lucky to have him,” he said.
Levy hopes that Rabbi Pardo’s outgoing personality and his experience connecting with younger people will help draw other families to Paramus. “I think having a young, educated and well-connected rabbi will be very attractive to others,” he said, noting that he hopes to see the shul grow even more.
Both Rabbi Pardo and his wife, Ariel, are already brainstorming ways they can help improve the community. Rebbetzin Pardo, who met her husband when they were both students at UCLA, is spearheading the shul’s effort to make a website for and publicize their ladies’ mikvah. She said she felt “welcomed right away” and loves the cohesiveness of the community.
The rabbi plans to develop forums to encourage communication amongst the congregation. People can voice their concerns going forward in the hopes that a joint vision for the community will soon become a reality. “Everything’s open,” he said. “The community is poised for a lot of growth, and we’re very excited to be part of it.”
By Elizabeth Zakaim
Elizabeth Zakaim is a rising junior journalism and psychology double major at The College of New Jersey. She is also a summer intern at The Jewish Link. Feel free to email her at [email protected] with any questions or comments.