Charlie Schwartz, 28

Jewish education technology innovator

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The many identities of Charlie Schwartz rarely come together in one person: Oberlin College alum, Israel Defense Forces veteran, rabbinical student, independent minyan leader and co-founder of a YouTube-like website. Last month he added another role to the list: father.

Schwartz, who just completed his fourth year at the Jewish Theological Seminary’s rabbinical school, and his wife of five years, Dr. Andrea Wershof Schwartz, welcomed a baby daughter just days after Wershof Schwartz graduated from Mount Sinai School of Medicine. In addition to their other responsibilities, the two, who met in Israel on United Synagogue Youth’s Nativ College Leadership Program, also serve as Jewish life directors of the Seminary’s List College.

A native of Portland, Ore., Schwartz was in the IDF’s Nahal Infantry Brigade for a year and a half, from 2003-05, serving first on the Lebanon border and later in the West Bank and Gaza. After the army Schwartz went directly to JTS, where in addition to the rabbinate, he is also pursuing a master’s in Jewish education. As a teacher, he is “very interested in Israel education, particularly using Israeli pop culture as a vehicle for exploring the complexities of Israeli society” — much of the impetus behind starting MediaMidrash.org.

Still in its early stages, the site, which has over 150 alpha testers, offers a database of more than 300 Israeli and Jewish videos. “It’s organized in a way so educators can easily find videos. It’s searchable, and educators can post and attach lesson plans directly to the videos,” Schwartz explains. They chose the name because “in the same way rabbinic midrash transforms the biblical text, enabling it to delve into deeper questions ranging from language, power, identity and spiritual expression, we hope educators will use the material on MediaMidrash in new and innovative ways to transform the way they teach Judaism,” he says.

Tuba talent: Schwartz is a classically trained tuba player, and although he hasn’t played much since college, he learned to blow shofar last year for Rosh HaShanah. “The embouchure (mouth position) is totally different,” he says.

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