For Rabbi Schwarzberg, it’s back to school — on purpose

Ariela Feitelberg

Nate Erez, Torah Editor

Rabbi Ari Schwarzberg is no stranger to being a student. He earned his s’micha (ordination) at Yeshiva University and spent the last two years at Harvard University’s divinity program earning his masters in theological studies.

So when looking at his options for this year, Rabbi Schwarzberg decided to come back to school, this time to join the Judiac Staff at Shalhevet.

“I realized I needed to get out of school,” said Rabbi Schwarzberg. “I had spent way to long being a student, so I came to school.”

Rabbi Schwarzberg teaches Tanach and Talmud to 10th and 11th graders as well as a new Jewish Thought course offered to the 12th grade, which he says he’s most excited about.

“It will be something that will challenge them to think a lot broader and enable them to be independent Jewish thinkers as they leave the more comfortable confines of their communities,” he said.

Rabbi Schwarzberg, who does not want to be called that because it makes him feel like he’s 40, grew up in Island Park, New York, and discovered Shalhevet through a friend at Yeshiva University who knew Rabbi Segal. He said the most compelling thing he observed when visiting last May was the fact that students really seemed to be enjoying themselves.

He doesn’t know what he wants to be called, but asked his first day classes to try to think of something.  Apart from his religious interests, he’s a fan of the Indie bands Pearl Jam and U2, and his wife, Naomi, is a speech pathologist who works with people suffering from brain injuries.

He’s also particularly interested in “how other religions construct identity,” and wants students to reach a more sophisticated understanding of Judaism.  He plans to incorporate his background in Ancient Judaism and Christianity into his classes.

“Judaic Studies should not be second fiddle to anything,” Rabbi Schwartzberg said.