Charlie Schwartz, a student at The Rabbinical School, naturally identifies with the role of educator. The Portland, Oregon, native finished his undergraduate studies at Oberlin College and moved to Israel with his wife, Andrea (herself an alumna of the Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies and The Graduate School), to serve in the Israel Defense Force. Charlie says his army experience helped him gain cultural fluency and contribute to society-qualities he sees as essential for a teacher.
Throughout his time in Israel, Charlie knew The Jewish Theological Seminary would be his eventual destination. "The rigorous academic study, the amazing community of colleagues, the dedication to the pursuit of meaningful and deep understandings of texts, the belief that a better understanding of Jewish tradition equips us for the Jewish future—all of these reasons made me want to study here," he says.
Now a fourth-year rabbinical student, Charlie is also working toward a master of arts degree from the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, where he cites his professors for both their scholarly acumen and their personal dedication to students. Charlie says, "I have enjoyed so many different types of classes, particularly those with Dr. Walter Herzberg. He conveys such a deep understanding, love, and familiarity with both biblical texts and biblical commentators."
Charlie now works with his wife in the undergraduate Mathilde Schechter Residence Hall (where Andrea herself lived as an undergraduate) as the Jewish Life directors. "We host all of the first- and second-year students over the year for Shabbat meals. This year we hosted a Tu Bishvat seder for seventy students. We also run programs on such issues as 'Sex and Sexuality' and 'Healthy Jewish Cooking,'" says Charlie. He also led JTS High Holiday services in 2009, which he describes as "a challenging and spiritually enriching experience."
Recently, Charlie looked to teach an even larger audience. He started MediaMidrash, an organization that creates tools for integrating technology and online videos into the field of Jewish education. The website's users upload their own videos and browse videos from a variety of organizational partners.
For Charlie, the decision to attend school at JTS was an easy one that he made long ago. Now that he is here, he is making the most of his leadership and teaching experience to enhance the community he describes as a celebration of the beauty of Jewish life.