Songwriter shares dramatic life story
Ifar “Eef” Barzelay spoke as a guest for the university’s C3: Conversations About Christianity + Culture program and followed up with a concert that was part of the Highways & Byways series.
Associate Professor and music department chair Dr. Mark Humphrey was excited to have Barzelay as a speaker for the March 1 portion of the C3 series because of the experiences that have shaped the way he writes songs.
“Eef is less of a speaker. He’s a songwriter, and that’s what he does well. You read his lyrics, and you get the best of him; he’s not a believer in any way, but he writes in incredible ways about belief, nonbelief and doubt,” Humphrey said.
Barzelay said at the beginning of the program, “My grandfather watched his father get beaten to death essentially in front of him, because he was Jewish…. And it wasn’t even by Nazis. It was their neighbors.”
After that experience during the Holocaust, his grandparents changed their names, began to only speak Hebrew, reinvented themselves as Zionists and completely rejected God.
Barzelay said being raised among Jewish atheists and Zionists made it difficult for him to have anything tangible to hold on to when it came to his beliefs.
The songs Barzelay performed during the concert contained lyrics that made freshman marketing major Hannah Warren think about the mysterious ways in which God works.
Warren said, “A part of a song that really stood out to me said, ‘Just remember that God loves mostly those who fail.’ Although I didn’t agree with what was said, it made me realize that a lot of people, including myself, tend to recognize God’s work only during a time of need.”
Humphrey said that Barzelay’s background and belief system are different from any of the previous C3 speakers, which made it worth the risk to have him speak for the program.
Humphrey’s favorite part of the songwriter’s visit was the relationship the university built with its guest.
He said, “We made a commitment to say ‘we’re going to pray for you,’ and what was fascinating to me was at the end, after telling us all these interactions he’s had with Christianity, no one in his whole life had ever said ‘how can I pray for you?’”