Not many people can say their
original Purim rap
music video has more than 18,000 views on YouTube—but Matt Rissien can. In
addition to his work as a fun-loving and dedicated youth director at
Congregation Beth Shalom in Northbrook, Matt is musically gifted, and known for
his talented singing voice and original rap videos about Jewish holidays.
girlfriend, Brittany, described him as genuine, creative and humorous and says
his enthusiasm for his work is contagious: since he started his job in August,
he is responsible for recruiting 30 new teens to join his USY chapter. “Matt is
dedicated to making the kids feel comfortable and happy,” she said. “I have
never seen so many kids who love spending time at shul so they can hang out
Already a Jew everyone knows in Kansas, where he grew up and attended
college (he’s an avid Jayhawks fan, and trust us, that’s putting it lightly),
Matt, who moved here about a year ago, is focused now on becoming an involved
member of Chicago’s Jewish community. He looks
forward to meeting new people and learning more about what his new community
has to offer—beyond the kosher food joints he often frequents. Coming soon: his
original Chanukah rap video!
Pays the bills:
Director of Youth
Activities at Congregation Beth Shalom in Northbrook
On the side:
Make Jewish Rap
YouTube videos; currently working at Z Frank Apache Day Camp in Northbrook as
the Israel Experience Specialist; will be starting the Masters of Arts in
Jewish Professional Studies program at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies
Describe yourself in 10 words or less:
friendly, passionate, spontaneous and huge Kansas Jayhawks fan.
Mario Lopez or Adam
How do you Jew in Chicago?
from working at Congregation Beth Shalom and running our USY chapter, I very
often frequent the fine dining at Milts BBQ, Ken's Diner, Mizrahi Grill and the
My biggest passion is
my Judaism. It is not the easiest thing to engage the younger generation, but
that is what drives my passion—finding fun and creative ways to connect
youth/teens of all ages to Judaism. I also love singing/rapping on the side.
Lastly, while I know many Illini fans are bitter about Bill Self leaving, I
will proudly freely admit that one of my biggest passions is the Kansas
Jayhawks. Don't worry though; I like the Cubs and Blackhawks as well.
How do you give back?
I give blood when I
can, recycle, and always cut the plastic that holds soda bottles together so it
won't strangle birds (learned that from Happy
Fill in the blank: If time and money were limitless, I would:
Open a center that
provides weekly Shabbat services and meals that accommodate each sect of
Judaism, so we can all join together in one place. There aren't enough times
and places where we can embrace our differences and come together. Every Jew
enjoys Shabbat, so this would be a place where we could all celebrate together.
Chicago's Jewish community in 10 years:
In 10 years, I expect
the Jewish Community to have grown even more, but to be more unified. I moved
to Chicago this past year because of its vibrant Jewish community. I've found
that Chicago is so large, that even some Jewish organizations don't know about
one another. Every few weeks I find myself learning about really amazing
organizations I didn't know existed. The Jewish community in Chicago isn't
going to slow down, and I expect they will come up with ways to create even
more opportunities for Jewish networking, so we can all work together to unite
the Jewish community of Chicago.
Me in 10 years:
I'm a Midwest guy, so
I'm planning on staying somewhere around the Chicago area. I can't get enough
of the Jewish community here. I even walked into Dairy Queen in Northbrook
yesterday and saw a bar mitzvah catalog in the front window. Hopefully,
I'll still be working at Congregation Beth Shalom, but if not at least I know
there are a lot of options out there of great Jewish organizations I could work
for. This year I made my first Jewish music video with Purim Thrift Shop,
and I would love to keep coming out with more Jewish raps, songs and
music videos...I'm working on an original Chanukah rap right now!